Frequent Questions about MASKS & Their Construction…
Like many Shops in the industry, we are getting lots of questions about the Masks and their construction. As many who know me know I spent a number of years as an Army Preventive Medicine Officer, so maybe I get MORE questions and folks have a higher expectation on those answers. So here goes…DO the Masks do any GOOD?
Will A Mask Prevent me from getting the Virus? Is it worth my time & Effort?
These are really GOOD questions, so I grouped all these questions together as they are a common theme. They are good questions because we have got so much conflicting guidance.
Will A Mask Prevent me from getting the Virus?
The short answer is NO. Wearing a mask, any mask even an N-95, is NO Guarantee against catching the virus. Even N-95’s if not properly warn, with a good seal, you can be
DO the Masks do any GOOD?
Do the masks really do any good we have heard so much conflicting information. Even the “Experts” seem to be contradicting themselves, every time we turn around, there is new official guidance. At first, we were advised against wearing masks. We were told we only needed them IF we were taking care of someone who was sick. Then we were told that only those immuno-compromised needed to wear them in public to limit their potential exposure. Now, we are ALL being told to wear them anytime we are in public (rare as those occasions should be under the stay at home directives). The Surgeon General has even put out a video showing how to make a mask from a T-shirt and rubber bands…. So, do the masks help? Obviously, the experts have decided the masks “help”. But, let’s look at it from a common-sense perspective.
First, let us address the apparent changing and contradictory information on the subject. Folks, this is a virus that is acting in fashions and ways we have not seen before. The experts are learning daily. As they learn more, maybe tomorrow what they have found out might be different than we know today and require the response change.
We’ll look at this from a couple of different perspectives. First, what is a face mask? It is a barrier. Its purpose is to restrict the movement of airborne particles and droplets. Right now, they are telling us that a mask is to prevent YOU from spreading the virus if you are asymptomatic but, won’t protect you from catching it. Sorry, but that seems like faulty logic. If it offered NO Protection from catching it, why were they recommending to folks who were immuno-compromised?
Again, let’s use a little common sense, barriers work TWO ways. Let’s think about barriers we are familiar with, the good old farm fence. A fence restricts movements from BOTH directions. But this virus is So small it’ll go right through fabric… Maybe. Let’s think about our farm fence. If you are keeping cattle or horses or large animals, a three-strand barbed wire fence will do the job, but the smaller critters will pay it little attention. For hogs. goats and sheep, you need a woven wire. Now, will woven wire stops the really small animals like chickens and rabbits, NO. For those, you get an even tighter weave of wire… And even then, once in a while, one gets through…. And like a farm fence, not only will it keep animals in, it will keep them out. Masks are the same, a lot depends on the weave and how well constructed, or in the case of a mask, how well fit.
BUT how does Major Gordie’s advice stack up to the “experts”? the following is from a 5 April article in the New York Times. The article explains the size of the virus and how large particles penetrate various materials.
The best medical mask — called the N95 respirator — filters out at least 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns. By comparison, a typical surgical mask — made using a rectangular piece of pleated fabric with elastic earloops — has a filtration efficiency ranging from 60 to 80 percent….
SO, yes, make it well and wear it correctly and it will help..
Is it worth my Time & Effort?
That is a question only YOU can answer for yourself. This is an exceptionally NASTY virus and devastating to many… Most of us, when we get in a car, we fasten our seat belt. We don’t fasten or seat belts not because we DON’T PLAN to get in a wreck. IF we are in a wreck, we’re glad we took the precaution.
WHAT PATTERN & MATERIAL SHOULD I USE?
There are a slew of Patterns and Videos and Instructions and Guidance out there. Which one? What material should I use?
Let’s go back to the article in the NYT.
If you are lucky enough to know a quilter, ask them to make you a mask. Tests performed at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., showed good results for homemade masks using quilting fabric. Dr. Segal, of Wake Forest Baptist Health, who led the study, noted that quilters tend to use high-quality, high-thread-count cotton. The best homemade masks in his study were as good as surgical masks or slightly better, testing in the range of 70 to 79 percent filtration. Homemade masks that used flimsier fabric tested as low as 1 percent filtration, Dr. Segal said.
The best-performing designs were a mask constructed of two layers of high-quality, heavyweight “quilter’s cotton,” a two-layer mask made with thick batik fabric, and a double-layer mask with an inner layer of flannel and outer layer of cotton.
Personally, I DON’T agree with the flannel Here is why:
- flannel is HOT and we are entering the summer months...
- Flannel is HARD breath through. The thicker the material the more difficult for AIR to get through. The more difficulty breathing, the more folks will be adjusting their face...
- Flannel holds moister. Hot, Humid environment is a great place for viruses to hangout.
Lets, also look at it from a risk analysis perspective.
If Two layers of high thread count cotton (Quilt Grade Fabric) is 60 percent effective, compared to an N-95 which is 95% effective, how effective do you need? IF, M-95's are for people who are treating CONFIRMED patients and you are in just in public only as suggested, and practicing social distancing do you need more than 60% effective?
You put on a seat belt when you drive. You don't suit up with a fireproof suit and helmet because the risk doesn't warrant the additional layers of protection. It is the same thing with a mask, conduct risk assessment.