Can masks help slow the spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19? Yes. Face masks, when combined with other preventive measures such as vaccinations, PCR testing, frequent hand washing and physical distancing, can help slow the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends medical masks for healthcare professionals as well as anyone who has or may have COVID-19, or is caring for someone who has or may have COVID-19.
How do different types of masks work?
Also called surgical masks, these are loose-fitting disposable masks. They are designed to protect the wearer from contact with drops and sprays that may contain germs. The face mask also filters large particles in the air when inhaled.
The N95 mask is a type of respirator. It provides better protection than a medical mask as it filters out both large and small particles as the wearer inhales. Like surgical masks, N95 masks are single-use. Some N95 masks and even some cloth masks have valves that make it easier for them to breathe. Unfortunately, these masks do not filter the air exhaled by the wearer. For this reason, they are prohibited in some places.
The cloth mask is designed to trap respiratory droplets that are released when the user talks, coughs or sneezes. It also acts as a barrier to protect the user from inhaling droplets from other people. The most effective cloth masks consist of several layers of tightly woven fabric, such as cotton. A layered mask will prevent more droplets from penetrating or breaking out of the mask.
How to get the most out of your mask
Cloth and medical masks can be more effective if they fit well to the contours of your face to prevent air from leaking around the edges of the masks.