Be careful, you may recall in May and June we had another drop in case numbers. Again, many people got all excited, and took off their masks. What happened? The Delta surge marked some of the deadliest of COVID-19 days. Yes, we still need to wear a mask.
COVID-19 Is Not Over.
Two more teachers died this week in Minnesota.
Two parents in Wisconsin are suing their school district, saying that unmasked classmates have made elementary children sick. Shannon Jensen is suing the School district of Waukesha because her son came down with COVID after sitting next to an unmasked, infected student. Gina Kildahl is suing the School District of Fall Creek because a classmate came to school sick and without a mask. The sick student, who had COVID at the time, sat next to her oldest son. Her son was wearing a mask, but two days later, he tested positive for COVID-19. She’s suing to try to get the school to force students and staff to wear masks.
“I am just hoping that they will start masking and take some responsibility to keep our kids safe at school….”
Ms. Kildahl went on to explain that all three of her sons ended up coming down with COVID from the one classroom exposure.
Yes, We Definitely Still Need to Wear a Mask.
Even though we want to pretend all is well, people are still getting sick and dying. Just this week, 68,071 new cases were reported in only one day (people tested and confirmed) and 1,536 new deaths for that day.
So No, Do Not Take Your Mask Off Yet.
Remember back in May when the CDC said we didn’t need masks anymore? Delta only represented 1% of recorded COVID cases in the U. S. Now, the Delta variant is responsible for approximately 83% of COVID cases. Masks make a difference. Keep your masks on.
Even students are asking others to wear a mask. A teenager responded to an editorial and said,
“Many students such as myself have been saying we are unfazed by wearing a mask and we might even feel a little naked without it. Having spent a year and a half worried about what might happen to us and our loved ones, those of us in younger generations have done everything we can to protect ourselves and our families. Something I have noticed personally is that the people who complain the most about wearing a mask tend to be baby boomers or Gen Xers. Adults often gripe about how uncomfortable masks are, but the kids and students I’ve talked to tend to say that sure, it’s a bit stuffy, but it’s better to wear a mask than get COVID-19.”
Schools Are Not Out Of Danger.
Research has also found that schools that require both students and staff to wear masks are “3.5 times less likely to have a coronavirus outbreak.”
As Arizona Schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman explained,
“It is irresponsible of the state government to stand in the way of local leaders making decisions that protect the health and safety of their students and staff…. Until we have suppressed community spread by vaccinating more individuals, including children under 12, universal masking will continue to be a critical tool in limiting the spread of the virus in our schools.”
In light of that warning, I turned to a recent study on the ability of masks to protect you from COVID-19. This is a preprint article. That means it has passed peer review and is being published, but that you may read the preprint before publication. It comes from an environmental engineering group who studies air quality—excellent source. They tested everything from cotton cloth masks, bandanas, to disposable surgical masks. The N95 and KN95 respirators were naturally rated as the best, but other results were very interesting.
“The filtration efficiency at the most penetrating particle size of 0.3 ranged from 83-99% for N95 and KN95 respirators, 42-88% for surgical masks, 16-23% for cloth masks, and 9% for bandana…. doubling surgical masks or layering a cloth mask over surgical mask can be a better option than single masks….”
N-95’s are obviously the best but surgical masks or layering a surgical and cloth mask worked surprisingly better than expected. The key is how well does your mask fit.
Bandannas didn’t work well. The mask needs to fit tightly around the mouth and nose. No, a mesh mask will definitely not work, neither will a crocheted mask. Yes, some people have tried such things.
How Do You Select A Good Mask?
The researchers found that one of the primary requirements for a good mask is “how well does it fit.” You want a mask to fit tight around the face over the nose and not to gap. If the surgical mask or bandana has gaps or areas where air could leak in, then it is obviously not as effective. If the mask does not stay up covering the nose, again then it is obviously not as effective. Surprisingly, repeated washing of cotton cloth mask did not reduce their ability to provide protection. Cotton broadcloth has proven to be one of the better cloth materials for masks. The researchers also found that double masking was effective. For example, placing a snug fitting cloth mask over a surgical mask improved the effectiveness.
The next question is how do you know whether a mask is good or bad. As one person stated, if you’re wearing your N-95 below your nose, it is not doing you any good. A snug fit around the face and over the nose is essential for any mask to be effective.
There are so many masks on the market right now and so many people claiming that their mask is the best that it is sometimes hard to find out whether you’re actually purchasing an effective mask or not.
A website maintained by the CDC will help you evaluate the quality of your mask. Locate your mask on the chart by the manufacturer’s name and number for your mask. Unfortunately, it does not have a specific children’s section.
Another guide sheet that I like is written by Elizabeth Segran, Ph. D. I like to call this particular article—user friendly. If my previous two suggestions seemed too technical, then Segran’s article offers the same basic information but in simpler, easier to follow terms. She gives practical advice on how to make a mask fit. She also provides a caution statement against the N95 masks manufactured by the Shanghai Dasheng Health Products Manufacturing Company. According to Segran, these particular N95’s are worthless.
Masks Are Important.
So, spend some time selecting a mask for you and your child. As Katelyn Jetelina said,
“Pre-Delta, we knew masks worked very well. Loose fitting masks, like double cloth masks, even still blocked 51% of particles. With Delta, though, we really need to start wearing better masks…. Surgical masks have a great filter, but sometimes they are way too loose on kids. Fit and filter are very important with Delta. For great masks look for ASTM-certified surgical or tight-fitting cloth masks for kids. For fantastic masks, look for KN95 or KF94 made for kids.”
The old saying that any mask is better than no mask is still true, but with Delta, we need to step up and give our children more than just the regular mask. Of course, the only mask that works is the one your child wears correctly all day. If your child prefers a decorated mask, remember, you can always wear a decorated cloth mask over a more effective children’s mask—dress it up a little.
Are You Like the First Grader Who Wouldn’t Take His Mask Off, Even for His School Picture?
A first grader refused to take his mask off at school, even for his school picture. He wanted to stay safe. Wasn't that wise of him? His mother said, “We have a family portrait--a wall where we put all our family portraits—so that’s definitely going right in the center.”
Does Wearing a Face Mask Affect Your Ability to Breathe?