COVID-19 Mask Guide
People are worrying about the new Coronavirus, named COVID-19. They’re scraping together any mask and personal protective equipment (PPE) that they can. But what’s available and what’s the difference between them? Our Coronavirus Mask Guide will tell you.
The latest recommendation from New York State is to wear cloth masks when outside. Either sewn masks or bandannas / t shirt coverings, these masks are more for preventing you from spreading germs than actually protecting yourself.
Some say that wearing these masks actually increase the risk to yourself since you are breathing harder and take in more infectants into your lungs.
However, some governments such as New York State are recommending these because:
1) It doesn’t create demand competition for actual masks (N95 and surgical) that are in high demand from healthcare workers
2) It prevents people from spreading viral particles.
So if you wear these, keep in mind you’re wearing it for others more than yourself. If you want to protect yourself, read on for N95+ masks and full masks.
A surgical mask, also known as a procedure mask, is intended to be worn by health professionals during surgery and during nursing to catch the bacteria shed in liquid droplets and aerosols from the wearer’s mouth and nose. They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne bacteria or virus particles and are less effective than respirators, such as N95 or NIOSH masks, which provide better protection due to their material, shape and tight seal.
N95 Mask and N99 Mask
NIOSH air filtration rating refers to the publications of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the US government pertaining to respirators and masks worn to filter contaminated air, regardless of cause.
The first part of the filter’s classification uses the letters N, R, or P to indicate the filter’s ability to function when exposed to petroleum.
“N” = not resistant to petroleum
“R” = somewhat resistant to petroleum
“P” = strongly resistant to petroleum
The second part lists the percentage of particles that the mask is certified to block (such as 95, 97 or 99 percent).
The most common is N95 which is recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for most cases of air contamination. These filters are designed to seal tightly around mouth and nose and are made of material certified to block 95% of particles 0.3 μm or larger in diameter, roughly the size of a single virus and include PM2.5.
N99 mask filters are designed to seal tightly around mouth and nose and are made of material certified to block 99% of particles of a certain size. They filter more than N95 masks.
N95 Mask vs Surgical Mask
Plain surgical masks are standard for staff in hospital operating rooms, and often recommended to the public as part of avoiding seasonal flu. They do not carry a NIOSH rating. They are designed to filter out relatively large particles, such as sputum droplets and hair
Pitta Mask claims to be a face mask made from a new polyurethane material that’s highly porous allowing for easy breathing. At the same time, the layering construction cuts 99% of all pollen, colds (germs), and dust particles.
This is NOT recommended as defense against the virus.
A gas mask is a mask used to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne pollutants and toxic gases. The mask forms a sealed cover over the nose and mouth, but may also cover the eyes and other vulnerable soft tissues of the face. Most gas masks are also respirators, though the word gas mask is often used to refer to military equipment (e.g. field protective mask).
The gas mask only protects the user from digesting, inhaling and contact through the eyes (many agents affect through eye contact). Most combined gas mask filters will last around 8 hours in a nuclear biological chemical (NBC) situation. Chemical specific filters can last up to 20 hours in a NBC situation.
Also research where you’re getting gas masks. Some masks on the market are surplus wartime masks and may contain asbestos in the filter.
The gas mask with exclusive oxygen tank is the safest defense against the virus, but also the most expensive and intrusive.
You’re breathing filtered and (hopefully) clean air compared to outside air.
The N99 and even N95 masks may help with some defense.
The surgical masks offers minimal defense. The Pitta masks are unknown.
Disclaimer: As always, for medical advice please consult a medical professional.