Answered: 5 Questions about Face Masks

March 6, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Thomas Bader, M.D. contributes to topics such as Medical Quality.

Updated: 4/30/2020

By now, face masks have become a symbol of everyday life amidst dealing with a global pandemic.

But you may be wondering – do face masks really work? Should you get a supply?

We talked with Thomas Bader, M.D., M.B.A., vice president of medical quality and performance improvement at Hackensack Meridian Health about some of the most common questions about face masks, respirators and their use.

1. Should I wear a face mask in public?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently revised their recommendation on face masks for the general public. The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission like New Jersey.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who is having trouble breathing, or is unable to remove the mask without assistance.

These cloth face coverings are different than N95 masks and surgical masks which are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for our health care workers and other medical first responders.

The CDC continues to urge everyone to take normal preventative actions to prevent the spread of viruses. This includes:

  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Don’t cough or sneeze into your hand or fist; use a tissue (if you have one), or cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • Stay home if you are sick and do not go into crowded public areas
  • Wash your hands regularly

2. What is an N95 filtering facepiece respirator (mask)?

An N95 respirator is a type of face mask that removes particles from the air that are breathed through it. The “N95” designation means that these respirators filter out at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. N95 respirators can filter out many types of particles, including bacteria and viruses.

These masks should only be used by health care workers who are directly caring for patients with COVID-19. N95 respirators are in critical demand across the country, please do your part and reserve these masks for our health care workers on the front lines.

If you have any N95 masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE) you’d like to donate, please email: PPEdonations@NJSP.org

3. How do I properly wear a cloth face covering?

Cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face and bridge of nose.
  • Be secured firmly with ties or ear loops.
  • Include multiple layers of woven fabric.
  • Allow for normal breathing without restriction.
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

4. What’s the difference between surgical masks, N95s and cloth face coverings?

5. So why do we wear cloth face masks?

Masks help prevent the spread of the virus and preliminary study results show that widespread use of masks reduces the rate of infection.

 

Next steps and Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.