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Some face masks are better than others; why health care workers CAN’T use them

New research finds: Not all fabrics for face masks are the same.  So if you want the best protection while out in public, you need to use higher quality cloth. (Getty Images)

THE WORLD — Not all face masks are created equal.  And that’s especially true for the DIY masks people are making at home.

Health care givers and first responders need more protection than the general public.  They are constantly touching people when inserting I.Vs or within inches of their faces when swabbing for coronavirus.

That’s why N95 filter masks are a necessity for them.  The N95 blocks 99% of all virus particles.

Surgical masks filter nearly 65% of particles.  They are needed for workers who are taking patient histories or going into an emergency room where not everyone has a contagious disease.

But, the general public doesn’t need that level of protection — IF they’re also following social distancing protocols.  That’s where homemade cloth face masks come in.

But new research finds not all fabrics are the same.  So if you want the best protection while out in public, you need to use higher quality cloth.

Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, tells the Wall Street Journal knit fabrics and t-shirt cotton are the worst at filtering out viral particles.  That’s because the holes between the stitches are too large.

“If the fabric allows for a substantial amount of light to shine through, it’s probably going to allow tiny viral particles through, as well,” Segal said.

Face masks made from t-shirt cotton was found to allow 99% of all particles through them.  But, Dr. Segal said using them is still better than nothing at all.

Woven fabrics, like batik, are the best — blocking up to 40% of unwanted molecules.

“The best masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight ‘quilters cotton’ with a thread count of at least 180, that have a tighter weave,” Segal said.

Dr. Segal reinforced that social distancing was still the best way to combat spreading COVID-19, but said adding a cloth face covering when in public adds another layer of protection.

Here are other tips from other health officials about DIY masks:

  • Opt for masks that tie around the ear, rather than ones that have a standard elastic band. The ties can be adjusted to fit each face better than the elastic band.
  • Make sure to use dry masks. When masks get wet, even from the moisture emitted when a person exhales, the fabric could be more likely to transmit virus.
  • Wash masks regularly, with regular detergent and in regular washing machine cycles.

 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirusis transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keepchildren and those with compromised immune systemsaway from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States