BY: CLAIRE KIM
For the last month and a half, CDC guidelines have highlighted some important health precautions to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Washing your hands before and after making contact, staying 6 feet apart from neighboring individuals, using hand sanitizer for quick cleanses, and most important of them all, wearing masks to cover up the nose and mouth– virus vulnerable areas. So, what mask is the best cover-up?
For public use: cotton masks.
A common misconception that I have heard when discussing which masks to wear for public interactions is that n95 respirators and surgical masks are the only masks that will protect oneself from exposure to the coronavirus… that cotton masks are just fashion statements that serve no real protection when worn. This is simply not true. While n95 respirators and surgical masks are denser in material, lined with fibrous layers, cotton masks are just as padded as well, only not as intricate-looking as the others. When wearing a cotton mask, if one stays distant enough from those around them, as one should, even if they are wearing an n95 or surgical mask, then the chances of the spread of COVID-19 are low. The only real risk from exposure would come from standing too close or unknowingly touching contaminated surfaces.
Another, more important reason as to why cotton masks should be bought and used more often by the public is the fact that such intense face guards–the n95 and surgical masks– are necessary for health care workers who are on the scene, fighting the coronavirus. Largely at risk from cross-contamination, these individuals should have first-hand access to such masks more than anyone else. Yes, factories can continue to manufacture such important resources, however, maintaining a large bulk of protective equipment for health care workers requires us to sacrifice our own desires for elaborate masks in return.