With the Covid-19 cases rising again rapidly all over the world, the debate over cloth masks vs N95 masks have begun again. While many switched to cloth masks considering the comfort factor after the country started recording less than 100 cases post the second Covid-19 wave, a large section of people still opt for surgical masks or N95 as they provide better protection from the transmission of droplets/aerosols that contain the virus. Now that India is battling the third coronavirus wave, people have begun looking for effective masks because according to recent studies, you can get the virus in 20 minutes if you are using a cloth mask.
Observations made by experts and scientists state that at this time, N95 masks offer the maximum protection against the spread of Covid-19. As per Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infected person without a mask can infect others in just 15 minutes if they are within 6 feet of each other. If you both are wearing cloth masks, the time increases to 27 minutes; it reduces to 20 minutes if the uninfected person is wearing a cloth mask whereas the infected is wearing no mask. Similarly, if the infected person is without a mask and the second person is wearing a surgical mask, the infection can transmit in 30 minutes. However, if the infected and uninfected individuals are wearing N95 masks, the virus will take 25 hours to transmit.
As per the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), surgical masks are the best options for patients to wear as source control. It does not promise adequate protection for workers from droplets/aerosols containing the virus but limit the transmission to a certain level.
ACGIH says that a cloth face covering should always be used as source control when you have limited proximity to others and are spending time in indoor space.
Now, if you wondering what if you are wearing an N95 mask but the other person, who might be infected, is not, experts say that it takes at least 2.5 hours to transmit the infection from one person to another person if one of them is not wearing a mask.
After N95 masks, surgical masks also provide better protection against the transmission of the coronavirus. Scientists and experts recommend that if you want to use a cloth mask, better pair it with surgical models for finer results.
The aerosols containing the Covid-19 virus don’t get blocked by a cloth shield that’s why it is recommended to use 4-5 Ply N95 masks.
Omicron is spreading faster than the Delta variant of SARs-CoV-2 and even after getting the double doses of vaccinations, people are contracting the virus. Therefore, it is advised to use a mask that gives you the best protection.