Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative to listen to health officials on the best ways to stop the spread. Wearing a mask is crucial to protecting those around you and yourself. Experts believe that masks are one of the preventative measures in inhibiting the virus since they block respiratory droplets from reaching others and have helped limit the spread.
However, there are many things that must be kept in mind when wearing them. Masks are not a magical shield protecting you from all possible sources of the virus. Although most people are tired of distancing themselves from friends and family, it is imperative to still follow social distancing guidelines even while wearing masks; don’t allow them to give you a false sense of security.
The second thing to keep in mind is that not washing masks or failing to change your masks will cause a germ and bacteria build-up that can irritate your skin and get you sick. If you primarily use disposable masks, make sure to change them frequently. For those who wear reusable masks, wash them at least once a week.
One interesting and lesser-known effect of mask-wearing is the difficulty of facial recognition. According to a study done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), facial recognition algorithms work by measuring the distances between features on a person’s face. Since masks obstruct most of these measurements from being taken, companies that rely on facial recognition need to rapidly adapt. Many have started designing algorithms that can identify faces using only the features above the nose bridge.
In addition to the technological adaptations, many have found themselves forced to adapt their own greetings to be recognizable. Beyond the simple smile, people have needed to find ways to greet others that are more complicated. I myself have adopted the casual wave.
Experts have identified the most effective masks to be ones that cover the face from the nose bridge to under the chin. Additionally, your mask shouldn’t cut off your circulation, but it should be secure and stay in place. Masks with at least two layers of fabric are the best way to go. Gaiter masks are, more often than not, too thin to effectively block droplets, while masks with valves allow for more droplets to escape.
Although masks seem to be a hindrance in our daily lives, all we can do in order to stop the spread of the virus is to wait, social distance, and hope for a vaccine. Until then, it is important to wear masks correctly to keep everyone safe and healthy.