Different masks play different roles

Three+different+types+of+cloth+masks+representing+how+no+mask+is+the+same+in+volume%2C+shape+or+size

Amelia Prescher

Three different types of cloth masks representing how no mask is the same in volume, shape or size

Amelia Prescher, Infographic Manager

While social isolation, regular sanitation and social distance play big factors in staying healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization promotes face masks as the most beneficial method to prevent COVID-19.

However, as citizens are recommended to wear face masks, it poses the question: what is the most effective type of mask? 

A study was done by Florida Atlantic University to determine which mask types better prevent the spread of COVID-19. The study focused on two main components of each mask: the type of fabric it was made from and its construction. 

The College of Florida Atlantic University tested several different types of masks: loosely-folded mask, a bandana and a conestyle mask. The scientists tested out each masks’ durability by measuring the number of droplets produced when a mannequin would cough through the mask. The measurements ranged from 8 inches to 12 feet.

The results proved the bandana to be the least protective and the cone style mask as the most protective. The overall conclusion from the Florida Atlantic study was the tighter the mask is secured to your face, the more effective the mask is against the virus.

Even though certain face masks are more resistant than others, there are certain masks that are made specifically for certain hobbies. One instance of this is the“performer’s mask,” created by choir director Kym Scott. This allows singers to sing without having their voices be restricted by a piece of cloth. The mask sits a couple of inches away from the face giving enough room to allow full range of motion for an individual’s voice. 

Rachel Lyon, who has been in chamber choir for three years prefers the performer’s mask when singing. “With the performer’s mask, it feels like I’m singing as if there isn’t a mask on,” said Lyon. 

Another reason for specialized masks would be for those who work healthcare. Since healthcare professionals  are at a greater risk due to direct interaction with patients suffering from COVID-19, specialized masks known as N95 respirators are limited to only the healthcare providers or medical first responders.

Dr. Nathan Fierce, a general surgeon from Clinton, uses different masks for different patients and tasks around the hospital. “For the majority of my day, I wear a surgical mask when I’m performing regular surgery. The patients that I’m working with in surgery are all tested,” Fierce mentioned. Fierce generally keeps a surgical mask on when dealing when he knows patients are negative. 

However, if a patient is positive, Fierce has a different protocol. “I wear an N95 with a patient who has COVID either through surgery or if they’re in SU and I have to intubate them. That’s when I put on a N95 mask with protective eyewear and full disposable garment over my body with gloves,” stated Fierce. 

These N95 respirators are highly ranked in terms of protecting the mouth and nose from airborne particles. Some facial coverings struggle to keep off large airborne particles. Respirators on the other hand can block all large-sized particles, small-sized particles and 95% of medium-sized particles, which is where they got their name. Airborne particles are trapped by sticking to the mask’s fibers, disallowing the particles to fly back out

Fierce elaborated on the difference between surgical masks and N95 masks, and why each one proves effective in different situations, having said: “ The difference is the N95 is effective down to one micron and the surgical masks are effective to three microns.” While the surgical mask is safe and effective normally, Fierce uses a N95, which gives more protection, when dealing with higher-risk patients. 

There are a variety of masks out there. Ranging in flexibility, volume and transparency, each person has their own preference depending on the mask’s purpose.