Over the last couple of months, there’s been lots of back and forth on the whole to wear or not to wear a mask.
Yet, the recent proclamation is that masks should be worn at all times while out and about or when tending to a sick person.
Alright, sounds good.
Of course, with a shortage of hospital-staff relegated masks — such as N95 respirator masks and medical masks — that leaves most of us to our own devices with old t-shirts, bandanas, and store-bought material. Luckily, there have been some truly diligent folks — along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — hard at work creating easy-to-follow designs and how-to YouTube videos for all of us.
Here’s a bit of info about face masks and how to create your own!
How Do Face Masks Protect Us?
When it comes to understanding how face masks work, it’s important to understand how COVID-19 is transmitted.
You’re probably already aware that the virus travels via bodily fluids — such as spit — but did you know that COVID-19 is now known to travel via aerosols?
An aerosol is defined “as a suspension of particles in the atmosphere,” which can be “both human-made and [stem from] natural sources.” Think about your hairspray or cologne and picture that fine mist produced when you expel the contents of the bottle. That’s a form of a human-made aerosol. According to research, SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 — “can survive in the air for several hours in fine particles,” also called aerosols. In fact, the virus can survive in the air for up to “[three] hours after aerosolization and can infect cells throughout that time period.”
Face masks are meant to cover the areas of the face where spit and mucous can escape become aerosols and infect others. Therefore, it’s not so much about the mask that you’re wearing protecting you, but the masks that others are wearing.
The Case for Everyone Wearing Masks
At first, we were being told to not wear a face mask unless you yourself were sick or were caring for a sick person. Then, things got flip-flopped, and now we’re being asked to wear a mask at all times when out and about.
It’s all based on new findings that SARS-CoV-2 “can be spread by presymptomatic and asymptomatic carriers.” First, it can be spread by those who have contracted the virus but are not showing symptoms yet, which can take up to 14 days. Second, there are some people contracted the virus but don’t show any symptoms and maybe never will.
Plus, SARS-CoV-2 is incredibly easy to transmit.
Even if you’ve been self-isolating for weeks on end, you still get groceries delivered, receive mail, maybe have take out once-in-awhile, or even go on walks in your neighborhood. All of these exposures provide ample opportunity to contract the virus given that it can survive anywhere from 48 hours to a week on certain surfaces such as cardboard, steel, and plastic.
Pair this ease-of-transmission with the fact that 25 percent of people may be asymptomatic or not showing symptoms and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!
This is why we’re now being asked to wear masks.
It’s not necessarily meant to protect you from the virus — even though, if worn properly, a mask very well could do just that — but it’s meant to protect other, potentially high-risk folks, from you. Masks are incredibly effective at catching those spit and mucous droplets from sneezing, coughing, or simply talking, containing them within the covered area and removing the threat of them becoming aerosolized and infecting those around you.
How to Wear a Mask
The key to steering clear of the virus via a face mask is proper usage. This includes not only wearing the mask appropriately but also refraining from touching your face with your hands, removing the mask, and keep up with personal hygiene such as hand sanitizer and washing.
Also, remember that face masks don’t cover your eyes, which is yet another portal for aerosol particles to enter the body. Therefore, if you’re looking for full protective coverage, put on some sunglasses or clear glasses paired with your mask.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are a few simple guidelines for proper mask maintenance:
- Make sure that your mask fits “snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.”
- Your mask must have ties or ear loops and be secured at all times.
- If you make your own, use multiple layers of fabric.
- Make sure you can breathe! This is just as important as wearing the mask in the first place.
- Cloth masks need to “be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to [the] shape.”
- When removing your mask, be careful not to touch your face and wash your hands directly after removing the mask.
Creating Your Own Mask
Alright, now we know why we should wear a mask and what makes them tick!
Now it’s time to either create your own or purchase a reliable mask to dawn for your essential errands. Luckily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have outlined easy-to-follow guidelines for pretty much anyone to make their own masks without having to sew or even buy materials.
The Sewn Mask
- Two 10”x6” rectangles of cotton fabric
- Two 6” pieces of elastic (or rubber bands, string, cloth strips, or hair ties)
- Needle and thread (or bobby pin)
- Sewing machine
The Quick-Cut T-Shirt Mask
This one is by far the cheapest, easiest, and quickest. With that said, you’ll need to sacrifice an old t-shirt for the cause. All you need:
Take your t-shirt and cut the bottom seven to eight inches straight across the waist section. This will leave you with a circular block of cloth. Next, cut out a six to seven-inch block of fabric at one end of the circle. This will create an intact section to cover your mouth and nose, as well as two smaller strips to tie around the top of the head and lower neck.
The CDC has a tutorial with images to guide you.
Another popular, no-sew method! All you need:
- Bandana (or square cotton cloth approximately 20”x20”)
- Rubber bands (or hair ties)
- Scissors (if you are cutting your own cloth)
Take your bandana and get folding! Fold it in half, then fold the top down and the bottom up, leaving you with a single thick strip of fabric. Put those rubber bands around the strip of bandana at least six inches apart. Fold the loose sides into the middle and tuck them into one another. The rubber bands will strap around your ears to secure the bandana mask to your face. You’re set!
Check out the CDC’S complete guide.
Get Your Video On!
Maybe you’re not exactly the crafty person. That’s okay! These are strange times that ask all of us to take up a pair of scissors and some material to craft virus-protecting face masks.
Yep, it’s super strange.
If you’re like me and enjoy a step-by-step video, here are a few more great how-to videos on Youtube:
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