As the pandemic stretches on, workers and the general public alike have been tasked with a unique responsibility: wearing effective face coverings to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The CDC strongly recommends face coverings as a simple barrier to prevent respiratory droplets from traveling from one person to another via coughing, sneezing, or even just talking. With all the different types of face coverings available, it can be hard to determine which one is the most effective or right for you. We’ve made it easier by breaking down the different types of face coverings below. Read on to learn how to best equip yourself for the remainder of the pandemic.
Disposable N95 Masks
According to the FDA, N95 respirator masks are the most effective face coverings against COVID-19 because they fit tightly around the nose and mouth, so very few viral particles can get in or out. Furthermore, N95 masks contain tangled fibers designed to filter out small airborne particles more than any other facial covering. In fact, the name N95 comes from its 95% efficiency value at filtering particles.
Because N95 masks are so effective, they were originally reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders who were at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19. However, manufacturers have risen to the challenge of the pandemic, and there is no shortage of N95 masks currently available. Therefore, if you have the budget to purchase N95 masks, they will best position you to fend off viral infection.
N95 Masks From PalmFlex:
Disposable Surgical Masks
3-ply surgical masks are the second most effective face coverings with 77-97% filtration efficiency. They are made of nonwoven fabric designed to protect against large droplets, splashes or sprays of bodily fluid. This makes them the safest option for workers who are looking for a more affordable alternative to the N95 masks.
Like the N95 masks, surgical masks were originally reserved for medical professionals during the PPE shortage, however we now carry ample supply at PalmFlex for adults and children.
Disposable Surgical Masks From PalmFlex:
Reusable Fabric Masks
Reusable face masks are economical and eco-friendly since they can be washed and reused over and over. Their filtration efficiency is generally lower than N95 masks and surgical masks. Therefore, they are not appropriate substitutes in workplaces like hospitals where medical grade masks are recommended or required.
It is important to note that not all reusable face masks are created equal. The more layers they are designed with, the higher their effectiveness, reaching a filtration efficiency of up to 79%. The World Health Organization recommends that fabric masks have three layers: an inner layer for absorption, a middle layer for filtration, and an outer layer made from a nonabsorbent material such as polyester. Reusable face masks made of heavyweight fabric will be more effective than single- and double-layer masks of lightweight material.
Reusable Fabric Masks From PalmFlex:
Reusable Face Shields
Face shields wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin to provide added protection against respiratory droplets. The CDC does not currently recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks, but rather as a supplement, since only masks can fully cover the nose and mouth and fit securely on the face. However, in certain exceptions when wearing a mask may not be feasible, face shields are the best alternative. These include:
- High intensity activities where wearing a mask causes difficulty breathing
- Working in environments where masks pose an occupational hazard, e.g. straps getting caught in machinery
- Interactions with the hearing impaired
Workers in these circumstances should consult with an occupational safety and health professional to determine the appropriate face covering for their workplace. If you are unable to wear a mask, try to work in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (e.g. outdoors rather than indoors) and maintain physical distance from others.
Whether you wear a face shield by itself or with a mask for maximum protection, you should wash your hands before and after removing the face shield and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth during removal. Face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
Reusable Face Shields From PalmFlex:
Explore the Different Types of Face Coverings Available at PalmFlex
Face coverings are a critical preventive measure from spreading viral infections, especially when social distancing is difficult. We hope the information above can help inform which type of face covering is right for you. Remember that how you wear your face covering is also important. The protectiveness of a mask – including N95 and surgical masks – declines substantially when there is a gap between the mask and the skin, so make sure that there is a tight seal with minimal air leak.
All of the different types of face coverings listed above are available on the PalmFlex website. We offer free shipping over $80 within the continental U.S. on all face masks and shields, and you can save even more when you order in bulk. Have questions? Reach out to our customer service team to learn more about which face covering is right for you. For further reading, you can find out how to protect your workplace during Coronavirus and other safety tips at our PalmFlex blog.