Facemask, COVID-19, us, and the Story between the Lines

Does the CDC and WHO Recommended Facemask Minimize Transmission of the Novel Virus to or from a Person

Originally published by Being well on Medium


Photo by De an Sun on Unsplash

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we all know the overwhelming controversy around protection against the novel virus. We are also aware of the politics of wearing (Or not wearing) face masks, shields, and whether just a Face Shield is sufficient to wear over the mouth and nose or an N-95 respirator is the ultimate protection. Furthermore, what would be the most appropriate way to use the face shield.

As you may read from my earlier lines, there is a powerful yet utterly mixed message on why we should or should not wear masks. And these are precisely the type of questions floating around the global media with hundreds or maybe thousands of attitudes around its answers.

Despite all the confusing messages, the governments and health organizations expect their constituents to be on board and unanimous about wearing face shields. Naturally, everyone knows wearing the mask is a relatively small effort for a significant cause. Still, we must also keep in mind that individuals are rationing souls and inherently want not to be dictated unless they voluntarily give in to others’ collective actions, particularly the media.

So, What is a Facemask

People cover their faces for a multitude of reasons. They do it for physical and chemical protection, few for discussing identity, religious purposes, and others to create a barrier against biological agents such as viruses and bacteria. People have also used masks for cosmetic and party reasons.

The type of masks used each holds its purpose, hence designed that way for the specificity. Therefore, before we talk about what kind of cover we should use, first, we must realize the reason. For instance, if the mask is for purely cosmetic purposes, its outlook with a better airflow through it becomes more critical. At the same time, a much more sophisticated filter is necessary for a cover to be used against tear gas.

This piece will focus on biological protection using a facial barrier, more precisely, COVID-19.

Protection from the New Coronavirus and COVID-19

Before we dive deep into the face masks’ discussion, we must also understand that covering the nose and the mouth alone is insufficient to protect us against Covid-19. As part of the protection process, we must minimize close contact with others by maintaining physical distance; avoiding unnecessary house visits and outside trips, as much as possible, is mandatory to stay safe. However, when hard to avoid contact, we must practice good hygiene at all times, using hand sanitizers, washing up with soap and water. It is also vital to keep in mind that we can!

The Physical Morphology of COVID-19

COVID-19 is a single-stranded RNA virus. Its genome size is ~30 kb belonging to the genus of Coronavirus and family Coronaviridae. COVID-19 is a novel agent and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020.

Genomic characterization of COVID-19 is that of zoonotic origin with virion size ranging from 70 to 90 nm. Spike, membrane, and envelope surface proteins of Coronavirus are embedded in the host membrane. It lines the lipid bilayer encapsulating the helical nucleocapsid comprising viral RNA.

Based on the morphology described for an effective barrier against Coronavirus, the face shield pore size must be less than 70 nm in the largest diameter. It must also be able to accommodate the flow of air for ease of respiration efficiently.

The Varieties of Facemasks or Coverings

It is true that the Centers for disease control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) “approve of” standard and surgical face masks for public use; that includes Simple cloth face covering. But most people aren’t aware of the reason behind recommending the face-covering “almost any type” for the public, as long as it covers the face and mouth.!

The various examples of face masks comprise; Basic cloth face mask, Surgical face mask, Filtering facepiece respirator, N95 respirator, P100 respirator/gas mask, Self-contained breathing apparatus, Full face respirator, Full-length face shield, and KN95 respirator.

The ordinary Cloth Face Mask is the typical, everyday version of a physical covering recommended for public use amid essential COVID-19, for instance, making a trip to open public places such as gas stations and groceries.

N95 and KN95 Both capture about 95% of tiny particles in the air. The size capturing capability of N95 is larger than KN95 Respirator masks; however, the latter is also the subject of considerable controversy.

Although N95 masks made by various companies seem to have different filtration efficiencies for the most penetrating particle size of 0.1 to 0.3 micron (100–300 nm), all were at least 95% efficient at that size for NaCl (Salt) particles. The filtration efficiency rises with size above the most excellent penetrating particle size; it reaches approximately 99.5% or higher at about 0.75 microns. The COVID-19 size is around 70 to 90 nm, making N95 masks still not as perfect, yet the most reliable face shields are currently available. Some believe that particles smaller than 0.3 microns are more comfortable to capture by N-95 or KN-95 masks than the larger particles; however, that is also the subject of significant controversy.

The N95 masks are not typically available for general public use. But, It is critical for healthcare workers and medical professionals.

In the absence of leakage, the penetrated mass fractions for N-95 fluctuated from 0.02% for large particle circulations to 1.8% for sub-micrometer-size welding fumes. Thus, N95 respirators offer exceptional protection against “airborne particles” (Not necessarily the virus itself) “when there is a good face seal.”

An optical study of commonly used face masks showed that The pore size of acts ranged from 80 to 500 μm, which was associated with poor filtering efficiency due to more extensive and open pores present in the face covers. And it was found that the ability dropped even more by 20% after the 4th washing and drying cycle. The last drop was interestingly associated with the pore size and shape change and decreased microfibers within the pores after washing.

Other types of face masks exist with lower efficiency against such as Surgical face masks, filtering facepiece masks, or respirators.

Other very sophisticated face masks are available to various professionals, such as a p100 respirator/gas mask worn by painters, woodworkers, and anyone who may contact lead, asbestos, or chemicals. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus used by Firefighters. Such masks are either bulky, expensive to use and are not beneficial in preventing Coronavirus spread.

Full Face Respirator, typically used for home improvement projects, may be the right choice for you. This type of mask, however, is reserved for those who have breathing problems or respiratory issues.

Full-Length Face Shield is a flimsier plastic covering the entire face from forehead to chin and secures with a cushioned headband. For the most part, a full-length face shield isn’t ideal during the COVID-19 crisis as it’s tough to breathe in over time. This mask does not seal airflow and serves as a general physical barrier from direct contamination of person airways. It means that it does not even h