Face masks have been around since images were found on early Persian tombs. The Yuan Dynasty of China which dates to 1279 is thought to be the first who wore a scarf made of gold and silk threads that looks remarkably close to the masks we are wearing today. Marco Polo reported on the wearing of face coverings in his travels. Masks and face coverings are not new but who would have thought we would be wearing them daily in the 2020? Probably not too many of us even had an inkling this would be happening, but it is. And, it is important that we continue to wear the loose-fitting mask until we know the world and our loved ones are safe. 

Now in the age of COVID-19 there are many questions about what masks can and should be used. Here we will have a look at what the different types of masks are and explain what a loose-fitting mask is and the protection it offers. 

People all over the globe have been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. This is the fifth pandemic to hit the world following the 1918 eruption of the flu pandemic. As of this writing, scientists have traced the first report of COVID-19 and following outbreak from a cluster of new pneumonia cases in humans located in Wuhan City, China, beginning in December 2019. The very first onset of symptoms is believed to be December 1, 2019. Patients exhibited dry cough, dyspnea, fever, and malaise. The symptoms were first diagnosed as viral pneumonia. The virus was then named Wuhan pneumonia by those reporting in the press due to the area of the outbreak. Scientific testing then resulted in proving the caustic agent was the novel coronavirus. This virus has proven to be the seventh virus of the coronavirus family that has successfully infected humans. 

The World Health Organization officially gave this virus the name COVID-19 on February 12, 2020. Scientists are learning new facts about this virus and how it affects humans daily. We know that this virus is named after spikes that are crown like and belongs to a large virus family. Different types of coronaviruses can be found in different species of animals including cattle, cats, bats, and camels. Coronaviruses that affect humans normally cause respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is the newest coronavirus and was not seen in humans before this outbreak. The viruses that affect animals very rarely affect humans and spread throughout the human population. 

It is a commonly known fact that those older in age and high-risk individuals have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Here in the United States nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been the hardest hit. 

Protection from COVID—19

There are certain things that scientists and medical experts know about this virus and give the following recommendations.

  • It is important to understand that there is no vaccine available currently to combat COVID-19.
  • The best way to stay virus free is to avoid encountering it. 
  • Because the virus is understood to be spread person-to-person it is best to stay away from others and crowds. 
  • Respiratory droplets from an infected person will spread the virus. This can happen when the person sneezes, talks, or coughs. 
  • When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks the droplets can land in the noses and mouths or those who are nearby and get into the lungs.
  • It is now believed that some individuals who are not showing any symptoms can still be infected with the virus. 

Handwashing

Handwashing is especially important in protecting yourself and others. Wash your hands many times daily including following being out in public, using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. 

Always wash hands before:

  • Before eating
  • Before preparing any type of foods to be consumed
  • Never touch your face without washing hands first
  • After changing a diaper
  • After handling a mask
  • Following caring for a sick person
  • After touching pets and animals

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. 

If there is no soap and water available to wash your hands it is recommended that a hand sanitizer is used that contains 60% alcohol or higher. Make sure all surfaces and areas of the hands are fully covered and continue rubbing until hands are dry enough to use safely. Always avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose. 

Social Distancing Facts

If someone in your home is sick it is recommended to avoid close contact. If the home is large enough it is best to isolate the infected person. 

When outside of the home keep at least 6 feet between you and others who do not reside with you. 

Remember, even those who do not show symptoms can still have the virus. 

For those who are at high-risk of getting sick or elderly it is best to avoid people as much as humanly possible. 

It is easier now more than ever for social distancing guidelines to be followed because businesses are helping to make this possible. Restaurants are offering curbside and stores are offering home delivery in more areas than ever before. 

Clean and Disinfect for Safety

Clean and disinfect areas that are regularly touched. This includes doorknobs, phones, tables, keyboards, sinks, faucets, desks, and handles. 

EPA-registered household disinfectants are recommended for common household disinfection. 

Daily Health Monitoring 

Stay alert for any changes in your health. Be vigilant for fever, shortness of breath, and fever. This is important if you or a loved one has been working outside of the home or working at the workplace with others. 

Coughing and Sneezing and COVID-19

Cover nose and mouth with the inside of your elbow or a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Always throw used tissues in the trash right away. Wash your hands right away with soap and water for at least 20 seconds with water and soap. If soap and water are not immediately available use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 

Wear a Mask

We see it all over the media that wearing a mask will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus. There are different types of masks that offer different protection. 

Different Types of Masks and Protection Offered

Surgical Masks: Surgical masks are considered loose-fitting masks that are disposable. These masks create a barrier between the nose and mouth of the person wearing it from contaminates located in the immediate area.

