Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, N95 masks became the first masks to run out. Now however it is reported that not all valve-masks are as effective against the lethal coronavirus.
Health experts are saying, face masks that include exhalation valves are harmful for coronavirus prevention. They explain that these exhalation valves contribute to the spread of coronavirus, especially in the person who wears it.
Dr. Tomas Aragon is San Francisco’s health officer, he worries that since these masks emit large droplets into the atmosphere if the wearer has coronavirus the virus could be transmitted to other people. He has even signed an order a few months’ prior warning people of why these masks specifically hold great danger.
In the order, he explains that if a mask has on its surface a one-way valve (a cylindrical plastic on the front or the side of a mask) is made so wearers can exhale easily but it also means respiratory droplets will be expelled from the mask when doing so and thus will put people in the vicinity at great risk.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines say that standard N95 masks can limit the wearer’s exposure to air particles by filtering out 95% of harmful particles in the air, while the valves allow unfiltered exhaled particles to escape into a clean atmosphere.
Dr. Matthew L. Springer is a cardiologist at the University of California in San Francisco. He says that masks with such values are essentially useless.
He adds that the value of such masks is not to protect those who wear it but to protect people from catching a seriously dangerous virus from an asymptomatic wearer. Therefore it is easy to understand why one-way valves don’t do that very well and are instead harming those who aren’t wearing the masks.
People who are wearing such masks are therefore a hazard to those in their vicinity; they are letting out unfiltered large droplets from their respiratory passages into the air in great concentration.
For people who wear a mask with an exhalation valve, health experts advise that they should cover it with a piece of tape instead.
Doing so will prevent unfiltered respiratory droplets from being released in the air and will protect people from those who are either asymptomatic carriers or have the disease.
Since consumers are aware that these masks are like the gold standard variety of masks for health care workers, they make the mistake of buying them in hopes to protect themselves against coronavirus.
CDC has also openly expressed encouragement for people to use any kind of facial covering or mask at hand even if it made at home. They have however also told the general public to stay away from N95 masks which are medical-grade coverings that healthcare workers require.
The agency however does remind the public that facial coverings are not an alternative for hand washing and social distancing. All three of these practices are needed and are essential to prepare against coronavirus.