All You Need to Know About Masks… and More!

The importance of wearing a mask

  • COVID-19 is an airborne infectious diseases
  • Offers protection in buildings and outside
  • If you are a PHHP employee—faculty, staff or student—you are a role model for the community
  • Everyone should engage in educating the community—we are all in this together!
  • Encourage positive behavior – thank folks for wearing masks

Not all masks are “created” or “rated” the same

  • N95 masks (respirator)
    • Actually a type of respirator – a tight fitting mask that creates a facial seal
    • Designed to block 95% of very small particles.
    • Offers more protection than a surgical mask because it can filter out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales.
    • Typically reserved for healthcare settings with higher risk of exposure
    • People with chronic respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions that make breathing difficult should check with their health care provider before using an N95 respirator because the N95 respirator can make it more difficult for the wearer to breathe.
    • Some have valves that make them easier to breathe through. Unfiltered air is released when the wearer exhales so this type of mask doesn’t prevent the wearer from spreading the virus.
    • To work properly wearers must be trained and pass a fit test to confirm a proper seal (note these masks are not recommended for children or people with facial hair)
    • Intended to be disposable although some re-use programs are being implemented due to supply shortage
  • Surgical/non-biomedical/procedural masks
    • Loose-fitting disposable mask with no fit test required
    • Protects others by reducing exposure to respiratory secretions of the wearer.
    • Most have large pore sizes that filter particles to approximately 5 microns in size. Viruses are typically smaller than 5 microns and therefore do not filter or block very small particles in the air
    • Do not provide complete protection from germs because of the loose fit between the surface of the face mask and your face.
    • In general, with normal breathing, surgical masks will reduce the transmission of particles but with sneeze and cough through the mask, transmission may occur.
    • Masks may become contaminated by virus on the outside layers; for re-use, fold the outer layer inward and place in a paper bag for 72 hours.

FITT (beyond the actual fit)

  • Frequency of mask wearing: Ideally, N95 and surgical masks are intended for single use. When supplies are in demand, they can be reused by placing in a paper bag for 72 hours. Cloth masks should be washed routinely with detergent and water.
  • Intensity if mask wearing: Wear masks properly where mandated. On campus, this includes inside all buildings and outside where you are within 6 feet of others. Masks may be removed in single occupancy offices with closed doors. Wearing your mask where asked is serving as a good role model to others.
  • Time for mask wearing: As a general rule, wear for a day then dispose or decontaminate/clean
  • Type of mask wearing: In general, surgical or cloth masks are preferred for the general PHHP community when working in office spaces in common building areas. For those working in higher risk situations (i.e. clinical settings) an N95 may be appropriate. It is also important to remember to wear your mask properly in combination with hand hygiene and social distancing practices.

Helpful Resources and Interesting Research on Masks