"Wear a face mask." For the past year, many Americans have heard, told one another, and abided by this statement. And why wouldn't we? Per the CDC, face masks are one of the best coronavirus protection measures we can take.
Well, here's the thing: Face masks were actually meant to be a temporary measure until N95 mask manufacturers could ramp up production — enough to support both hospital staff and regular people. Fast-forward an entire year, and most of us still don't have any face masks that are better than what we first donned when the pandemic started.
While vaccines now seem to finally promise an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ask ourselves: What happens if or when another virus starts spreading rapidly around the world? To be better prepared next time around, it's imperative for the U.S. government to step up with action and guidance such as officially approved standards. Otherwise, we'll be stuck relying on a stopgap measure again when another crisis unfolds.
Are All Face Masks Created Equal? No.
It's no secret that some face masks are better than others. Part of this boils down to subjective preferences; a face mask that works well for one person may not be as effective or comfortable for another.
In truth, face mask quality for each person comes down to fit, material, and construction. Even though we've been battling the coronavirus for what feels like forever, we still don't have government-approved guidelines for these three factors.
That's because face mask quality (in regards to protecting the wearer and anyone around them) is dependent on fit, material, and construction. In the year we've had to battle the coronavirus, we still haven't come up with guidelines for these three factors. Yes, we can fortunately now turn to the standards released by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). But even this isn't the same as the standards that medical-grade masks are held to.
Unlike cloth masks, medical-grade masks like the N95, FFP2, and KN95 must meet pre-set standards for fit, material, and construction. They've scientifically been shown to work much better than cloth masks in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
But even these masks are missing an important part of the equation: They have no instructions on how to wear and fit them properly to your face. To make matters even worse, you can easily find fake medical-grade masks for sale across the internet. And some of these have been shown to only be 1% effective.
Besides these problems, the government still hasn't released a certification process for cloths masks or mandated that masks must be labeled with a manufacturer's information. For these types of matters, we must turn to ASTM's new standards.
And even though the original plan was to have enough N95 masks for everyone, the U.S. still has a colossal shortage of these masks. In fact, N95 masks are still not recommended by the CDC for the general public.
Let's Look at Face Mask Distribution Around the World
Believe it or not, many countries have handled face mask distribution much better than the U.S. For example, since April 2020, Taiwan has been giving each citizen a new, high-quality face mask every week. The Taiwanese government regulates and oversees this distribution. You can even get an extra government-approved mask from a vending machine if you need it. These advantages have led to some miraculous results: Taiwan has a COVID-19 death rate more than 1,000 lower than the U.S.
Like Taiwan, Hong Kong distributes lab-tested six-layer face masks to all of its citizens. Singapore also just successfully distributed a fourth round of free, multi-layer reusable face masks to its citizens. Similar processes are not impossible to replicate for U.S. citizens.
Before vaccines came into the picture, America was struggling for months to stave off COVID-19. But we can't only rely on vaccines in the future. Coronavirus variants are beginning to surface, and some of these may prove to be resilient against the vaccine.
The B.1.1.7 variant is 50% to 70% more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain that caused this pandemic. Masks are still a key tool in defeating these variants. Yes, medical-grade masks would be ideal for every U.S. citizen. But until that happens, the government should take action to standardize and regulate cloth mask quality, especially if they keep recommending them over medical-grade masks.
The Public Must Not Be Left In the Dark
If you've looked at face masks for sale at your local supermarket or pharmacy recently, than you've probably seen KN95 masks right next to similarly-priced cloth masks. Many consumers are wary of these products since the majority of them are manufactured in and exported from China. And without government certification programs or official distribution channels, there's no valid way to clear the confusion and skepticism around what the best mask is.
There's no doubt the government could have handled the U.S. coronavirus response better. In an ideal situation, it would have already manufactured and distributed high-filtration masks to all citizens. Third-party businesses would have to comply with official guidelines and certifications. And the government would have reframed the messaging behind face masks from "protect yourself" to "protect others with your mask" to promote teamwork and unification.
Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore offer us a roadmap to a more efficient and effective way to handle face masks in the future. In the event of another pandemic or health crisis, this information should be examined and implemented in the U.S. to bring faster aid to rural, at-risk, and poorer populations.
Getting information from a single source like the government regarding how to identify a good face mask, how to fit it to your face, and even how often you should wash it does carry merit. The public would be empowered to upgrade their face masks without feeling like they may be getting swindled.
But as long as the public is left in the dark and the government refuses to shine a light on this important information, we can only do our best with what we do know.
Upgrade Your Face Mask to One You Can Trust
If you think your face mask or those of your loved ones is inadequate, don't hesitate to upgrade. At Dotted Line Manufacturing, we pride ourselves on our transparency. Our face masks are multi-layered, treated with a medical-grade antimicrobial solution, and built to last.
Besides these benefits, we make masks in all sorts of styles, so you should have no trouble at all finding one that allows you to get the best fit, material, and construction at a reasonable price.
We put a lot of thought, time, and effort into the development of each of our products, which are all 100% made in America. Of course, we know that words are cheap, so we encourage you to try our face masks yourself. Experience the Dotted Line difference today!
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