Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, the demand for face masks has been higher than the U.S. supply can currently support.
Healthcare workers — who are on the frontlines battling the virus — are finding that there is not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe. In a medical setting, surgical masks and N95 respirators are only meant for a one-time use. However, given the situation, many hospitals and urgent care centers are asking their doctors, nurses, and aids to wear the same mask for days (sometimes weeks) at a time.
This is why the Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams has urged the general public to stop buying PPE. While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that N95’s are the most effective in protecting those treating infected patients, there are other strategies others can take to keep themselves safe when they are going out on that important pharmacy or grocery run.
Should I be wearing a face mask outside?
The CDC now recommends that non-healthcare workers wear fabric face coverings when they go out in public. These coverings may include cloth masks or scarves. According to the CDC, the corona virus spreads between people interacting within a close proximity to each other. The virus travels in small respiratory liquid droplets that we exhale when we are talking, sneezing, and coughing. Many people who have the virus and are asymptomatic can spread COVID-19 unconsciously while they are out making their errands. To prevent that, properly made cloth masks can catch the droplets that we spray unknowingly, according to Jeremy Howard, a Distinguished Research Scientist and medical data analyst at the University of San Francisco. “It does appear a mask would stop the transmission of the virus and protect others,” says Howard.
A cloth mask can also help protect you by reducing the amount of the virus you get exposed to. This may reduce the severity of the infection.
“Exposure to a high dose of the virus not only makes your chance of infection higher, it increases your chances of potentially deadlier symptoms,” says Howard.
That being said, it’s important to wear coverage without holes.
Can I buy a fabric face mask?
If you’re not in the mood for crafts, there are many manufacturers and sites are selling their own brand of masks online. As you are clicking through the web, be aware that there are currently no specific guidelines or regulations that say a brand is CDC-approved to be effective against the coronavirus. Still, the fiber scientists in the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Textiles Lab say there are important factors you can look out for when browsing:
- If the masks are made out of fabric, make sure it’s 100% woven cotton
- If you want extra protection, it should have a non-woven interface to filter contaminants, and something to help it fit better around the nose (like a metal piece on the inside)
- Make sure it’s machine washable for reuse
- Make sure it’s readily available. Some suppliers are very delayed on deliveries right now
- You can look for a company that’s donating towards a cause that’s important to you
Where to buy a fabric face mask:
There are a slew of shop owners on Etsy who are selling cloth face masks, but styles, colors, and designs vary, so make sure you’re paying close attention to the description on the seller’s site.
These masks are made with cotton and lined with two layers of non-woven interfacing. If you buy one of their masks, they will donate one to a medical professional. The added bonus is that these come in some really colorful designs. One mask is $25.
Avocado Mattress, one of our top bedding brands, is making masks out of certified organic cotton that are machine washable. These masks do not use plastic as they tie behind the head with cloth straps. Avocado sells them in 4 and 8 packs, and the company claims they are selling them at cost, not for profit.
This beanie-making brand has consulted medical professionals as well as tested and refined their mask designs. They sell single-use masks ($10 each) that can be worn over medical grade PPE as well as reusable cotton surgical masks ($15 each) for adults and kids. They also have a BOGO program and 50% of their net profits are donated to the fight against pediatric cancer.
If you’re looking for fun, nostalgic designs featuring Wonder Woman, Care Bears, Popeye, Betty Boop and more, MaskClub has got you covered. Literally. They have a subscription-based buy one, donate one program that benefits the First Responders Children’s Foundation. Their masks are actually made out of 100% polyester, but they are doubly layered for proper protection. Each mask is $13.99 or you can subscribe for $9.99 to get a new one each month.
Rendall Co is a new workwear company that’s developed two mask design that both feature: two layers of woven cotton, a pocket to insert your own filters, and copper nose bands for a snug fit. They sell for $19 each or $65 for a pack of four. For each mask you buy, they will give a mask to essential workers and non-profits serving the homeless. Their masks will be available for pre-order when their website launches on April 13th.