Just over a year ago, most of us wouldn’t have had a second thought about personal protective equipment (PPE), and it definitely wouldn’t have been second nature to don a mask before walking into the grocery store, gyms, or restaurants. Life looks different now, and people are starting to ask how long it’s going to last.
How long will we have to wear masks? What about social distancing? Will capacity in social venues continue to be limited?
The Long Haul or the Patience Game?
There are a variety of scenarios, and the future depends human behavior as we work through the current coronavirus pandemic. Our reactions to the pandemic and our efforts to mitigate the spread of disease all play into whether or not we’re looking at long-haul protection measures or whether we just need to have a little more patience as vaccines are administered and disease diminishes in our communities.
The standard answer is that life will return to “normal” when we reach herd immunity—or population immunity—which means that a large portion of the population is immune to COVID-19, due to vaccination or because of a recent infection.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor for the White House’s COVID-19 response team, we could see life returning to some sort of normality by the end of 2021.
Masks Aren’t Going Anywhere
Although we talk about returning to “normal,” it will be a new normal for most Americans. Masks will be necessary to ensure population immunity, with many in the scientific community agreeing that this norm could continue well into 2022.
Different Masks for Different Needs
You’ve probably heard a lot about N95 and surgical masks, especially if you work in a medical or caregiving field. These two kinds of masks are vastly different from each other and vary in their functionality. Add FFP masks to the list, and things start to get a little more confusing. Which masks do you need to purchase? What will be most effective for you and your team? How can you ensure you’re buying the very best PPE for your frontline and essential workers?
Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of masks and what to look for when selecting them:
These masks are designed for a snug facial fit to efficiently filter small aerosol particles, as well as large droplets. The snug fit forms a seal around the mouth and nose and keeps particles from entering around the edges of the mask. N95 masks filter out at least 95% of airborne particles.
Fluid-resistant, these masks are designed to fit more loosely and protect from droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. Surgical masks also protect patients from the respiratory droplets of the wearer.
Filtering Facepiece Masks (FFP Masks)
FFP masks are divided into three categories depending on their filtering capabilities.
FFP1 Masks are mostly used for high-dust areas and are not effective for protection against coronavirus. The standard filtration of 0.3 micron in diameter particles is a low 80%.
FFP2 Masks protect from airborne agents like coronavirus and are the midline FFP option. With an aerosol filtration above 94% and an external leak rate of no more than 8%, they are an effective and affordable PPE solution.
FFP3 Masks offer maximum protection, but this increased protection is reflected on the price tag. On the costlier side, FFP3 masks filter at least 99% of 0.3 micron in diameter particles from the air
Watch for Quality
It’s still important to keep an eye out for quality, as there are bad actors on every stage. Be sure you’re buying from a reputable supplier who is providing high-quality masks that have passed through the proper testing and approval processes.
To learn more about quality mask manufacturing and the processes and materials that go into constructing life-saving PPE, visit the Green Resources PPE Manufacturing page.