As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the nation, vaccination relief isn’t increasing rapidly enough. Vaccine shortages and, more recently, severe temperatures and storms in the U.S. have caused additional delays of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. USA Today reports that the current rate of vaccinations must double from 1.5 million administered per day to 3 million if we want the slightest chance at a worry-free summer.
But with vaccinations and immunization come other burning questions, including whether the virus is still transmissible after vaccination. Answers to that question, along with general inquiries about the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine, are still somewhat unclear. It is, therefore, recommended even for those who have been vaccinated to continue to take precautions to protect others by physical distancing, hand washing, and wearing a proper mask.
What makes a mask a good one?
There are a few characteristics to look for when choosing the right mask.
Getting the right fit is of the utmost importance, as a proper fit protects you from potential exposure to invisible droplets that float around in the air after people talk, laugh, cough or sneeze. You’ll want a mask that can be adjusted for size at the ears as well as one that has a nose wire that can take the shape of your face. Face masks with a comfortable yet snug fit tend to be the most effective at blocking droplets in large volumes.
Similar to how good air ventilation indoors plays a crucial role in helping reduce infection risk, so does the ventilation in our masks. You’ll want to choose a mask that is breathable but also blocks allergens, particles, and droplets found in our air. With the multitude of designs out there to choose from, we understand that this task can be daunting. You may be wondering whether filters are necessary or how effective surgical masks are against air particles.
The air pollution experts over at IQAir have compiled a list of guidelines to follow when selecting an effective face cover that will lower your risk of infection. IQAir is raising awareness of the profound impacts the air we breathe has on our health. They have wear-tested face masks and can help distinguish the good ones from the not-so-good ones. Additionally, IQAir says that the recipe for a high-quality mask is based on three vital ingredients: mask seal, pollutant filtration, and ventilation.
New variants of COVID-19
Now more than ever, stepping up your game by wearing a higher quality mask should be top of mind. Several countries around the world have reported new strains of COVID-19 coronavirus, including variants originating from the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, and Nigeria that appear to be more contagious than the first variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Wearing a mask remains one of the most important ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus, especially in the presence of these new variants.
Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the most concerning consequence of emerging variants is their ability to bypass vaccine-induced immunity. Although as of date, there is no concrete evidence to support this theory, protecting your mouth and nose substantially reduces exposure to new strains that materialize over time from viruses like COVID-19.
If I get vaccinated, can I still spread the virus to others?
Figure 2: Shutterstock
The CDC is working tirelessly to provide us with clearer answers. What we do know today is that it takes the body time to build immunization after any shot. It’s important to note that, as with other known viruses, vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 don’t necessarily prevent infection but rather protect against severe symptoms. What this means is that, although we may not feel sick, we can easily transmit COVID-19 to someone else. Thus, in order to help end a pandemic, the entire population must cooperate and utilize the tools readily available.
Masks save lives
It has become clear that the coronavirus is neither a joke nor going away just yet. It’s also evident that the world was not quite ready to tackle a pandemic like this back in March 2020. Since its inception, official government regulations worldwide have changed on multiple occasions. However, through trial and error, evidence has shown that routinely wearing a mask in public helps curb the spread. The more people that wear masks, the better.
The benefits of masking are twofold, not only protecting the people wearing them but also helping protect the people around them. Failing to use the right mask or wear it correctly can have serious repercussions, some even resulting in death. And while scientists race to find the answers, all we can do is trust the science behind mask-wearing and work together as a unified community to put this unprecedented situation behind us.
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Feature Photo: Shutterstock