If everyone wears a mask, community transmission will be essentially zero.
When most of us coughed or sneezed, we could project droplets to as far as six feet or more, depending on whether we were looking up, looking straightahead or looking down when we did so. While most droplets are not visibly detected beyond about 3 feet, studies from the last “SARS outbreaks of 2003 suggest that droplets from patients with these two infections could reach persons located 6 feet or more from their source“, per the CDC. The larger the droplets, the further it went. It is feared that eventually 60-70% of the population will be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. With the incubation period being 5 days, meaning we can be completely without any symptoms on average 5 days after being infected, we can go on and infect so many others around us during this time period, including our loved ones. In China and Italy, 70-80% of transmission occured with the family.
To slow the spread, we should wear a mask, regardless of symptoms.
If you are a business owner:
- Provide a mask to all of your staff and employees to limit exposure between them, and protect your clients from potential exposure
- Provide or ask your clients to wear a mask prior to entering the premise to protect your employees, and fellow clients from accidental exposure
If you are visiting an essential business during this lock down:
- Ask the business’ employees to wear a mask for your protection
- Wear a mask yourself prior to entering to protect the employees, and fellow shoppers
Universal mask wear combined with 6-feet social distancing and frequent hand washing with soap and water will go a great length in combating this virus. The battle is fought and won in the community, not in the hospitals.
So which mask is best to wear?
With the exception of the N95 masks (which should be reserved for health care professionals), most masks are designed to protect others from the wearer, not the wearer himself. Surgeons wear surgical masks during surgeries to not contaminate the sterile field, i.e. the region of the body being operated on. In most of Asia, it is common practice to wear a mask mainly to protect others when one is ill. It is postulated that this might have helped slow the transmission in the region, especially Japan.
This study comparing homemade fabric masks vs. surgical masks revealed that a homemade cotton-fabric mask can capture about 50-60% of the particles. Wearing a mask can also serve as a deterrence against touching the nose and mouth, potentialy introducing infectious virus particles to yourself.
You can make it even better with pockets in your homemade masks for insertion of a removable filter. The Taiwanese tailor shop Button Tree’s Facebook Page has detailed instructions in English on how to make such a mask as below.
Dr Chen Xiaoting, an anesthesiologist in Taiwain, share this instructions to use microfiber non-woven fabric as the filtering middle layer. This is what makes the mask so much better than a regular fabric mask without this filter. This “filter” could be the non-woven fabric in gauze, sterilization wrapper, paper towels, diapers, wet facial tissue that was dried, or even toilet paper. Do not use vaccum cleaner bags due to presence of fiberglass fibers.
The hesitation for universal mask wear recommendation has been due to the fear of taking away surgical masks away from health care professionals, and this is valid. However, by going with homemade fabric masks as above, at least until more supplies are available, we will slow the spread to allow the health care system supply chain to catch up WITHOUT taking away masks from health care professionals.
Image Credit: https://matcha-jp.com/en/2245