What I Have Learned About Face Mask Protection Against COVID-19

After much experimentation, I have found that face masks can be improved and provide better protection from the coronavirus. It’s common to see medical professionals wearing surgical masks; surgical masks have high filtration properties against the coronavirus but suffer from a loose fit around the edges, especially the nose. The surgical mask can be greatly improved by supplementing it with a brace that will attempt to better seal the edges. Former Apple mechanical engineers created such a brace that you can buy at  https://www.fixthemask.com/. Here is a good video on how to wear this brace: https://twitter.com/i/status/1292209855487332353 See picture below:

Fix The Mask also provides a Do it Yourself brace using rubber bands, which inspired my own DIY brace that uses two 7 inch long rubber bands. To make this yourself, take one rubber band, cut it, and tie it to the other rubber band on two sides. The cut rubber band serves as a head band and the uncut part fits around your face mask. See pictures below:

Do It Yourself Rubberband Face Mask Brace

If you achieve a good fit, you should be breathing through the mask instead of around the edges of the mask. See video below:

The best masks are N95 masks, with priority use by healthcare workers. There is one brand that is freely available to the public made by Chinese producer Guangzhou Harley (NiOSH tested), sold by www.easternppeimports.com/. You can also buy NPPTL tested KN95 masks by Guangzhou Powecom on Amazon. As an additional option, I recommend the HaloLife mask, which has an insertable 99% filter, rubber and wire nose band, and provides a great fit along with breathability. This mask has proved effective at capturing over 99% of airborne particulates and pathogens down to 0.1 microns. By comparison, the COVID-19 virus measures approximately 0.125 microns in diameter.

This list of masks is far from exhaustive, as there are also many cloth masks out there. The Canadian government has published a good guide to choosing among the cloth masks: Canadian Guide on Masks. They recommend a tightly woven, 3 ply mask where one of the layers includes an insertable, non-woven, polypropylene fabric filter. Consumers should be aware that many cloth masks provide a PM2.5 carbon filter; although good for filtering pollution (at as small at 2.5 microns), this PM2.5 filter does not provide adequate filtration against COVID-19 particles (which are smaller than 2.5 microns). You can buy non-woven polypropylene fabric filters at Etsy to insert in your mask instead the PM2.5 filter.

Once you have selected a mask, make sure to adjust and improve the fit. The mask should include a wire guide to fit around your nose and you can supplement with a brace as shown above. You can also add a nose bridge pad seal to prevent fogging and leakage, available at Amazon Bridge Pads.  For KN95 masks, I have also taken a 7 inch rubber band, cut it, and stapled it on to the two sides of the mask near the ear-loops to create a headband for a tighter fit. For an improved fit around the nose, you can attach an additional metal nose bridge strip (click here) on top of the one sewn into the mask (top center on the mask). I recommend putting a small strip of adhesive tape over the metal.

Good ways to test your mask include the following:

  • Better masks can hold water on the inside without dripping through.
  • If you hold the mask up to the light, you should not be able to see small holes through it.
  • You should not be able to blow out a candle while wearing your mask.
  • You should be able to spray air fragrance mist into the air and not smell it while wearing your mask.
  • Your glasses should not fog nor should you feel any air outside the mask.

With good filtration and fit, you can protect others against the virus while protecting yourself. Remember – a mask is to be used in conjunction with social distancing, not as a substitute.

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