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Not all masks created equal, but any better than none | Colorado Springs News – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado 2020-11-22 14:00:00 –

BOULDER — A 19-year-old student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Brady Bowman and two friends stroll on 11th Avenue, a matching sports neckgator with the Thomas English Muffin logo. He had received the entire box of promotional gaiters.

He finds it more comfortable to wear than a face mask. “Especially on a cold day like today,” he said, pulling the top of the gaiters down under his chin.

More stylish? Probably. More comfortable? Maybe. But is it effective? necessarily.

In states such as Colorado, it is necessary to cover the face indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and gaiters and bandanas have become popular accessories, especially among college students and other young adults. It has less restrictions than a mask and can be easily moved up and down as needed. It is not possible to convey the atmosphere outside the hospital.

However, tests have shown that these hipper face covers are not as effective as surgical masks and cloth masks. Bandanas, like plastic face shields, allow viruses to escape from the bottom of aerosolized particles and can float in the air for hours. Gaiters are also often made of a material that is thin enough not to trap viruses as much as a cloth mask.

As good as new Rapid increase in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths As we move upwards towards winter, many public health professionals suspect that it is time to move towards standardization and quality masks above all else. President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly considering some sort of national face-covering obligation.

“Unlike seat belts, condoms and other preventive strategies, we have not yet standardized what we generally recommend,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. “And putting all these masks on the market is very confusing for the American people.”

Regulatory patchwork

Masks have been shown to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets containing the coronavirus. And now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks not only help prevent people from infecting others, but also protect their wearers from infection.

According to a recent analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, wearing a universal mask in late September would have saved the lives of about 130,000 Americans by the end of February.

Still, many Americans haven’t worn masks yet. Also, in some states this is not necessary.

At least 37 states and the District of Columbia require face covering, but they offer a wide range of variations in defining what is eligible. In states such as Maryland and Rhode Island, the definition includes bandanas and neck gaiters, but in South Carolina and Michigan, it is not included, according to a review of orders by KHN. Some people elaborate on the situations in which a cover must be worn and establish enforcement policies.

However, according to Lawrence Gostyn, a law professor at Georgetown University, many states do not bind residents to these rules. Some state or local officials choose not to enforce them.

“We have inconsistent rules and legal patchwork across the country,” Gostyn said. “And when we’re dealing with a national pandemic, patchwork can’t get the job done.”

With little cloth mask manufacturing in the United States before the pandemic, public health officials emphasized the importance of wearing face covers at the beginning of the year rather than focusing on one standard. Was selected. As a result, Americans wear a jumble of covers, from hand-sewn to commercial versions, with varying levels of protection.

And what you wear is important. Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, an infectious disease specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said facial coverings generally fall into three categories of efficacy. N95 masks (not with valves), surgical masks, and well-made cloth masks (composed of tightly woven material, folded 2-3 times, properly covering the mouth and nose) are very effective. Category.

The bandana, neck gaiters, and face shield are on the other side of the spectrum, and almost everything else is in the center.

“Bandanas are usually thinner materials, so if you don’t double or triple them, especially the respiratory droplets will be able to pass through the mask,” he said. “But the fact that they open along the bottom of the mouth and neck when they aren’t pushed into a shirt or the like also allows many of their exhaled droplets to escape around the mask and float in the air. . “

A plastic face shield can block large droplets, but it cannot prevent aerosolized particles from flowing beyond their edges.

Evidence of neck gaiters is mixed, as so many materials and designs are used. However, recent tests have suggested that even the thin materials commonly used to make gaiters are almost as effective as double masks when doubled.

“With a few exceptions, the best masks are those that someone uses regularly and consistently,” Gonsenhauser said. “The best technical mask may not be the one that everyone is willing to wear at all times.”

Researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have found that most commercially available cloth masks block 40% to 60% of droplets, approaching the effectiveness of surgical masks.

“It may not be possible to test everything, but one takeaway message is certainly better than nothing,” said William Lindsley, a biomedical engineer at NIOSH. “I haven’t tested anything that isn’t working.”

Seeking standardization

But Gandhi believes it’s time to raise the bar for masks, increase production of disposable surgical masks, and encourage Americans to wear masks, even if they don’t order. Early in the pandemic, the Trump administration reportedly considered sending masks to all Americans, but eventually decided to oppose it.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has invested in the manufacture and distribution of surgical masks, with the lowest COVID deaths in the world, less than 10 in a country of 24 million.

“It makes more sense to standardize masks and mass-produce less expensive surgical masks,” Gandhi said. “We spend more on everything else.”

She said a surgical mask may reduce the severity of COVID-19. Gandhi and several colleagues recently wrote in an article in a medical journal that suggests that the fewer viruses a person is exposed to, the less illness they have.

This is supported by tests with laboratory animals exposed to the coronavirus and humans exposed to other low-risk respiratory viruses.

Other evidence supports the theory. The CDC estimates that approximately 40% of COVID cases are asymptomatic, but outbreaks in food processing plants where workers are given surgery or N95 masks are a much higher proportion of infected workers. Showed that did not develop symptoms. It can explain why many Asian countries, where mask wearing has been a cultural norm for decades, were able to resume their economies without seeing as high a mortality rate as the United States.

“Tokyo is a good example. It’s wide open, people are walking side by side, people go to the office, people go to school,” Gandhi said. “But they are all masked and the incidence of serious illness is very low.”

If she is right, the national obligation to require a surgical mask can reduce infections and prevent serious illness.

“I can’t wait,” Gandhi said. “This infection has caused enough deaths. The case fatality rate in a country with this degree of development is tragic.”

It remains to be seen whether Americans will be more willing to wear more downy, less comfortable, but more effective masks to protect themselves and others. When Bowman, a college student at Boulder, was asked if he was worried that his gaiters wouldn’t block as many viruses as face masks, he seemed indifferent.

“As long as others are wearing masks,” he said.

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