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    Mask Mandates: social and medical implications

    Posted by Samantha Johnson

    Posted on 1st Jul 2020 in Workplace Wellness


    The subject of face masks is a hot-button issues in the United States. California Governor Gavin Newsom added fuel to the fire when he issued a statewide mandate on June 18, requiring nearly everyone to wear masks outside the home. The mandate came one day before California recorded its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began - 4,084 new cases on June 19. Health officials said that increased positive tests were expected due to more available testing across the state. California is one of 15 states plus the District of Columbia to require masks in public as of late June.

    Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center is reporting upward trends in positive COVID-19 cases in 24 states. The good news is that 25 states are either holding steady or seeing downward trends. Several pharmaceutical companies continue working towards getting vaccines approved for the virus. One company, Novartis, ended its clinical trial on June 18 because it was having trouble recruiting subjects. Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Street on June 12 that masks do not provide guaranteed protection, but "it's better than not wearing a mask."

    Whether you are pro-mask or anti-mask, the mandates are part of the new coronavirus norm. A study recently published in the journal Health Affairs concluded that 230,000 positive COVID-19 cases were likely prevented due to states issuing mask mandates early. Scientific studies notwithstanding, masks are controversial. At least five California county sheriffs said they will not enforce the mandate. Here in the Bay Area, San Jose Police have eliminated mask requirements for officers.

    The Bay Area is reopening and trying to get back to as normal as possible. But reopening plans are fluid. Social distancing and masks are required for most businesses to reopen, including offices and restaurants. Here are some facts and data about facial coverings and why states are mandating them.

    All masks are not equal

    The N95 mask is the one known to block 95% of particles from entering your nose and mouth. But due to serious shortages and need for medical personnel, the Centers for Disease Control does not recommend N95 masks for the general public. Surgical masks block out about 70% of particles, according to Professor May Chu of Colorado School of Public Health. Surgical masks are also in short supply, however, and not recommended to the public by health officials.

    Cloth masks, particularly bandanas and makeshift masks made from T-shirt fabrics, are recommended by health officials. But these masks only block about 2% of airflow, according to Professor Chu. They also lack the moisture-repelling layers of the aforementioned masks. It's because of these airflow issues that many people, both public officials and the general public, are skeptical about masks. Toilet paper, sanitizer and disposable masks are beginning to show up on store shelves again, however. The ear-loop, non-fiberglass masks that come in packs of 25 are effective for the general public.

    More mask recommendations

    Dr. Lynora Saxinger is an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at the University of Alberta Medical School. She told Medical Xpress in early May that the body of work proving or disproving the effectiveness of masks for the general public is uncertain. Dr. Saxinger also said that masks can protect others around you when you're sick. But evidence is sketchy on whether masks protect you as well. She concluded that masks make sense in areas with increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and could in fact slow the spread of the disease.

    Eco Office has been doing its part in curtailing the spread of coronavirus in the Bay Area. We provide essential services to businesses, including plexiglass barriers and dividers, aka "sneeze guards." We have retrofitted thousands of cubicles in the Bay Area with plexiglass dividers to assist companies with compliance with COVID-19 mandates. We also redesign office spaces with partitions to ensure proper social distancing. Give us a call today at 408-437-1700 to discuss your needs.

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