Over 150 countries now require face masks be worn in business or public places to help contain COVID-19. Required masks in public can mean many different things, sometimes it’s only on public transport, sometimes only in essential businesses, and sometimes everywhere in public. An increasing number of countries have made wearing face masks mandatory in public spaces, with citizens facing a possible fine if caught without one.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks have been employed as a public and personal health control measure against the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Their use is intended as personal protection to prevent infection and as source control to limit transmission of the virus in a community or healthcare setting. The use of masks has received varying recommendations from different public health agencies and governments. The World Health Organization and other public health organizations agree that masks can limit the spread of respiratory viral diseases such as COVID-19. However, the topic has been a subject of debate, with some public health agencies and governments initially disagreeing on a protocol for wearing face masks.
Face Masks Public Mandate
As of early May 2020, 88% of the world’s population lives in countries that recommend or mandate the use of masks in public; more than 75 countries have mandated the use of masks. Debates have emerged regarding whether masks should be worn even when social distancing at 2 meters (6 feet), and whether they should be worn during exercise. Additionally, public health agencies of some countries and territories have changed their recommendations regarding face masks over time. Face masks have been a subject of shortages, and not all have been certified. Moreover, substandard masks were reported on the market with significantly reduced performance.
There are different types of face masks including:
- Cloth face masks
- Medical or surgical masks
- Filtering facepiece respirators such as N95 masks, N99 masks, and FFP masks
Cloth face masks
Are mask made of common textiles, usually cotton, worn over the mouth and nose. When more effective masks are not available, and when physical distancing is impossible, cloth face masks are recommended by public health agencies for disease “source control” in epidemic situations to protect others from virus laden droplets in infected mask wearers’ breath, coughs, and sneezes. Because they are less effective than N95 masks, surgical masks, or physical distancing in protecting the wearer against viruses, they are not considered to be personal protective equipment by public health agencies. They are used by the general public in household and community settings as perceived protection against both infectious diseases and particulate air pollution.
Cloth face masks were routinely used by healthcare workers starting from the late 19th century until the mid 20th century. In the 1960s they fell out of use in the developed world in favor of modern surgical masks, but their use has persisted in developing countries. During the COVID-19 pandemic, their use in developed countries was revived as a last resort due to shortages of surgical masks and respirators.
News articles from around the world about face masks
- New York Issues Executive Order Requiring Employers to Provide Essential Workers with Face Masks
- On April 13, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order (“EO”) 202.16, requiring employers to provide essential workers with face coverings to wear when in direct contact with customers or the public.
- San Francisco, California is now one of five Bay Area counties requiring people to wear a face covering in public including Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Sonoma counties.
- Walmart employees will be required to wear face masks starting Monday. They announced a new policy on Friday that will require all employees at its Walmart and Sam’s Club locations to wear a face mask starting Monday, April 20. The policy is being initiated to help slow the spread of Coronavirus.
- The Centers for Disease Control upgraded its standards on face masks previously this month, suggesting that every person should currently wear one in public.
- Rockford Mass Transit District in Illinois announced on Saturday that beginning Monday, all passengers will be required to wear a protective face mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- When and how to use masks
- 6 common face-mask problems and how to solve them
Tips about using Face Masks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a webpage with detailed information pertaining to medical masks and N95 respirators at . This site includes photos of different types of masks, comparisons between masks, and a list of FDA approved mask manufacturers.
Ideally you should use soap and water whenever you’re required to clean your hands. However, if soap and water is not available, you can use a hand sanitizer with at least a 60% alcohol content. In order to make sure you’ve used enough sanitizer, you should be able to rub your hands together for more than 10 seconds before they’re dry.