What is something you can’t leave your house without? For years, this question has been thrown out mostly for comical effects. We’d get varying answers, from the most absurd of things up to a matter of life and death. When the COVID-19 pandemic started causing seismic changes across the globe, the world suddenly united to the idea that only one answer matters about the question above: mask.
For this week’s #TIL, we will talk about this simple but undoubtedly important piece of invention. It’d make you wonder how a thin sheet could spell the difference between staying healthy or getting sick, or even between living and dying. It only fits to debunk some myths and theories about masks. Remember, those who are well-informed always get the advantage in this war against COVID-19.
Let us rundown three myths that still pervade society in the face of COVID-19.
MYTH: Masks do not protect you, it only protects the people around you.
Masks are not single-directional. They work double-duty. While it is correct that masks protect people around you from getting exposed from your droplets, or any drop transmission, masks primarily protect you the same way it protects others. When one wears a mask, it limits the transmission from eight feet to about one foot.
In this episode of Minute Physics, they discussed the effectivity rate of masks, and when more people wear masks, a more significant drop in transmission transpires. So, aside from wearing a mask, even if it’s just 50% effective, it is also essential to wear it the right way. For the most common two-toned surgical masks; white inside, Blue outside.
MYTH: My mask exempts me from socially distancing from others.
Despite the effectiveness of wearing masks, they do not eliminate droplets altogether. So, even when you are wearing a mask, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t transmit droplets or get a transmission from others. Wearing a mask AND socially distancing is the most effective combination of fighting off transmissions.
Additionally, even when everyone is wearing a mask, we can’t assume that everyone wears it the right way. So when you are outside, do not be complacent even when you are wearing double masks. With the emergence of the Delta variant, which is as infectious as Chickenpox, the need to properly wear a mask, socially distance, and wash hands must be followed even more.
MYTH: If your mask is not N95, it won’t protect you.
While some masks are better than others, wearing any protection is better than none. N95 masks are arguably the best option since they filter 95% of particles, but the mask you have right now, whether it’s a cloth mask or the regular surgical mask, does the job as effectively as N95. In fact, surgical masks are also around 95% effective, while cloth masks play about 50-80%.
Also, since N95 are not as abundant as surgical masks, these masks are usually reserved for healthcare workers and frontliners. Needless to say, your mask works, regardless of its shape or color, but again, it has to be worn properly. It has to cover both your mouth and nose.
So, having debunked all those three main myths about masks, the fight against COVID-19 starts with you. It starts from your home and carries on when you step outside. We should understand that it requires a collective effort to limit the spread of the virus. Wear your mask, follow social distancing, and wash your hands with soap whenever possible. You are responsible for yourself at home, and you are also responsible for others when you step out. Let us all do our part.