Masks that work, masks that don’t: student and staff opinions

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Loren Savage, Writer

Masks that work, masks that don’t, and FHS students and staff opinions

In the last several months, face masks have been a very hot topic of discussion. At first, experts said they weren’t effective. Now experts are saying they will save lives. But masks will only help if you wear the right ones and wear them in the right way.

When Should You Wear A Mask?
It can be difficult to decide when you should wear a mask in order to protect others. There are many situations in which wearing a mask would be beneficial.

The CDC recommends that you wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household. All people above the age of two should wear a mask. The CDC also says that masks may help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other people, and they are most effective in reducing the spread when widely used. Masks reduce the spray of mouth and nose droplets made when talking, coughing, or sneezing.

What Masks Work?
Many people have been confused about what masks work. Someone may wear a mask that is more comfortable or something that they think helps but really doesn’t. Choosing a mask that prevents the spread is crucial.

Surgical masks and reusable cotton face masks are your best bet. Reusable masks are best when they are tightly woven, 100% cotton (synthetic fibers are OK), and worn in multiple layers (three or more).

What Masks Don’t Work?
Though a mask may be comfortable, it may not be effective. Choosing the right mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 is very important.

Stay away from gaiters and masks with vents. Gaiters and bandannas, while easier to breathe in, are not as effective in stopping the spread. While speaking, breathing, sneezing, or coughing, droplets of moisture are sprayed from your mouth. When wearing a gaiter, the droplets pass through the fabric, risking infection of other people. Though gaiters may be effective when the fabric is doubled over, the CDC does not recommend them. Masks with vents protect you but allow unfiltered air through the vent. The CDC does not recommend masks with vents because they are not effective in preventing the spread.

KN95 (similar to N95s, but thinner and less durable) may protect you but not others. While N95s are the most effective, they are in high demand and should be reserved for medical professionals.

How do I know if my mask works?
Ensuring your mask is effective and ruling out masks that don’t work is an important part of choosing the right mask for you.

For starters, just because a mask says that it is not for medical use does not mean that it is useless. One way to test your mask is to try and blow out a candle with the mask on. While this is not a foolproof method, it is a good way to rule out masks that offer no protection. Another way to test your mask is to hold it up to the light, and if you can see through the fabric. The best masks are masks with three layers and masks that cup tightly to your face.

Student and staff opinions

We can all agree that the thought of having to wear a mask for eight or more hours every day was pretty daunting. Wearing a mask was new for all of us, so no one knew what to expect.

English 9 teacher Marinna Krehbiel says, “I was worried that wearing masks would be pretty annoying, but I have been pleasantly surprised! I sometimes even forget that I am wearing it.” Many people agree that wearing a mask is better then they thought it would be.

11th grader Elizabeth Atchley says, “[Masks are] annoying but [I] feel protected.” Most people agree that masks can be inconvenient, but they also understand that masks are necessary. 11th grader Ely Haile says, “They’re annoying at times, but it’s what needs to happen to prevent [COVID from] spreading.”

FHS students and staff are thankful for this policy because it makes them feel more secure. Krehbiel also says, “I am so grateful that we have this policy. It makes me feel a lot safer in my classroom.”

People have also mentioned that they miss seeing others smile. Smiling was an immediate connection and an unspoken “hello.” Many people miss that.

Librarian Lory Hall says, “As an individual, I am glad we have a district policy and a state mandate. It is the single most effective way for an individual to reduce transmission -next to hand washing … However, as a teacher, I miss seeing everyone’s faces at school. Our smile is the first connection a student makes when meeting a teacher or other staff member.”

Though we all wish things would go back to normal, they won’t until we beat COVID-19, so please do your part and wear a mask.

A User’s Guide To Masks: What’s The Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself) — NPR
Considerations for Wearing Masks — CDC
How do I know if my mask actually works? What about the ‘candle test’? — The Conversation
‘A lot of variables’: New research into popular gaiters highlights challenges of testing mask safety — The Washington Post
Neck Gaiters for COVID-19 Worse Than No Face Covering At All — Infection Control Today
Coronavirus FAQ: What Does It Mean If I Can Blow Out A Candle While Wearing A Mask? — NPR
How to Select, Wear, and Clean Your Mask — CDC

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