With the onset of COVID-19, the questions arising over medical masks continue. What are the best types to wear? Do we need a special medical mask or just a disposable mask that can be worn once and tossed?

COVID-19 History

As history continues and as news of COVID-19 continues understanding the past and this pandemic is essential. The outbreak of COVID-19 was first found in China's mainland in 2019 in December. Every corner of the world as we know it has been affected in one way or another by this highly contagious disease. There have been over a million cases detected and diagnosed in over 200 countries.

A new virus has caused this outbreak and pandemic. This latest virus is called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. WHO officially named the illness caused by the coronavirus as COVID-19 or Coronavirus Disease 2019.

The family of coronaviruses can cause mild to major upper respiratory illnesses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory illness, and the common cold.

It is believed that COVID-19 started in a wet market in China in the Wuhan area. A wet market is where vendors sell live animals that can include dogs, cats, bats, rabbits, and fish. The name “wet market” is derived from the fact that the floors are frequently wet from animal slaughter and the constant need to wash them. Melting ice to preserve the slaughtered animals also causes the floors to be wet.

It is thought that the common denominator among those who became afflicted with the virus in Wuhan had exposure to this wet market. Scientists believe that the virus mutated from a coronavirus found in animals and jumped to humans.

When a person becomes infected and sneezes or coughs, the newest virus is transmitted through droplets expelled. These infectious droplets can enter a person’s body through contact routes such as the nose, eyes, and mouth. These same droplets can be inhaled while breathing and get into the human lungs.

The virus can also be contacted by touching various surfaces, even days and hours later. It has been discovered in studies that COVID-19 can live up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on stainless steel and some plastics.

There have been strategies put into place to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

Wash your hands using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Washing your hands is particularly important after coughing or sneezing, before preparing food and eating, and after going to the bathroom.

When in public with other people and in stores touching merchandise, it is vital never to touch your face. When you return home, wash your hands immediately. If you will not be returning home following visiting a store or being out in public, hand sanitizer is recommended.  If you do not feel well, staying home is essential for the protection of others. If you are sneezing or coughing, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, napkin, or your sleeve. Once finished using the napkin or tissue, put it right into the trash and wash your hands. Social distancing recommendations should be followed at all times. The distance is six feet.

As of this paper's writing, most people are only making trips to their local pharmacies and stores. The U.S. government has put recommendations into place, and nonessential travel is warranted. Unnecessary travel includes- eating at restaurants and bars, specific work environments, and gathering in large groups.

Incubation Period of COVID-19

The incubation period of a virus describes the length of time between when a person catches the virus and when the physical symptoms begin to appear. The incubation period is a critical time because individuals do not know they are infected with the virus; this may cause some not to be vigilant and spread to others. The United States government and researchers recommend that individuals operate as though they have already contracted COVID-19 so that caution is used to help protect others. The incubation time for COVID-19 varies from 1-14 days. For most people, symptoms begin to show around the fifth day.

If you believe you may have been infected with COVID-19, it is recommended by the CDC that you contact your doctor. Symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and chills. If you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, precautions should be taken to protect other individuals and those at high risk.

Most individuals with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and can recover from home without constant medical care. Your physician will recommend the type of medical care needed after evaluating your symptoms.

COVID-19 Precautions

We have discussed social distancing and washing hands when it comes to helping lessen the virus's spread. There is another necessary precaution that has been recommended, and this is the use of face masks.

If someone had warned us before this pandemic that we would not be leaving our homes without face masks, we would not have believed them. Of course, we probably would not have believed that there would be a shortage on hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Medical masks and face coverings are not new and date back further in time than many of us are aware.

Images of those in the medical field can be found and viewed back to the bubonic plague. These beak-like masks were filled with cinnamon, cloves, and other herbs for protection. The physicians wearing these medical masks became known as “beak-doctors.” These physicians were typically dressed in black hats and cloaks and became the symbol of death in the Middle Ages.

Before 1910, the wearing of face coverings in hospitals and surgery was not popular. However, there is an earlier picture or illustration of a multilayered mask and made from gauze that can be witnessed in the medical teachings of British surgeon Dr. Moynihan (1865-1936).

Medical-surgical masks were first used in the operating rooms of the USA and Germany in the 1920s. Masks were used more in what was known as small surgery or endoscopic surgery. After this, the use of surgical masks was renowned for a length of time.

After the First World War, more research was put into the study of medical masks of varying thickness and layers. The study of masks continued, but this generation of head doctors was still rejecting them. Nurses and interns are seen wearing the masks, but head surgeons found the masks cumbersome and uncomfortable.

