The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has, since April, recommended that Americans should wear face masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some states in the US have made it mandatory for people to wear face masks in public, while others are yet to implement such a rule. Many businesses and retailers are also making it mandatory for customers and staff members to wear a mask when they enter the premises of the establishment.
Moreover, scientists around the world agree that face masks can help prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus. Communities that make widespread use of face masks are less likely to experience an outbreak than those that don’t. This is because the coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets – the saliva and mucus released when we talk, cough, or sneeze. By covering the nose and the mouth, face masks can prevent the spread of these droplets from one person to another.
The Importance of Face Masks for Businesses
Businesses such as bakeries, restaurants, and shopping centers can benefit greatly by making sure that all staff members and customers are wearing face masks within their premises. This will reduce the risk of transmission and make the establishment safe for patrons. Moreover, it will also prevent employees from getting sick and consequently reduce absenteeism during the pandemic. High-quality face masks are especially needed in factories, clinics, retailers, and the hospitality sector – where working from home is not an option for employees.
Choosing the Right Face Mask
While any type of facial covering is better than none, researchers have found that certain types of face masks are more effective than others in preventing the transmission of the novel coronavirus. Some factors that business owners and managers should keep in mind when buying effective face masks for their employees have been listed below.
- Reusability: Typically, medical professionals recommend reusable masks because they’re more cost-effective and generate less waste, thus causing minimal damage to the environment. However, in industries like healthcare or retail, disposable masks might be safer and more effective.
- Type of Fabric: Face masks made from a fabric that has thicker threads and a tighter weave will be better able to block respiratory droplets and prevent the transmission of disease in a workplace.
- Multilayered: The number of layers in the face mask is also important. Masks with three layers of fabric are the most effective, although double-layer masks are preferable to those with just one layer of fabric. Face masks worn by employees at a healthcare facility should have multiple layers, as the risk of infection is usually greater in such places.
- Perfect Fit: For maximum efficacy, the face mask should fit snugly around the nose and mouth without needing constant adjustments. Loose edges and openings could allow respiratory droplets to escape, endangering customers and workers alike.
- Comfortable: The chosen face mask must be breathable and comfortable to wear. An uncomfortable face mask might make employees lose focus and feel sick throughout the workday, causing them to take it off and exposing everyone to the virus.
Prioritizing Comfort and Breathability
When purchasing face masks for employees, comfort and breathability must be prioritized. An uncomfortable mask will affect productivity and increase the risk of transmission, if workers are tempted to take it off from time to time. Therefore, a comfortable face mask that can be worn regularly is far more effective than a multilayered, medical-grade mask that one is tempted to leave at home. And one of the chief factors that contribute to the comfort-level of a face mask is the breathability of the fabric.
Face masks cover the nose and the mouth of the wearer, which can make some people feel suffocated, especially during the summer and in enclosed spaces (such as a restaurant, shop, or office). Hence, face masks made from a lightweight and breathable fabric such as cotton or nylon are the most preferable.
A material is deemed breathable if it is light and porous enough to allow water vapor to pass through it. Face masks made from such a fabric will ensure that your breath passes through the fabric rather than through the edges of the mask. In this way, respiratory droplets are caught in the material while the air passes through. On the other hand, if the exhaled breath is escaping through the edges, then the respiratory droplets will escape with it, rendering the mask useless.
To maximize productivity, the face masks worn by staff members must be flexible, comfortable, and easy to breathe through. They should also be thick enough to block aerosol particles from floating in or out. Most experts suggest that the best masks are those that do not allow any light to shine through the material and comprise at least of two layers of fabric. Silk and 100 percent premium cotton are some common, breathable materials that make for great face masks.