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Do I need to wear a face mask to protect me from COVID-19 and other viruses?While originally, various world bodies including the WHO and CDC recommended against wearing face protection as a method of reducing the risks of catching COVID-19, face mask wearing is now either mandatory or strongly recommended in nearly all jurisdictions, including Canada. As the pandemic has progressed, evidence has shown that the virus can be asymptomatic (i.e. people exhibit or feel no symptoms), but is still transmissible in many individuals. Experts are now almost universally recommending face protection for anyone going out in public, in addition to their guidance on handwashing and physical distancing. Additionally, it appears that transmission of the virus has been significantly lower in societies where face mask wearing for illness prevention has been prevalent, like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam.
What type of mask/respirator should I choose?At Mask Depot, we believe the best face masks / respirators for you or your family are ones that you will wear. Typically, this means masks that will fit you well (the right size/shape), ones that are easy to breathe in, and in some cases, ones that look good. Mask Depot has a wide variety of masks to choose from to help you get there. We recommend that you get a mask that is rated. For surgical or procedure masks, that means an ASTM rating (1, 2 or 3) or a European rating. For respirators, that can mean the North American N95 standard, the European FFP2 or 3 standard, the Korean KF94 standard, or the Chinese KN95 standard. Any mask/respirator that is non-rated means that it may not have been made to any standard. There are no checks to see what the mask is made of, or how well it can protect you. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a shortage of rated masks and people were encouraged to use either cloth or non-medical disposable masks. There is no longer a shortage of rated masks in Canada. There are many affordable options from Mask Depot and other suppliers. In general, the type of mask you should use (Surgical vs Respirator) can be viewed as situational. With COVID clearly being airborne, the highest level of protection is a Respirator. While surgical masks may have similar specifications to a respirators, the difference is in the way they fit. Because of the design, it is almost impossible for a surgical mask to have a near air-tight fit. So even though the mask itself can filter 98%+ of particles and bacteria (ASTM Level 3), these particles are small enough to easily reach your face around the edges of the mask. Respirators are designed for a much tighter fit. For respirators, not only are the materials tested, but they are actually tested on peoples' faces. So a 95% or 94% rating for a respirator is generally superior to the 98% you may see on a surgical mask (no face test). So if you are in a workplace, or are attending an event where you have prolonged exposure (15 minutes +) to other people you should opt for a respirator style mask if at all possible. ASTM-rated surgical masks are still a good option for lower risk scenarios, or if they provide the best fit. It is often difficult to find respirators in smaller sizes (children, teens, etc.) whereas there are options in these sizes in surgical masks.
Should I be using a cloth face mask or a disposable face mask?Due to the onset of COVID-19 and the severe global mask shortage, many jurisdictions have recommended that people wear home-made cloth masks as an alternative to disposable masks. The thinking is that by doing so, people would still have some protection, but medical grade masks could be saved for hospital and other front-line workers. Mask Depot highly recommends that people wear some kind of face covering when they are out in public and unable to maintain a safe physical distance between other individuals. We firmly believe that the best option for this is to use disposable 3-ply masks. Disposable 3-ply masks are designed to be worn and to be easily breathable, thereby increasing the likelihood that individuals will wear them for longer periods of time. Also, they can be quickly and safely disposed of in sealed bags or containers after use, reducing the likelihood of virus transmission from contaminants on the mask. We do encourage individuals to be environmentally responsible and dispose of masks properly. Some common issues with "home-made" face masks: 1) There are no standards for home-made or cloth face masks. As a result, you just don't know whether the mask will provide you with much protection. 2) Because cloth face masks tend to be made with more porous fabric, more layers are required to provide adequate protection. This creates a mask that is heavier, hotter and more difficult to breathe in, reducing the likelihood that individuals will wear them, or wear them properly. 3) If you are using cloth face masks, it is recommended that you have several of them and that you wash the ones you have used DAILY. It may be necessary to wear more than one cloth mask a day depending on the environment or who you may have come in contact with. On hot days, cloth masks will often become wet from sweat, reducing their effectiveness and making them uncomfortable to wear. If you are using multiple cloth masks per day, please ensure you have sealable container to put your used masks in to prevent any spread of viruses or bacteria that may have become present on your mask.
What are FFP2 respirators from MaskLab?FFP2 is one of the European standards for respirators. It is equivalent to the North American N95 standard, and is used widely around the world, outside of North America. Mask Depot carries FFP2 masks made by MaskLab in Hong Kong. MaskLab makes some of the highest quality masks and respirators in the world, in addition to having a broad array of patterns and colours to meet peoples preferences. MaskLabs FFP2 masks are made with a Korean design similar to KF94s. We have chosen this type of respirator because it fits extremely well and is easy to breathe in, despite have high levels of filtration. MaskLab has their masks and respirators tested independently by labs in the US, Europe and Hong Kong. They also have their own testing equipment to ensure ongoing quality. They have been reviewed by a number of independent experts in the US and have been given some of the highest recommendations. While Masklab is a relatively new company (started at the beginning of the pandemic), they have grown quickly. They have 9 retail outlets in Hong Kong as well as a US presence. Additionally they have manufacturing facilities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. They stand behind their products and have been a valued partner of Mask Depot since August 2020.
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