Surgical masks in the United States must be regulated under 21 CFR 878.4040. These types of surgical masks are not to be shared between individuals and can be labeled as isolation, surgical, medical procedure, or dental masks. Some of these masks may come with a full-face shield. Often, these masks are called face masks, but not all face masks fall under the surgical mask category. 

Surgical masks are manufactured in different thicknesses and have different abilities in the protection from encountering different kinds of fluids. The thickness can also affect the user’s ability to breath and the efficiency and rate of protection. 

A loose-fitting surgical mask is used to block out the larger particles that are air-borne, sprays, splashes, and splatters that can contain viruses, bacteria, and germs. The masks keep these substances from the wearers nose and mouth. These masks also help to protect those around the wearer from the wearer’s saliva and respiratory secretions. 

Loose-fitting masks like these do not offer good protection from smaller particles that can be spread by coughing, sneezing, medical procedures, and speaking. They do not offer complete protection because of the loose fit around the nose, mouth, and chin area. 

Loose-fitting surgical masks are not manufactured to be worn more than once and are disposable. If breathing becomes difficult, the mask gets damaged, soiled, or wet, you should remove it right away. After removing the mask, it must be discarded correctly for safety. Place the soiled or damaged mask in an airtight plastic bag and place it in a trash receptacle. Always wash your hands with soap and water after discarding the mask. Remember to follow safe handwashing procedures. A new surgical mask can now replace the discarded one. 

Other Types of Loose-Fitting Masks

Surgical masks are not the only type of masks that fall under the loose-fitting category. 

Government Distributed Cloth Masks

The United States White House had decided to send cloth masks to every home in the United States, but the plan fell through. Instead, the masks were sent to nonprofits, federal and state agencies, and other organizations. NBC News reported that more than 600 million cloth masks had been successfully distributed around the states. The project was named Project Strong America. The demand for cloth face coverings or masks had exceeded demand. 

Homemade Masks

When the CDC recommended that the population should adorn masks in public the supply could not keep up with the demand. This is when people started getting creative and making their own and the CDC put up a website page with the instructions located here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-make-cloth-face-covering.html

At least two layers of fabric should be used, and the fabric should be breathable and washable. The instructions included step-by-step directions for those who could and could not sew. 

For those who want to sew their own loose-fitting cloth masks the only materials needed are:

  • Cotton fabric
  • Scissors
  • Thread and needle
  • Sewing machine

Those who want masks but cannot sew only need:

  • Cotton fabric
  • Scissors
  • Hair ties or rubber bands

Making a homemade clot mask is not time consuming unless there are many being constructed. 

Organizations Seeking Donated Loose-Fitting Cloth Masks

If you have tried your hand at making cloth masks and would like to donate there are many organizations still in need. Below are a few that have called out for donations.

  • Garden Villas- Chula Vista, California
  • Atlanta Multi Specialty Group, PC- Atlanta, Georgia
  • The Power of Life Foundation- Birmingham, AL
  • Clinical Research Associates- Huntsville, AL
  • Keep the faith, INC- Phenix City, AL
  • USA Healthcare- Cullman, Alabama

For a complete list please visit: https://www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask/Mask-Donations

Other face coverings also include kerchiefs, masks made from socks, and a whole bunch of other inventive ideas that can be discovered on the internet with a quick search for loose-fitting masks. 

Please be advised that it is imperative that the surgical masks and N95 masks should be reserved for the front line and medical workers who are working with those who have COVID-19. These individuals are risking their lives daily and need the appropriate PPE for protection. For a complete list of PPE please visit: https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-and-face-masks

There are companies who are increasing the manufacturing of N95 respirators and other critical equipment needed to protect our medical experts in the field. In the meantime, the public can help by following the criteria and safeguards put into place. Yes, it can be a bit of a nuisance wearing a loose-fitting mask, but we are helping to protect others around us. 

If your workplace requires a loose-fitting mask during working hours there are many individuals now that are sewing masks from home and selling them. These people doing the mask making are moms, retirees, and those who were homebound before the pandemic. Look in your local classifieds and on social media for those local to you that are selling masks. The talent and beauty of these creative individuals is quite impressive. Facebook has had quite a lot of groups opening to the public that are sewing masks for both first responders and those in need to be in public and offer safety to others. 

The same holds true if you have children who need loose-fitting face masks. These individuals just use smaller patterns and offer a wide selection of designs. Whether it is dinosaurs or Barbie, there is an individual willing to make the child-size mask to bring a smile. 

Larger merchants that are on the internet are also selling masks now and many others are jumping on daily. Masks can be purchased singly or in bulk for reduced rates. The competition is strong, and masks are in high demand.

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