A guide to purchasing (or making) a face mask for COVID-19

Although material masks provide only minimal protection in opposition to the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, the Centers for Illness Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that everybody use them when leaving the house. The hope is that this low-risk, relatively straightforward intervention could make a dent within the spread of COVID-19 by individuals with no signs or extraordinarily delicate ones.

But masks aren’t precisely easy to come by: Medical-grade ones are already in brief supply for healthcare workers who want them, so healthy folks shouldn’t even attempt to purchase them. And within the wake of the CDC’s new suggestions, even non-medical fabric masks are sold out or backordered in lots of on-line stores. If you happen to’re attempting to determine if and how it is best to cover your face in your next essential trip out of the house—for a walk on an uncrowded road or to buy obligatory groceries, as an illustration—right here’s a guide to all your options.

Things to search for and keep away from when shopping for a fabric mask

Lots of crafters and makers, as well as companies that often sell different fabric products, are actually offering non-medical masks for sale. But not all of those masks are created equal. In case you’re ordering protective equipment on-line, right here’s what to look for:

Don’t buy medical-grade, filtering masks unless you’re immunocompromised or are caring for someone sick with COVID-19. Hospitals are experiencing excessive shortages of these masks, and they aren’t shown to provide significant protection for healthy individuals.

Your mask ought to cover your nose and mouth and should have fastenings that hold it firmly in place while you talk, move, and breathe. If it’s a must to touch your face to adjust your masks, you risk exposing your nostril or mouth to germs.

Ideally, the masks should have some form of adjustable band to attenuate gaps between your nose and your cheeks.

The simplest materials are water resistant and tightly-woven—not stretchy or sheer. A tightly-woven cotton is the subsequent finest thing, and your masks ought to have at least two layers of it.

Your mask must be easy to sanitize by boiling or throwing in the washing machine. Which means it shouldn’t have cloth glues, delicate supplies, or funky decorations (other than prints on the fabric). Embellishments like sequins (yes, there are people selling sequined masks right now) provide surfaces that viral particles can linger on for days.

If you purchase a fashionable cover to go over your mask—some stores are selling glittery fabric covers and chainmail overlays, for example—do not forget that this outer layer is being uncovered to viral particles. You should remove it and sanitize it just such as you would with the mask itself.

What a few balaclava or scarf?

Rachel Noble, a public health microbiologist at UNC at Chapel Hill, tells PopSci that balaclavas and different warm-weather gear designed to cover your nose and mouth are unlikely to be suitable for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Because they’re designed to be as straightforward to breath by way of as doable, they are typically made of loose fabrics.

“You need to select a really, really tightly woven material,” Noble says. “We’re talking about something that’s approximately the density of the weave of a bandana, or a really high-quality bedsheet.”

Jersey fabrics, towels, and any textiles that stretch while you pull them are seemingly too loose, she says, as are most sweaters and different knit yarns. So if you happen to really can’t sew or put together a masks with hair ties as described beneath, covering your nostril and mouth with a bandana tied round your face is probably slightly more efficient and easier to sanitize than a balaclava or wound-up scarf. However all of those workarounds are mostly only helpful in that they remind you not to touch your face and shield bystanders from the worst of your coughing and sneezing. When you’re coughing and sneezing, you must really be staying inside.

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