It’s been quite the year so far, hasn’t it? As a good friend recently said, a unicorn could fly across the room and nobody would blink. But one thing you can always count on is people sharing unverified info on social media, and passing it off as fact. With that in mind I’ve put together a comprehensive post giving you the truth about face masks and coverings.
The Truth About Face Masks and Face Coverings During the Pandemic
I’ve seen so much misinformation being bandied about regarding face masks and face coverings, that I feel compelled to address the subject with a large dose of common sense. I’ve also had this post fact checked by a medical professional who’s been working on the frontline and directly affected by this issue.
So, to answer the questions so many have…
A Face Mask Won’t Actually Protect Me, Right?
Correct. Unless you have a medical grade mask, any face covering you use will likely be ineffective at protecting you against catching Covid19 from somebody carrying the virus.
So Then Wearing One is Pointless, Right?
Wrong. Wearing a mask is not pointless because it’s not about protecting you, per se.
Everybody else wearing one is to protect you; you wearing one is to protect everybody else.
But Surely If the Virus Can Get In, Then It Can Also Get Out? That Makes No Sense.
Yes, it does.
If you were in a room with somebody known to be carrying the corona virus and infectious, would you prefer them to sneeze into a tissue, or directly into the air?
Exactly. It’s about minimising risk, as much as possible. Non-medical masks are preventative, but not failsafe.
But the Virus Particles Are So Tiny They Can’t Be Contained By A Mask!
True. Unless they’re expelled as a sneeze; saliva and other bodily fluids carrying the virus can be contained.
Fine, So Then Why Not Sooner?
Quite. Looking at transmission rates in communities using masks, I’m sure those in charge wish they’d made the recommendation sooner. Scratch that, they did. It’s been a recommendation for some time. From the 24th it becomes mandatory – that’s what they’ll be wishing they’d done sooner.
Alas, they did not. But, happily, we’re in a free country, which means anyone is entitled to wear a face covering even when there is no virus, should they wish to do so.
But Why Wait Till the 24th to Make It Mandatory? That Just Proves It’s Pointless.
No, it proves we’re reasonable and give people time to adjust and make necessary arrangements (as an example: I’m publishing this article on July 19th and, despite ordering a week ago, my masks are yet to arrive).
Hang On – What About That Video Created By Those Doctors?
I think I know the one – using all of the reasons outlined above, they effectively discredit the use of masks, right? Hopefully I’ve now shown those reasons to be out of context in terms of the intended use of face coverings for the public. Which makes that video and any similar ones like it completely irresponsible, and therefore I will not link to the video in question.
Should you wish to obtain a mask that is for your personal benefit, follow their advice. Or, you could just follow the guidelines and encourage everyone around you to do the same…
The idea is a bit like herd immunity, except the exact opposite. If we all do our bit, we’re protecting each other. Could we maybe give it a shot?
But I Won’t Be Able to Breathe Properly!
False. Tests have been carried out which show oxygen levels for healthy individuals are unchanged when wearing a face covering.
Here’s a doctor showing you exactly that:
Masks categorically do not reduce oxygen saturation. This is a lie made up as an excuse by those who believe the pandemic is a hoax and that wearing a mask somehow encroaches on their rights. This is not an issue of freedom.— Dr Joshua Wolrich (BSc MBBS MRCS) (@drjoshuawolrich) July 9, 2020
…And another, with multiple face coverings, just in case you’re tempted to argue that the ones being recommended are made of more layers, and therefore will have a different outcome:
Unless you have a legitimate reason for exemption, it is legally required that you wear one in confined public spaces from July 24th when it becomes mandatory.
Well I Still Won’t Wear One
Okay. If you refuse to wear a mask you’ll be denied entry to shops and may be fined.
If you are not exempt and still wish to avoid wearing a mask, that’s absolutely your prerogative. Just stay away from the places where they’re mandatory if you can’t or won’t follow the rules that exist for everybody’s benefit. Thanks.
Adequate Face Coverings
Not all face coverings are made equal. For it to do its job adequately, it should:
- Cover your nose and mouth.
- Fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face. A nose wire may help ensure a secure fit.
- Be secured to the head with ties or ear loops.
- Include at least two layers; WHO recommends three. Some face coverings also have a pocket to allow you to add a filter to maximise protection.
Bear in mind that even with a filter, non-medical face coverings are not PPE.
How to Correctly Wear and Remove a Face Covering
- Before use wash hands thoroughly, ideally with soap and water for 20 seconds, but where this is not possible use hand sanitizer instead.
- Avoid wearing on your neck or forehead as this may introduce pathogens.
- Avoid touching the mask during wear.
- Wash hands thoroughly before removal, ideally with soap and water for 20 seconds, but where this is not possible use hand sanitizer instead, and only handle the loops or ties which secure the mask.
- Wash hands thoroughly, as above, after removal.
- Reusable masks should be washed in line with manufacturer’s instructions and at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric.
- Do not share face coverings.
When to Wear a Face Covering or Mask
In England, it’s mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport.
As of July 24th 2020, it will become mandatory to wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets. Measures can be taken if you fail to comply with the law, including fines of up to £100. Shops can refuse entry for non-compliance.
It’s also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing is difficult and you’ll be mixing with people you wouldn’t normally meet.
Please note a face covering is not designed to be used in place of social distancing, and where it is possible a distance of 2 metres should be maintained.
Face Covering Exemptions in England
There are some legitimate circumstances in which people are not required to wear a mask or face coverings, such as:
- Young children under the age of 11;
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress;
- you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability which makes you unable to put on, wear, or remove a face covering;
- If travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate;
- To take medication;
- To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
- To eat or drink, but only if strictly necessary;
- If requested to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official.
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked, such as for the purposes of age identification, or to assist with communication.
For updated official guidance and advice, go to the government site here.
Mandatory Face Coverings in England; The Upshot
Bottom line: this is happening and won’t be going away for some time.
Please don’t be selfish; if you can, you should – both morally and legally.
Be prepared to be challenged if you are wearing a face covering where it is mandated, and please also be mindful that there are some who are legitimately exempt. They may need to provide evidence of this to shop staff, police, or other officials, but they do not have to justify themselves to Joe Public, nor should they.
Exemption badges are available, and personally I’d love to see official ones rolled out for those who qualify.