Starting in the early to mid-1960s, disposable masks made of fleece and paper were being used worldwide after the wearing of masks was begun in the United States of America. Even in the 1990s, there was still data being studied about the use of medical masks, and if the wearing of the masks could reduce the infections of wounds. It has been proven that medical masks lower the contamination of indoor air.

During this pandemic, all individuals should wear facemasks when out in public or around others. The question many have is, what the proper mask to be wearing is? Is everyone wearing surgical masks? Are disposable masks okay to wear? Can disposable masks work more than once?

The medical community and researchers recommend basic cloth face masks for those going out in public. The wearing of basic cloth face masks should be worn when you are around others who are not part of your immediate family.

Cloth face masks come in a variety of colors and styles. Sizes differ depending on who will be wearing the mask. Choosing the best mask with the best fit may take some trial and error, but it is worth it in the end. Cloth masks can be purchased in local stores and online. A list of online venues can be found by performing a quick search online. Multiple masks can be purchased at one time or individually.

Basic cloth masks can also be made at home, and there are instructions posted both online and in print. There is no doubt that we all want a mask that fits right and offers the best protection for others and ourselves. There are basic cloth face masks that have multiple layers and being able to breathe comfortably is essential to us all.

A few of the more popular face masks manufacturers that are available online include:

Rendall Co.  https://rendallco.com/?sscid=&sscid=b1k4_hy90u&

Proper Cloth  https://propercloth.com/shop/masks

Kitsbow https://www.kitsbow.com/collections/personal-protective-equipment

Herschel Supply Company  https://herschel.com/

Graf Lantz  https://graf-lantz.com/

Banana Republic https://bananarepublic.gap.com/


Surgical face masks are worn by those in the healthcare profession when performing healthcare procedures. These masks are made to prevent infections in patients and protect personnel by catching germs that are spread in aerosols and droplets from the wearer’s nose and mouth. These masks are not manufactured to protect the wearer from breathing in viruses and airborne particles that are small. Surgical face masks have proven to protect against viruses on droplets.

Surgical masks are considered medical masks in the health community. Surgical masks were initially manufactured to protect medical professionals from sprays and splashes of body fluids. Right now, the effectiveness of surgical masks and the protection they offer from the flu has not yet been confirmed by controlled trials that are high quality. Medical-surgical face coverings vary by protection levels and quality. It is important to keep in mind that not all these medical masks are approved to be used during surgery or in the operating room. Surgical medical masks are labeled as medical masks, dental, isolation, or surgical masks.

Surgical masks are made using nonwoven fabrics and a melt blowing process. These masks started being used in the 1960s and took over the use of cloth masks. The green or dark blue side of the mask is to be worn on the outside of the mask as this is the fluid-repellant layer. The white part of the mask is to be worn on the inside against the skin of the face. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been shortages of surgical masks.

The surgical mask is loose fitting and disposable. The mask protects the wearer from contaminants in the air in the surrounding environment. When the mask is worn properly, it helps to block the larger droplets. The masks help to reduce the respiratory secretions and saliva from reaching others. Another great perk for those wearing surgical masks is that the masks remind the wearer not to touch the face area.

Surgical masks and respirators are not the same thing and should not be confused. Regular surgical masks are not manufactured to protect the individual from inhaling virus particles or airborne bacteria. Surgical masks are less effective than the N95 respirators.

Once the wearer is done wearing the surgical mask, the mask should be removed and disposed of properly. Handwashing should then follow.

The N95 respirator is PPP that is precisely fitted to an individual and is not disposable. N95 respirators should only be used by medical professionals and those on the front lines. N95 respirators are now being manufactured at a higher rate to keep up with the demand due to COVID-19. It is not recommended that those in public wear these respirators for daily errands and visits to stores.

It is important to note that those purchasing N95 respirators do so with due diligence. The demand for these respirators has seen a surge in counterfeit respirators sold on the market.

Full-length face shields have become more popular than ever before since the onset of COVID-19. Full shield face masks are disposable and offer the eyes more protection than the conventional surgical mask. The full shield face masks of the past are not like those of today. Face shields in the past would fog, and those who wear eyeglasses often had to deal with a lack of comfort. Face shields can be purchased online and at local suppliers.

Disposable masks are as effective as medical masks and offer protection against COVID-19. Following all the recommendations for both medical and non-medical individuals will help stop the spread of COVID-19.