Why Everyone Should Wear A Cloth Face Mask Now

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its upgraded recommendations is now suggesting that everyone should wear a cloth face mask or covering now. This is in contrast with what they already told the public. Previously, the agency had recommended that only people who should wear face coverings should be the ones who are sick, are caring for a sick person, or are a health care professional at the frontline.

Reasons that were given for such a recommendation were that the masks are not significantly protective enough to ensure cross contamination between individuals, that people do not know how to wear them properly, they can provide a false sense of security making people not be careful about hand washing and social distancing, and that most masks needed to be especially fitted in order for them to work. The most important issue highlighted was that masks were in shortage, and health care professionals need them first and most.

Health agencies, like the World Health Organization (WHO), are also changing their tune and saying that people should consider face coverings, especially in public. CDC, however, is still pleading with the citizens to leave professional masks for the doctors, nurses and medics at the frontline, but use homemade face coverings.

The dramatic shift is due to increasing amount of evidence that every 4 out of 5 people who have the coronavirus are asymptomatic and the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people are likely the biggest reason for the disease spread.

Now everyone needs to consider wearing face coverings and as surgical masks are largely unavailable, the only option is homemade masks or cloth masks available in the market.

Do Cloth Face Coverings Work?

If you are still unsure about face coverings, here is some evidence that you should consider. First of all, face coverings are not as effective in protecting you than protecting the person you come in contact with, if you have the coronavirus. The major benefit of face coverings is that you protect other people from getting the disease. People who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic start spreading the virus through sneezes, coughs, and respiratory droplets at least 2 days before they become visibly sick.

If you are wearing a cloth mask, and sneeze or cough, you would not contaminate different surface that other people might touch. This can be very effective in preventing further increase in number of cases. According to scientists, every person who is sick can make up to 3 other people sick. At this rate, hundreds can turn into thousands within matter of days.

A study conducted by scientists at University of Cambridge and Public Health England found that though homemade masks are 3 times less effective than surgical face masks, they do prevent spread of disease, and are a better option than no face coverings at all in cases of public health emergencies.

Another study found that homemade masks provide protection from droplet transmission but not aerosol transmission of respiratory viruses. As coronavirus has a low probability of aerosol transmission, homemade masks should be considered while in public.

You may be asking yourself why you shouldn’t get a face mask. A research study from Australia has found that homemade masks are not effective enough in high risk situations, like in the case of doctors and nurses.

They cannot use these cloth face coverings when they are in close contact with too many coronavirus patients. This is why face masks should be available to doctors and other medical staff on a priority basis. If the health care professionals become infected, there will be no one left to take care of you. That is why everyone should be wearing cloth masks right now.

People who should be using these masks include young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Cloth masks are available online and multiple brands are manufacturing them, but they are in short supply too. If you cannot find a mask online, here is how you can make your own.

How to Make a Cloth Face Mask at Home

When making and using a cloth face mask at home, you should keep these considerations in mind.

First of all, the face mask you make should fit snugly over your face and against the side of the face. Secondly, the face mask you make should have multiple layers of fabric. The mask should be secured with ties or loops and allow you to breathe comfortably. Do not overdo the layers.

The cloth mask that you make should be laundered regularly, in the same frequency as its use.  An important thing to consider is that when you wash and machine dry your mask, there should not be any damage or change to the shape of the mask. According to CDC, washing machine and the regular laundry method is enough for disinfecting the mask and your cloths.

When using the mask and removing it, you should be careful not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth. After removing the mask, you should launder it as soon as possible and wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds.

Cloth masks can be both sewed or not sewed. For sewed masks, use cotton fabric like tightly woven cotton (quilting fabric or cotton sheets). T-shirts can also be used. Follow the instructions below to the letter:

  • Cut out two 10 by 6 inch rectangles from the fabric and stack them together.
  • Fold over the long sides a quarter inch and hem. Then fold the double layer of fabric over half an inch along the short sides and stitch down.
  • Run a 6-inch elastic or hair tie or even a string (in this case take a longer length that you can tie in the back of your head) through the wider hem on each side of the mask. Tie the ends.
  • Pull the elastic so that knots are tucked in the hem. Adjust the mask so that it fits your face. Then stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping.

For non-sewed method, you can use a bandana or a T-shirt. For these methods follow the infographic by the CDC below.

Source: CDC
Source: CDC

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