As we approach the end of the second year of the pandemic, the landscape of information around COVID-19 is shifting. Many health experts have acknowledged that we must learn to ‘live with’ the virus.
Yet with news stories full of anti-mandate protests and loud rhetoric from all directions, it can be hard to know how to navigate the future. As a scientist, I like to turn to the experts in moments like this.
Masks are still a recommended safety precaution for adults in many countries and regions and recent research has proven some interesting new ways of increasing their effectiveness.
Mask Hacks and Efficacy
There are three Fs to mask efficacy: fit, filtration, and function. According to one biomedical engineering expert, “fit is essential in terms of how effective filtration happens.” In fact, some experts even say that “fit...is even more important than the material it is made of.”
Ideally, N95 masks would be custom fit to individuals’ faces, as required by occupational safety. Since that is not a service readily available to non-medical professionals, so called ‘fit hacks’ have become common.
A recent study performed by the University of Cambridge tested seven popular hacks for improving the fit of KN95 and surgical masks, including using rubber bands, tying knots in the elastic ear loops, or taping the edges of the mask to the face.
They concluded that two hacks— using first aid tape and nylon tights—significantly improved the fit of masks.
Living Safely With COVID
Many governments, ranging from municipal to regional, are beginning to ease or eliminate their mask mandates, citing high vaccination levels and social distancing measures (I.e., work from home).
Despite this, individual measures, such as wearing a mask in communal areas, can continue to protect you and your community. The Public Health Authority of Canada says that “when layered with other recommended public health measures, a well-constructed, well-fitting and properly worn mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
So, where and when you wear a mask, ensure that it is sufficient. As stated earlier, fit and filtration are key to function. Current recommendations for Canadians are to use medical-grade, triple-ply masks (N95, if available), and to only use non-medical masks if they have at least three tightly woven layers, including an effective filtration layer in the middle.
Stepscan is a Health Canada approved distributor of medical-grade PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) (Medical Device Establishment License (MDEL) No. 5352). For more information on our products, or to contact a Product Specialist, visit our PPE webpage.