RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Out with the washable and reusable and in with medical-grade masks.
Some countries within the European Union, including France and Germany, are now requiring the type of single-use surgical masks or facepiece respirators that are 90 to 95 percent effective.
It is part of the effort to slow down the much more contagious variants of COVID-19 now being found around the globe.
“And so if you think about the goal being trying to eliminate contact with any infectious viruses then having a mask that has the highest possible effectiveness would certainly be ideal in terms of trying to reduce your transmission risk,” said Dr. Emily Sickbert-Bennett who serves as part of a research team at UNC-Chapel Hill.
She said their studies show not all masks are created equal and it is not a one size fits all approach.
Effectiveness of cloth masks can be as low as around 25 percent and as high as around 80 percent depending on the material used and how it fits the face.
You want to avoid gaps along the side of the face – which some medical masks can have.
For those who wear glasses, it is a good idea to pay attention to whether the lens fog up while mask-wearing.
If they do, there’s too much air around your nose getting in and out.
“Because many people do have very different sized faces and there are things that you can do, simple fixes you can do even to these medical masks that make them fit a lot better to your face and be more effective,” said Sickbert-Bennett.
If the U.S. follows other countries it also comes down to who will wear a mask in the first place.
“If we have a segment of the population that still feels uncomfortable wearing masks then putting only part of the population in a higher level mask is really not going to be enough to overcome that,” Sickbert-Bennett said.