©The Talon News | Nicholas West
Improper Mask Use Raises Health Concerns
To allow students to participate at in-person school, the district opened schools on Aug. 17 with several restrictions, including the requirement of face masks. Students are required to wear masks at all times unless they are eating at lunch or exercising. Many students have begun to wear a variety of different masks and face coverings, in some cases incorrectly.
Students opting for in-person learning should take the safety of their peers and teachers into consideration by wearing and using masks correctly.
Throughout the week, students have started pulling down their masks and wearing them below their nose or pulling their mask away from their face when they talk. Doing so severely impacts the mask’s effectiveness. Masks are meant to prevent a person’s respiratory droplets from entering the air so other people do not breathe them in. According to clinical and lab studies done by the CDC, masks are shown to reduce the spray of droplets but only when worn over both the mouth and the nose. COVID-19 is spread when people are in close proximity to each other and can be transmitted by people who do not have symptoms, so it is important that students wear their masks correctly. Students do not know if their teachers or peers are at high risk if they were to contract the virus and by opting for in-person school, it is their responsibility to do everything to keep them safe.
Many students wear the same mask day to day or wear disposable masks. Multitudes of these students are not aware that the medical masks they wear to school everyday are meant for one use. This means at the end of the day students should throw them away as soon as they get home and wear a new one the next day. Ryan Sinclair, associate professor of environmental microbiology at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, stated that viruses and bacteria can live on masks 8-12 hours. He also stated that fabric, when not disinfected properly, can carry bacteria like E. coli, and viruses like COVID-19. Because of this, students wearing reusable masks should wash them daily. It is important for students to wear a new reusable mask each day and to wash their cloth masks every day after school to prevent the spread of anything they may have come in contact with during the day.
Instead of disposable masks or cloth masks, some students elected to wear a face shield or gaiter as they are easier to use and breathe through. However, these are not as effective as a normal mask. A face shield’s primary purpose is to protect a person’s eyes. It is not currently known how effective they are in preventing the spray of respiratory droplets. Because of this, the CDC does not recommend them in place of a mask unless they wrap around the wearer’s face or include a hood. They also state that disposable shields should be thrown away after one use and reusable shields should be disinfected after each use. Gaiters are made with the intent to be thin and breathable. Because of this, they do little to stop respiratory droplets from entering the air. A Duke study tested 14 common masks and their effectiveness when talking to examine droplet emission. They found that gaiters, specifically made of fleece, caused larger droplets to be dispersed into smaller droplets. In some cases, the gaiters actually dispersed more droplets than someone not wearing a face covering. These smaller droplets also stay airborne longer than large droplets as large droplets sink faster. Because of this, the study concluded that the use of a gaiter may be counterproductive. Instead, students should try to wear a disposable mask or cotton one in a face shield and gaiter’s place.
In order to continue in-person school and prevent a district shutdown, students should make an effort to wear their masks correctly and wear a clean/new mask each day.