A college of four individuals wearing masks due COVID-19
Dr. Tiffany Wang (top left), Carson Reed (top right), Carmen Avans (bottom left) and Dr. Cynthia Mwenja (bottom right) showing off their masks.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mask have become an important part of everyone’s lives. With mask now a required part of many of our wardrobe for the day, it is helpful to have an understanding of why mask are being required, the best type of mask to wear, the advantages of wearing the mask and the limitations upon what they can accomplish.  

Why should I wear a mask? 

            According to the World Health Organization, the virus is “primarily transmitted between people via respiratory droplets and contact routes.” In other words, it is spread through droplets from “coughing, sneezing” and “personal contact.”  

The “transmissibility” or likelihood of the virus’s spread is dependent on “whether or not they are coughing and spreading more droplets” and “the type of contact” with the infected individual.  

According to a study authorized by Guangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “aerosolized droplets can remain in the air and travel long distances.” During this study they even found that it might be possible for droplets to spread further due to the flow and direction of air conditioning.  

This is why it is vital that individuals play their part in this pandemic and wear masks. Masks are not solely for protecting you but also protecting those around you by shielding them from infectious droplets. 

What kind of mask should I wear? 

According to the World Health Organization “disposable surgical masks or reusable 12–16-layer cotton masks were associated with protection of healthy individuals within households and among contacts of cases.”  

The World Health Organization especially recommends masks to individuals over 60 and people with “underlying comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, immunosuppression.”  

They are also recommended to “general population in public settings, such as grocery stores, at work, social gatherings and mass gatherings,” which is essentially any type of “closed” setting. 

It is important that you pick a type of mask that is comfortable and breathable for you. Some people prefer cloth whilst others prefer the breathability of the paper disposable kind. 

Advantages of wearing a mask 

The obvious and most important advantage of wearing a mask is that it will reduce potential exposure to people who are infected with the virus while also protecting others. 

At times it can be easy to forget about the dangers of the pandemic and the constant presence of masks around can serve as a reminder to keep proper hygiene and distance. They serve to reduce public stigma and provide a sense of public duty and contribution. 

The consistent need for masks can provide an economic boost and even allow individuals to provide service by distributing or creating masks to sell to others. Masks can also be quite fashionable and allow for extended cultural expression. 

Masks are not enough 

The World Health Organization warns that the “virus can occur directly by contact” or “indirectly by contact with surfaces in the immediate environment.” You can even come in contact with the virus from “objects used on or by the infected person.” 

They make it clear that “the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection.” Physical distancing and proper hygiene are also “critical to prevent human-to human transmission of COVID-19.”  

Remember when wearing a mask to avoid touching your face and even the mask when possible. This will help to prevent self-contamination. Self-contamination can also occur when masks are not properly cleaned. 

Always remember to change disposable masks instead of continuously wearing the same one. Be sure to properly dispose of disposable masks in a trash receptacle so as to not endanger others. 

Encourage others to follow the rules and regulations and be safe. This virus will be beaten due to proactive communities and responsible citizens.