Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mask DIY! CDC rethinks use of masks - may be helpful to curtail COVID-19 exposure

The Center for Disease Control is rethinking its policy of telling Americans NOT to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. NYT:
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., confirmed in an interview with WABE in Atlanta, a National Public Radio member station, on Monday that the agency was reviewing its guidelines on who should wear masks. Citing new data that shows high rates of transmission from people who are infected but show no symptoms, he said the guidance on mask wearing was “being critically re-reviewed, to see if there’s potential additional value for individuals that are infected or individuals that may be asymptomatically infected.” 
The coronavirus is probably three times as infectious as the flu, Dr. Redfield said. Some people are infected and transmitting the virus probably as long as two days before showing any symptoms, he said.

...Dr. Fauci said: “The idea of getting a much more broad communitywide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force. The C.D.C. group is looking at that very carefully.”
And the change is for good reason - the novel virus is staying in the air longer than epidemiologists thought:
There have been troubling reports that indicate the coronavirus may be able to travel farther in the air and stay in the environment longer than is possible by respiratory droplets, which have so far been assumed to be the primary mode of transmission of the virus. 
One study in Singapore found traces of the virus in air vents in patient isolation rooms. In another study, researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center detected extensive contamination in patient rooms as well as in air samples collected from the hallways outside rooms.

SO WHAT NOW? Given the shortage of surgical and N95 masks (those need to go to first responders and med folks), I found a great DIY solution below is better than a plain bandana (something the CDC advised not long ago, incredibly, to med personnel when PPE is not available).

DIY Face Mask (Video)

Again, this is NOT a substitute for a sterile, medical grade mask (not that you can find any), or can serve as a fail-safe from contracting COVID-19. But it is disposable, fits well, and reminds you not to touch your face. Caveat - if you need to adjust your mask constantly, you're better off not using a mask rather than touching your eyes, nose or mouth! Now on to making the mask...

Supplies, all from $1 store, and makes a lot of masks!
- Coffee filters
- Roll of paper towels
- Bag of rubber bands
- Roll of wax paper or parchment paper. (The wax paper/parchment paper adds a modest moisture barrier, a big plus over just fabric.)


1. Take large sheet of paper towel. Fold in half. Reopen.
2. Take 2-3 coffee filters and place on top half of open towel.
3. Cut a rectangular piece of wax or parchment paper and line the filter.
4. Fold the towel with the filter between the two sides.
5. Begin accordion-folding the towel as shown in the video.
6. Fasten the ends with rubber bands.
7. Insert and loop another rubber band at each end to go around your ears.
8. Done! Here are instructions on proper fit and use from the SF Dept. of Public Health.

Since the materials are so inexpensive and widely available, there is no need to sterilize, just toss and make (many) more. I guess the rubber bands can always be re-used by sterilizing them with Lysol or simply letting them sit for a few days.


It should be noted that in Asian countries, mask-wearing is commonplace (and mandated in many cases) and community spread in those nations (e.g. South Korea). As you can see it is WAY less than the horrible curve the U.S. has (graphic).

Let's slow community spread by 1) Staying home, and 2) using masks, gloves, sanitizer, and sanitizing spray. It all helps. We are in this together!

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