Surgical Masks and N95 Respirators: Should you wear them to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus is causing a worldwide pandemic and citizens and governments alike are trying to find ways to protect themselves and stop the spreading of this disease. One of the main ways people are trying to reduce exposure to COVID-19, in addition to social distancing, is wearing masks. According to Dr. Michael Lin, a neurobiology and bioengineering professor at Stanford University, the Coronavirus “is a respiratory virus, so there’s no doubt, scientifically speaking, that masks help reduce the spread if you also continue to take other appropriate measures” (Fast Company). ~

Health organizations are claiming that masks should only be worn by those that have the virus in order to not infect anyone else. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the role of facemasks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes.” In addition to this statement by the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set some guidelines for wearing masks. The WHO claims that if you are healthy, masks should only be used when treating a sick person or if you are coughing or sneezing. But, if these masks work to protect health officials and those caring for the sick, why would they not work for the general public? Dr. Lin says, “the infection rates in the general population early in an epidemic are so low that the regular person buying a mask and wearing it would be wasting the mask” (Fast Company). But, he then claims that due to fast infection rates of the Coronavirus, he believes the public should start wearing masks to protect themselves and slow the rate of infection. Masks absorb 95% of exhaled droplets from infected people (Pubmed 23505369). ~

There are two types of masks when it comes to COVID-19 protection: surgical masks and N95 respirators. The surgical masks, according to Healthline, protect from splashes and large droplets and N95 respirators do the same but also filter out 95% of small droplets. Lin recommends the public use surgical masks so health officials can wear the N95 respirators. However, he claims everyone should wear some type of face-covering device when in public. ~

Leave a Reply