HONOLULU (KHON2) — Not all masks are created equal. They come in different colors, patterns, and sizes.
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However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic they all have one goal: stop the spread of the virus.
“So what we’re trying to do is just reduce the number of droplets out there and in the community that can spread this virus around,” Dr. Steven Hankins, who is the lead coordinator for Public Health and Medical Services with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
The problem is that some are not as effective as others at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks that have exhalation valves or vents are not recommended because they allow virus particles to escape.
The organization also cautions against wearing gaiters, although its effectiveness is unknown at this time.
Dr. Hankins said gaiters and masks with valves seem to be a popular choice among many because they are more comfortable to wear, despite not being as effective.
“And one of the concerns is that [gaiters] would actually help break apart particles and spread them in a more fine mist,” Dr. Hankins explained.
Because gaiters are typically made of sheer fabric, Dr. Hankins said it is possible that it could spread the virus instead of containing it.
“If you do have to wear those, then make sure that you’ve got multiple layers folded over,” Dr. Hankins suggested.
While the masks with valves may make it easier to breathe, Dr. Hankins said they don’t stop your droplets from spreading to others.
“The ones with the valves actually let the exhaled air out, and don’t filter or contain those droplets,” he explained.
So what are the best masks to wear on a daily basis? Dr. Hankins recommends disposable masks or homemade fabric masks.
If you choose to use a fabric mask, Dr. Hankins said to make sure it is made of at least two layers of fabric.
One way to check a fabric masks’ effectiveness is to hold it up to a light. The more transparent the fabric is, the less effective it will be at containing your droplets.
“The less light penetration the better,” Dr. Hankins said. “Cotton is really the best to have, and closely woven is better than knits.”
For an added layer of protection, Dr. Hankins said pairing a face shield with a mask can be effective, especially for those who are high-risk, if they are in an area with other people, like a grocery store.
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