Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of COVID-19. Sadly, many Jamaicans now minimize the threat of the illness, and some have grown complacent about wearing them. Despite a government mandate to wear masks in public spaces, one maskless woman in Downtown Kingston told TVJ news “You know, we Jamaicans don’t really go by rules.” Now is not the time for such indiscipline. COVID-19 is as present and as dangerous as ever. Please stay safe and stay masked!

So today, let's brush up on why masks are important, which masks work best and how to wear your mask effectively.

WHY we wear masks
Wearing a mask is highly recommended, but do you really know why? While masks protect you from breathing in any infected droplets released by a novel coronavirus carrier, they are encouraged because the right mask prevents you from spreading the virus.  for months, much of the spreading of the novel coronavirus is from asymptomatic carriers. Remember, having no symptoms doesn’t make you any less contagious. Just do the right thing and wear the right mask if you have to go anywhere.

WHICH mask to wear
The right mask is crucial. Any mask or face covering you choose must limit the amount of air that escapes back into the atmosphere. As such, experts advise against wearing masks with exhalation valves or one-way filters as those are designed to allow exhaled air to escape and can actually propel the infected droplets further than if you were maskless. Research from Duke University found that other coverings, like kerchiefs and neck gaiters, were similarly harmful. They performed worse than not wearing a mask because they break larger spit particles into smaller drops that can linger in the air for longer.

While N95 masks remain the gold standard, triple layer surgical masks and homemade (or vendor-bought) cotton masks also perform well.

HOW to wear them
Even the best masks will fail if worn improperly. How we wear our masks is as critical as which one we wear. Before you leave the house, remember these five key steps:

  1. Before you put on your mask, disinfect your hands either by washing them with soap for 20 seconds or rubbing them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Dry them thoroughly; germs spread more easily on wet hands.
  2. As you put on your mask, ensure it covers your nose, right up to the bridge, mouth and chin, and fits snugly, leaving no gaps between it and your face. Avoid touching your face or the front of the mask while wearing it.
  3. When it’s safe to take it off, be sure to remove it by the straps or ear loops. Disinfect your hands again. 
  4. While we can reuse our cloth masks, wash them after every use. Dispose of any single-wear masks properly.
  5. Disinfect your hands again, just to be safe.

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