Not all masks and face coverings are created equal, doctors say

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Health officials say people should make sure the masks and face coverings they are wearing are suitable to stop the potential spread of COVID-19.

When the coronavirus pandemic began in mid- to late March, health experts encouraged people to wear masks. They said that, in addition to practicing good hygiene, such as: washing your hands frequently, socially distancing, and stay at home as much as possible, are all ways to mitigate and stop the spread of the virus.

Some people purchased masks with filters and valves, more commonly worn at construction sites due to their high-tech look.

But, Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease specialist, said those masks may not be the best option to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Three months ago, six months ago, we were not wearing masks,” Jain said. “We saw people wearing a mask, and we thought it was weird. Now we’ve accepted the fact that it makes sense. And now in ways, we don’t feel appropriate. Sometimes, we feel naked, if we’re not wearing a mask.”

Jain said with certain masks, especially those with the filters and valves, people are spitting out virus particles and droplet particles that will be sprayed to a lot of people. He said that is counterproductive, and the virus is spreading that way.

He said just because a mask may look advanced does not necessarily mean it is the right type of mask to wear to mitigate the virus.

“So, those are okay for those construction uses, but for preventing the spread of infection, they are inappropriate,” Jain said. “So, if by chance you have COVID and you don’t know it, and you’re asymptomatic, and you’re out and about in different places, you can transmit the virus to a lot more people.”

Jain said those types of masks makes it easier to breathe and allow your face to feel as though there is nothing on it. But he said the purpose of wearing masks is to slow and potentially stop the spread of the virus. He said people should keep that in mind when they purchase masks.

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