There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to picking out a face mask to use. Just as there are a variety of situations that may call for different masks, depending on what would be most useful at the time. The three main types of masks that are commonly used right now are surgical masks, cloth masks, and of course n95 masks. Each has their own strengths, as well as their own requirements and limitations. There are other types of face covering, ones that don’t work nearly as well as the above three, but you may see from time to time. For the most part, bandanas, t-shirts, and neck sleeves do not count, and will in fact be more dangerous to themselves and the public, if only because of the false sense of safety they provide. It is better not to use them, and instead get a better idea of which of the three, cloth, surgical, and n95 masks are right for you.
Cloth masks are readily available, and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, offering a degree of personalization that the other two masks do not. This is fun, but for the purposes of day to day use, this quality is more an amusing aspect than an actual feature. Cloth masks are reusable, a feature that makes them perfect for the average person who doesn’t want to waste money on buying new masks every month. Make sure to wash them every day after use, and as with all masks, don’t touch the surface too much, which will transfer germs and bacteria from your hands to the surface of the mask. While cloth masks are reusable, that durability does come at a cost. Cloth masks don’t have the level of performance that surgical masks and n95s do. Where they are capable of stopping most particles, even high quality cloth masks don’t have the same efficiency. This is fine for common, day-to-day use, where it might only be used in restaurants and shops, this makes cloth masks wholly unacceptable in a medical field.
If you are going to be working around patients or people vulnerable to Covid-19, a cloth mask simply won’t cut it. Instead, the best thing to use would be either a surgical mask or a n95 mask. Both are high-performing single-use face coverings that will protect the user from airborne droplets and particles. Surgical masks are more for larger droplets and situations where finer particles are not a serious issue. These masks are fine for everyday use and for the safer aspects of running a hospital, such as the front desk. N95 masks though are much more capable of protecting the user. These are the masks that are most in demand right now, and should only be used by medical professionals. If you have some at your house already, feel free to use them, but instead of buying more when you run out, buy either a reusable cloth mask, or a set of surgical masks. Keep a few in your house and in your car so that you never have to reuse a mask that is already contaminated. Above all though, make sure to always Mask Up!