Essential businesses are requiring Angelenos to protect others by wearing masks.
By Cassandra Nava, Staff Writer
Since April 10, Los Angeles county residents have been required, by a city order, to wear face masks or coverings when performing essential tasks. However, many still have questions regarding their effectiveness and protection.
The requirement to wear face masks or coverings was placed in order to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to the CDC, wearing a face mask is crucial in protecting others and should be worn by everyone; although doing so is one way to slow the spread. Officials warn that masks should not replace the previous instruction of protection against coronavirus such as remaining socially distant and continuing to disinfect hands as frequently as possible.
“Early data suggests that many who are infected with COVID-19 are not symptomatic, which is why we recommend all members of the public wear cloth face coverings when leaving the house for essential activities,” according to a Los Angeles guidance on masks.
A common misconception about cloth and disposable face masks is that they protect both the person wearing it and those around them. A cloth or disposable mask is only effective in not spreading viruses to others — which leaves the person wearing it still at risk. In order to reduce this risk, the CDC states that the only way to prevent illness is to not allow any exposure to the virus, which means that social distancing of at least 6 feet should still be stressed.
Due to the short supply of medical protective gear, N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare workers only, according to the FDA. N95 masks are best for healthcare workers because they are a type of respirator which block out 95 percent of particles, according to mayoclinic.org. Medical professionals and healthcare workers expose themselves to possible infections daily. Due to this fact, LA County asks that those who are searching for face coverings of any kind buy cloth masks, make their own or use some kind of cloth covering around their nose and mouth.
On Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office website, there is information for making masks and a free downloadable template. There is also a link that allows individuals to purchase cloth masks sewn by local Los Angeles businesses. The popularity of making masks also brings concerns about what materials are best to use and how someone can make them as similar to N95 masks. Filters made from household objects can be used to block incoming particles, which would protect the person wearing the mask.
According to the New York Times, “Scientists around the country have identified everyday materials that do a better job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored well, as did vacuum cleaner bags, layers of 600-count pillowcases and fabric similar to flannel pajamas. Stacked coffee filters had medium scores.”
Face mask requirements differ in other counties in Southern California. In Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino Counties, it is mandatory when entering essential businesses, while in Riverside and Orange County a mask is required for anyone leaving their home, according to the LA Times.
“There may be a benefit to reducing asymptomatic transmission and reinforcing physical distancing from the use of face coverings,” stated a document from the California Department of Public Health. “However, face coverings may increase risk if users reduce their use of strong defenses, such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing, when using face coverings.”