by Rose Maramba
It isn’t that the corona shot is still ages away. For example, there’s Russia’s Gam-COVID-Vac, nicknamed Sputnik V, the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine that has been granted regulatory approval by a government. President Vladimir Putin claims Sputnik V has shown “stable immunity” against the novel COVID and has “passed all the necessary checks.” However, there’s general skepticism about the shot’s efficacy and safe usage after incomplete human testing of not even two months. In fact, some British and American vaccine scientists described the approval of the vaccine as “dangerous”, “reckless”, and “foolish”.
Apart from Sputnik V (a throwback moniker to the first ever man-made satellite, Sputnik I, launched into Earth orbit by the Soviet Union in 1957), the World Health Organization (WHO) says there are more than 200 wannabe vaccines in human clinical trial phase across the globe. Prominently, these include the mRNA-1273A shot developed jointly by the Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna and the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
But until there’s a fully-tested vaccine that has successfully undergone Phases I, II and III of Clinical Development, we’re stuck with good old social distancing, hand-washing, and face masks. In the new normal, wearing masks is an indispensable component of the unpretentious but potent triad (social distancing, hand-washing and mask) of preventive actions that we all could and should take because it’s been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The WHO says cloth masks can reduce the risk of transmission. Prestigious health institutions such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the Mayo Clinic agree with WHO. As the Mayo Clinic points out, cloth face coverings “are most likely to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus when they are widely used by people in public settings. And countries that required face masks, testing, isolation and social distancing early in the pandemic have successfully slowed the spread of the virus.” However, WHO would rather those over 60 or with underlying health risks wear medical, instead of cloth, masks in areas where there is community transmission.
The good news about masks is that they need no longer be terribly dull, thanks to the advent of masks made of cloth. If cloth masks have become so popular, it’s because they let creativity take wing. They allow for infinite combinations of colors, patterns and styles you’d actually love to wear them as smart fashion complement if not to make a stand! A blessing for people in countries like Spain where wearing face masks is mandatory in allpublic places, indoor and outdoor.
At their most basic, cloth masks are face masks made of any common textile. In general, they are less effective than surgical masks and the N95 masks (a.k.a. respirators). But there are well-constructed cloth masks with at least more than one layer of fabric. This extra layer acts as a filter to block respiratory droplets while still allowing comfortable breathing. (You have to be comfortable with the mask so you’re not constantly removing it and putting it back on, risking infecting your fingers in the process.)
The World Health Organization recommends using cloth masks with at least three layers of different materials though just two spunbond polypropylene layers are believed to provide adequate filtration and breathability.
When buying cloth masks from stores or making one at home, two parameters should be taken into account: filtration efficiency of the material and breathability. As of June 2020, the recommended integrated filter quality, expressed as “Q”, should be three or higher, according to the WHO.
WHO’s comparison of materials for fabric masks, in regard to filtration efficiency (“Q”), is as follows:
Polypropylene (interfacing material) = 16.9
Cotton sweater (knit) = 7.6
Cotton T-shirt (knit) = 7.4
Cotton T-shirt (woven) = 5.4
Cotton (handkerchief, woven) = 0.48
Cotton (gauze, woven) = 0.47
Nylon (exercise pants, woven) = 0.4
Polyester (toddler wrap, knit) = 6.8
Cellulose (tissue paper, bonded) = 5.1
Cellulose (paper towel, bonded) = 4.3
Silk (napkin, woven) = 2.8
In “Effectiveness of Cloth Masks for Protection Against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2,” published by CDC, authors Chughtai AA, Seale H, Macintyre CR state:
The filtration effectiveness of cloth masks is generally lower than that of medical masks and respirators. . . [However,] multilayer cloth masks, designed to fit around the face and made of water-resistant fabric with a high number of threads and finer weave, may provide reasonable protection. . .
In community settings, masks may be used in 2 ways. First, they may be used by sick persons to prevent spread of infection (source control). . . Second, masks may be used by healthy persons to protect them from acquiring respiratory infections; some randomized controlled trials have shown masks to be efficacious in closed community settings, with and without the practice of hand hygiene. . .
Protection provided by cloth masks may be improved by selecting appropriate material, increasing the number of mask layers, and using those with a design that provides filtration and fit.
Dr. Cassoobhoy’s recommendation for cloth mask filters in Popsugar include coffee filters, cutouts from reusable grocery bags made from polypropylene nonwoven fibers, and nylon pantyhose.
HOW TO WASH MASKS
Per the CDC, masks should be washed after each use. Remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask.
Washing machine: You can include your mask with your regular laundry. Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask.
HOW TO DRY
Dryer: Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry.
Air dry: Lay flat and allow to completely dry. If possible, place the mask in direct sunlight.
Note: COVID-19 info is constantly updated. Check out CDC, WHO, and other reliable websites for these updates.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention video
Featured image/Eigenes Werk via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA4.0
Putin’s announcement of Sputnik V/Kremlin.ru, CC BY4.0
Woman wearing pink cloth mask/Sciencia58, CCO
Cloth masks/Quinn Dombrowski, CC BY-SA2.0
Sewing a mask/Thesupermat, CC BY-SA4.0
Nonwoven polypropylene grocery bag/NMarkRoberts, PD
Washing machine/peke_lupita from Pixabay
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.