Unmasking the Truth

Cassidy Smith and Lydia Comprosky, Journalist

Who would have thought that we would be in a pandemic during the year 2020? All of the sudden, we couldn’t hang out with our friends without having to stay six feet apart. Covering our faces was a new norm and we would be required to wear a mask every day if we left our house. To add to that, many masks have been created to keep all of us safe. There are four general types of masks that we will focus on in this article: N95, reusable, gaiter and disposable. We will reveal the truth behind these four categories of masks.

In an interview with Jessica Murphy, we asked what her favorite mask was out of four types. She explained, “I like the cloth masks, but if there was another reusable mask that was safer, I would use it. I don’t want to go through disposable masks because it is bad for the environment.” Like most students, she’s worried about the environment, but she also struggles with finding the most effective way to protect herself and others while doing so. There are a lot of factors that go into mask preference, as one can see. According to a chart provided by Core77, “50% of Americans own a cloth mask, and it is especially popular amongst young people.” The three people we interviewed all agreed that a cloth mask was their favorite type to wear. Our interviewees were asked if they buy certain masks on their effectiveness or comfortability and most said both. They want to be comfortable and protected at the same time. 

When talking about effectiveness between the four masks. There is controversy with the gaiter mask versus other masks. When asked if she would wear one, Rowan Galanis, a Ipswich High Senior says, “No, because gaiters are the least effective.” Rowan and other interviewees who agreed with her are right. Gaiters are not considered as effective as other masks. According to Health grades, “many gaiters are made of synthetic fabric, and synthetic fabric doesn’t seem to be as effective in preventing the spread of small particles as natural fibers, such as cotton.” Gaiters are too thin to protect us from the virus and other people’s germs. You should rather have a more protective one that stays on your nose then one that slips all the time. 

When we think of a hospital in a pandemic, some would think of the N95 masks that the healthcare professionals are wearing. They have to keep themselves the most safe since they are taking care of the people who are sick from COVID. According to the University of Maryland, “N95 respirators and other professional-grade medical masks are carefully sized to form a tight seal between the air outside and the face.” Although, we may all want these masks to keep ourselves safe, Health Grades states, “However, N95 masks are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare providers.” This makes us wonder what masks are safe for the people. When asking the interviewees about their thoughts on the N95 mask, Jessica Murphy agrees with Health Grades and says, “N95 I think is the most effective, but I don’t think I should buy them because they are for professionals.” We need to use masks that are safe for us in everyday life but not take up the masks that the healthcare professionals really need. 

Surgical masks are the next best type of disposable mask, but because they “are designed to protect against large respiratory droplets, but don’t protect against smaller droplets,” they aren’t as protective as the N95. However, “they are effective for helping protect others around you if you are a carrier of the virus.” These masks are also very breathable and they are also very common. Lynda, an elementary school cafeteria employee, says she prefers the disposables “because I can bend the wire over my nose it doesn’t fog up my glasses as much.” These disposable masks are also medical grade approved, so a great option if you want to play it safe. Although effective and comfortable, they are not to be used multiple times and should be disposed of, which isn’t typically environmentally friendly. As Jessica Murphy briefly mentioned, “There’s a struggle between wanting to protect yourself and thinking: is it worth wearing a mask for one day when it could end up sitting on the earth for many more?”

Overall, the reusable mask has been a fan favorite. It’s comfortable, easy, safe for the environment and effective. Other masks may work like the N95 or the disposable ones, but the reusable mask is the one to use! We need to save the N95 masks for the health care professionals and get out there and make our own masks or masks for each other.