Recently an article was published by McMaster University that was focused on gaining a better understanding of cloth masks and if they are a good option for the public to help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
The study answered some of the questions that have been circulating since cloth masks were recommended by Public Health for the general Canadian population as a good alternative to medical grade masks to help slow the spread of COVID, reduce the risks for each of us and help protect those around us.
"Face masks reduce the spread of viruses passed on from respiratory secretions. While cloth masks are imperfect, widespread use of an imperfect mask has the potential to make a big difference in transmission of the virus."
The study made me stop and think...
In a world where we need to have more people wearing more masks, it is better to wear virtually anything than to wear nothing. Cloth masks are great to help us all protect ourselves and each other when other options are not available. However, we still know that they are not perfect for every person and every situation.
The study shows that cloth masks are helpful, but the best case scenarios for protection with cloth masks are still somewhere between 75% and 90% filtration. This may be ok for low risk situations and when medical grade masks cannot be found. However, more work is still needing to be done to understand the differences in materials and how they can affect the filtration. Layering helps, but not all cloth masks have multiple layers.
Think about how we can slow the spread if we all wear significant respiratory filtering devices. You protect me and you protect yourself at a much better rate to reduce our collective risk.
Early on, medical grade PPE was short in supply, we are now in a position where we have adequate supplies for our healthcare workers.
Now, we are able to start improving our PPE supplies for the general public - and we should be, especially to protect those that are more vulnerable and have greater risks with COVID-19.
Finding a mask that works and can take our collective response from 75%-90% with cloth masks to 95% or more would help to slow the spread, help flatten the second wave, and keep our economy open. It would reduce the stress on our healthcare system. It would protect the elderly and immune compromised.