‘Retire the cloth mask’: Ohio doctors suggest upgrading face covering

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW) — With a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the country, doctors are recommending wearing hospital-grade masks that are more effective at limiting the spread of the virus.

On Friday, Florida broke its previous record for new daily cases, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The previous record was broken by more than 4,000 individual cases for a total of 31,758 current infections.

Doctors have said mitigation measures including masking and social distancing are critical in slowing the spread of the omicron variant and keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed.

They said now is the time to upgrade from a cloth mask to a mask that’s more effective in reducing the spread of the virus.

At the start of the pandemic, health officials said cloth masks could be worn amid a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment.

“I think the time is really here to retire the cloth mask,” University Hospitals infectious disease specialist Dr. Amy Edwards said.

Doctors suggest wearing a hospital-grade isolation mask — also referred to as a surgical mask — or a well-fitted N-95 or KN-95 mask that does not allow air gaps around your face.

“They would have to make sure it’s extremely well-fitted,” Edwards said of N-95 and KN-95 masks.

Edwards said it’s also important to ensure a surgical mask is made by a reputable manufacturer and provides waterproofing to prevent the spread of droplets.

But a recent shortage of disposable masks will have to put Edwards’ plan on pause.

“In terms of a general shortage of some PPE products that exist in North America and the US, it’s related to a global supply chain issue that we’re going through – one related to COVID-19,” says Greg Tsagris, the President of Phoenix Quality Manufacturing, a face mask manufacturer in Jackson, Ohio.

He also says another reason for the shortage is the need for face masks has not been consistent.

“One of the things with masks, it’s not like food products where there’s a steady demand, because people need to eat every day. Masks have [their] flow based on previous flare ups.”

While it’s still too early to know exactly when the supply chain will fulfill the delayed shipments, the CDC says there are a few options for anyone if they are ever without a disposable face mask, including using cloth masks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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