Cloth Masks Save Lives
Cloth Masks and the Pandemic
What the Newest Research Shows
Something is better than nothing. At least that is what practically all of the recent studies coming out about the effectiveness of cloth masks have to say. A common conclusion amongst recent literature debunks the myth that a mask in of itself will prevent contracting coronavirus. On the contrary, studies have found that cloth masks only work by preventing the wearer from spreading infected saliva and mucus droplets in the air, which is the main vector of the contagion.
It’s not stopping the infection from getting in, it’s stopping the infection from getting out.
How Wearing a Cloth Mask Protects the Public
Cloth masks protect the public in two main ways. Firstly, they protect the sick from spreading the disease to others. This is important not only in a medical setting once a positive diagnosis has been given but also in the public setting.
Secondly, cloth masks help prevent transmission between asymptomatic carriers, or people who have no obvious symptoms of the virus. Recent studies have also found that between 25-50% of transmissions are between completely asymptomatic carriers. Such startling data should be a matter of concern for people since it is entirely possible for one to not know they are infected with COVID-19.
What does the WHO Recommend?
To be clear, the WHO unequivocally recommends wearing cloth masks in a medical setting. Recent studies have shown that masks protect healthcare workers because of the way the disease is spread. Often, an asymptomatic person will unknowingly infect someone else before symptoms occur. Therefore, people do not know if they are in close contact with someone who is sick. By wearing cloth masks, you can protect yourself and others from unintentional transmission.
While the WHO recommendation is strongly encouraged for a medical environment, their recommendation does not go as far as requiring a nationwide mandate. In considering the requirement of face masks for the general public, the WHO recommends that governments take into consideration factors such as purpose, risk of exposure, feasibility, vulnerability, and setting. The evidence the WHO uses suggests that mask-wearing slows the transmission of the disease and the same benefits in a medical setting can protect the public too.
However, the reason why the WHO likely comes short of advocating for a universal face mask regulation is because of the highly political nature of the issue for an organization that seeks to be apolitical.
What does the CDC Recommend?
The CDC recommendation is that cloth masks are not a substitute for personal protective equipment, such as that required for healthcare workers, but are a great way to prevent the wearer from potentially spreading coronavirus to others. The CDC states that while the mask will not protect the wearer from contracting the virus people should still wear a mask to slow the spread of infection. Additionally, the current CDC recommendation is that all people should wear cloth masks because it will protect the public. However, the public should not try to buy respirators since these are in short supply.
What Types of Masks Should You Wear?
Depends on Age
While science agrees that wearing cloth masks is a viable way to reduce transmission, the CDC recommends that children less than two years old do not wear a face mask. This is because children this young might easily become suffocated or become very irritable due to the mask being on their face. Age also plays a factor for slightly older children and the elderly. For children older than two years old, a reusable cloth mask would be beneficial to protect them. These are more durable than most paper masks and parents can wash them after a day of play or at school.
Elderly people might find more benefit to paper masks. While still effective, they also are easier to breathe in and may be more comfortable for those who have used them before in a hospital setting while receiving care. Wearing a mask with a built-in filter might be helpful for some but the science is still a little murky about the added benefit of a filter.
People with Chronic Illnesses
Those people that have preexisting conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and cancer are all highly susceptible to coronavirus. Because of these medical problems, it is advisable to use as much protection as possible. In addition to cloth masks, wearing a face shield is a great way to have added protection since healthcare workers already wear these while providing care.
How Cloth Masks Would Help the Economy
Without a doubt, the US economy has suffered losses not seen in decades. Between the near-stock market crash, the statewide shutdown of small businesses, the annihilation of the transportation, service, and energy industries, and the loss of millions of jobs, all Americans are hurting financially.
While the government has made efforts to curb the financial impact with its first stimulus package and proposed second one on the way, the effect of the shutdowns has still been catastrophic. But what if there was a way to still keep the economy open with safe mitigation measures? In a recent Goldman Sachs study, they believe they found the perfect balance in a nationwide face mask mandate.1
Will We Get a Face Mask Mandate?
A federally enforced face mask mandate is a controversial issue but the study shows that it would at least be partially effective at reopening the economy; certainly more so than forcing everyone to stay home in states and businesses that require residents to do so. In compiling their research, the researchers for the Goldman Sachs study looked at data from over 125 countries as well as every US state. They broke them all down into groups based upon what kind of measures the government took, which ranged from universal mask-wearing in countries like Japan and China, to no mandates at all, in countries like Sweden.
Measuring Economic Impact and the Spread of Infection
What the researchers found was quite thought-provoking. The study had two objectives: measure what effect a face mask mandate would have on the percentage of people wearing masks and just how effective these mandates were at preventing the spread of the disease. To date, the study found that every country experience increased levels of citizens wearing face masks, usually about 25% more, and this correlated to a decrease in infection rates.
Delving further into the data, researchers found that wearing masks could lower daily growth rates by almost two-thirds. This was especially so in US states that had no similar mandate. They came to this conclusion based upon data from states that required face masks to be worn in public that saw similar reductions in new cases. They then calculated the potential benefit by weighing the risk associated with a potential continuation of nationwide lockdowns which they calculated could retract the GDP by up to 5%.
Therefore, making people wear cloth masks would be a welcome alternative to making people stay home and shuttering businesses.
How Cloth Masks Would Reopen Schools Safely
Regardless of one’s feelings towards wearing or not wearing cloth face masks, the evidence is quite consistent that they are effective at preventing someone from spreading the disease. Before communities can reopen schools safely, there is a unique set of challenges that each must be addressed to effectively implement a mask policy.
Per the CDC, all schools are highly recommended to include a mandatory face mask resolution before reopening in the fall. It is also encouraged that schools create a policy to prevent parents from opting out of the mandate much like there are a variety of religious and other exemptions in a variety of states for vaccines. By allowing some but not all of the students to wear cloth face masks, it defeats the purpose of those wearing masks.
Protect Younger Children
The plan to reopen schools would also need to protect children who are younger or are special needs students. These two groups would be less adept at putting on and maintaining positive facial coverage either due to lack of understanding or maturity, mental health conditions, or physical limitations. While cloth masks are certainly recommended, an alternative solution of face shields might be an effective method for these groups.
Students must also be advised that whenever their face masks get wet or dirty, especially for younger students, that they would need to be taken off and washed lest they make the wearer sick from whatever contagion is on the mask.
Challenges for School Administrations
Overall, while there are certainly a lot of precautions and policies that administrators will need to work through, mandating masks in schools the often crowded classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds that before were the perfect vectors of contagion can only be mitigated through a robust and complete face mask plan.
Finding Bulk Personal Protective Equipment
As discussed in this article, wearing cloth face masks increases business profits and make our school children safe. The problem is finding PPE is difficult for large organizations and school districts.
Kelmedix is here to help. Contact us to discuss a customized bulk PPE purchase for your school or business. We will spend the time to make sure you get the PPE you need. If you are ready to discuss an order, call us or place a purchase order.