The COVID-19 pandemic started early this year, with the establishment of a pandemic being done around February. The SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for this, was previously unknown to scientists and is being considered a new species of coronavirus. These viruses are known to cause mild respiratory infections in humans that can sometimes be more severe, but COVID-19 seems to be a little more serious than the illnesses caused by other coronaviruses.
Most cases of this infectious disease are mild or asymptomatic, with the most common symptoms being dry cough or sore throat. Certain populations are at higher risk of developing more severe forms of the illness, including older people, immunocompromised patients, and those with conditions like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, among others.
The complications from this disease can be very serious, and while the size of the percentage of severe cases is relatively small, when there are too many people infected at once, this percentage becomes more important. Healthcare systems become overwhelmed and collapse, which is why avoiding the transmission and spread of the virus is very important.
This collapse of the healthcare system has been seen in several countries this year, which is why mask mandates have become more common. We’ll discuss a little bit about them and how popular they are.
According to numbers from August of this year, as of that date, more than one hundred countries had issued mask mandates. Brazil and the United States, being two countries with the highest case numbers, did not make federal requirements for face masks during that time. But, scientific evidence has shown that, until a vaccine is manufactured, wearing face masks of any kind, be it a reusable cloth mask, surgical masks, N95 masks, or KN95 masks, which can be accompanied by face shields or not, is the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus.
In East Asian countries, the use of face masks was already common in public before the pandemic began, so these countries got used to this measure very easily. The first countries to make mask mandates were Vietnam and the Czech Republic, in March of this year.
Some countries like Slovakia and Lithuania had stricter mask mandates and then loosened their initial requirements as cases started to decrease. Those countries with looser mandates typically just require them in public indoor places or public transportation.
In terms of popularity, we can talk about the United Kingdom, where less than one-fifth of the surveyed residents said they wore a mask in public places, which led the government to impose stricter mask requirements.
More information about the mask mandates around the world and their popularity can be found here.
In the USA, a poll implemented by Harvard CAPS/Harris reported that 79% of the surveyed people said they supported a potential mask mandate, and 70% also said they supported the imposition of fees on people not wearing masks by local governments. This comes as a general popularity for face masks, regardless of their political views or locations in the country.
The different types of face masks
Even though the mask mandates are applied to any type of face covering, it’s important to know which face masks are available, and which situations they’re used in:
- N95 masks
N95 masks can also be found by the name of N95 respirators, and the term comes from a classification of respirators used as the standard for filtration rate inside the USA. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) establishes this classification, testing and regulating respirators to make sure they can be distributed as one class or the other.
In the case of N95 masks, the term is used to talk about respirators with no resistance to oil and a minimum particulate filtration efficacy of 95%, which means they can effectively filter out 95% or less non-oil based airborne particles. Such particles include viruses like the flu or the SARS-CoV-2, smoke, and dust.
For this reason, this respirator is used in many different work settings, but right now they’ve become indispensable for healthcare workers, as they’re the best disposable face mask for virus protection due to its antiviral properties and its tight fit around the nose and mouth. The most popular models include 3M N95 masks like 3M 8511 and 3M 8210.
Surgical face masks
This are the so-called “regular” or medical face masks and are the type of face mask most people think about when they hear the term. Unlike N95 respirators, these are loose-fitting around the face, so leakage of air is possible. Their main function is as a physical barrier between the nose and mouth of the wearer and splashes or sprays of respiratory secretions from other people and the other way around. They don’t filter small particles like viruses, so they’re not as effective for preventing the user from getting infected, and function mainly to prevent the spread.
These masks are common in healthcare centers, where healthcare personnel use them to prevent the contamination of the air, for example, when treating immunocompromised patients or to prevent wound contamination during surgery, among other uses.
- Reusable cloth masks
These are the face masks recommended to be used by the general public. Since medical-grade face masks need to be prioritized for healthcare workers, cloth masks have been deemed enough for protection in public settings in people who are not directly exposed to confirmed cases. They only prevent the spread of the virus and don’t filter out particles from the air.
Face-coverings can be found for sale online, with options for kids and to buy in bulk or wholesale as well. Always look for reliable sources, and stay safe!