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Aug 27, 2020

Healthy Living: Mask Efficacy

Are you using the right face mask? The type you choose could make a big difference. When it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19, not all masks are equally effective. Tonight in Healthy living, you’ll find out which face coverings have been found to protect you the best. 


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Even before the sudden surge of COVID cases this month, it was already mandatory to use face masks and coverings in public places. It’s one of several public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID 19.


Dr. Abigail Joseph, The Health Portal-Belize

The actual purpose of wearing a mask is to reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets when we speak. A lot of times people think it’s for when we cough or sneeze but its more to prevent the respiratory droplet from coming in contact with other people or surfaces.


Abigail Joseph

Marleni Cuellar

“Do you think people are using masks for protection or avoiding the consequences?”


Dr. Abigail Joseph

I think here in Belize we are not really taking it seriously when it comes to actually protecting ourselves from the virus. I know that everybody understands that it enters your respiratory tract. But when you look around, you see folks wearing it under their nose or always pulling it down to speak. It’s how we’re not really serious about protecting ourselves but trying to avoid getting charged and staying out of trouble.


And if you step outside and pay attention to the masked faces around, improper mask use is still rampant despite the regulations and police enforcement. But even if you are using your mask correctly, is it helping? One recent study has revealed that not all masks and face coverings are created equal.
Dr. Abigail Joseph

There was a study by Duke University that was meant to test the efficacy of the masks. We found out that of course, the N95 was the most effective; it only allowed point one percent of respiratory droplets being filtered through the masks itself. Then there was, of course, the surgical mask that was effective and thirdly there was the three-layer or the cotton mask, meaning the cloth mask that was actually effective in capturing all of the respiratory droplets.


It would have been easy to guess that hospital-grade masks perform better, but what about homemade and makeshift masks? There’s been a flurry of cloth masks in the market, and some have opted to repurpose items like scarfs, bandanas and handkerchiefs.


Dr. Abigail Joseph

The ones that failed miserably were the bandanas, the ones like a handkerchief and the neck gaiters, the neck fleece. The neck fleece of all was actually counterproductive when it came to protecting yourself and others in the simple measurement that Martin Fisher did in that experiment at Duke University. The type of material spandex it actually causes the respiratory droplets to create smaller droplets making it very dangerous because the droplets are lighter so it was suspended in the air longer and that makes it bad because the breeze can make it travel further.  Whereas, the control which was a patient that spoke without a mask had less droplets recorded by the computer algorithm, so if you’re going to wear a neck gaiter, you might as well not wear any.


When it comes to cloth masks, they did prove to be useful, but it depends on how it’s made.

Dr. Abigail Joseph

The study showed that the cotton two-layered cotton masks those made from quilted cotton and the three-layer fabrics are the most effective when it comes to capturing those respiratory droplets.


And so, Doctor Joseph offers this advice when it comes to making your mask selection.


Dr. Abigail Joseph

Face covering is not the same as protecting yourself from the virus. Picking or choosing the appropriate masks that filter and captures the droplets is very important.  One that fits our face. One that’s snug. A lot of times, people tend to wear masks that kind of walk down when they speak. That is not very effective if it’s not covering both your nose and mouth. So the sides of the masks.  If you find that the mask is moving then you really need to adjust the loops. The loops are adjustable and if it’s not then cut it and tie it is that it fits snug. If you’re going to be using surgical masks. You must know that they are disposable so there meant to by re-used the pathogen stay active in the filter itself. So the more you use it, the higher the concentration is. So if you’re going to use a surgical mask, you need to be financially able to buy one every day. So it’s not feasible for everybody to use a surgical mask. When it comes to actually making your mask, the layers is very important the CDC and the World Health Organization encourages you to use two cotton layers with a filter or if you are not able to do that you want. To make sure that the fabric that you are using is at least three layers. When we are wearing a mask, it is not only to protect ourselves but to protect other people. If we are using the right make, then using the correct and practicing social distance can actually be effective in flattening the curve.
A proper mask with a right fit is only partial protection; proper physical distancing and frequent hand washing should be practiced as well for the ultimate protection.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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