It is hard to believe sometimes that we have been living with the extended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the last two years already. One of the most significant changes that we experienced to our day-to-day habits was the masking requirements that were put in place.
Prior to the pandemic, it would have been very uncommon to see someone walking around with a mask on, and in many cases if someone were to do that, they were likely to experience judgement from others. However, nowadays this has changed quite a bit, as the pandemic has made masking the norm. Here in Ontario, and in many other Canadian provinces, masking mandates have been lifted, and many find themselves wondering whether they should continue using a mask.
While using masks is still strongly encouraged, it is no longer a requirement in many settings. Some simply would prefer not to mask because of the inconvenience that they might experience, while others may be worried about the social perception that wearing a mask might bring with it. Whatever choice that you make, it is important to know what that choice entails.
Should I keep wearing a mask?
As it stands, wearing a mask is the safest choice that you can make for yourself, and even those around you. While it may not be necessary in some places, that does not mean that not wearing one is inherently the better option. The general consensus right now is that if you can wear a mask, wear it. Ideally, masking becomes less important when case counts are below two people in every 100,000 people. Once that amount is exceeded, then you should start to think about how to protect yourself and others by using a mask. Unfortunately, with the way that cases are being tracked right now, it is impossible to get a clear idea of what sort of ratio we have going on currently. Most experts would say that we have somewhere in the area of ten times more cases than are currently counted, putting us significantly higher than two in 100,000 people, meaning that the safest choice for everyone right now is to use a mask.
Who will be most affected by the mask mandate being dropped?
Our population of immunocompromised people will have to change their living behaviours the most. Prior to the end of the masking mandate, everyone had to make modifications to their lifestyle in some way, and while some changes will still remain for most people, it is immunocompromised individuals that will have to sacrifice the most for their own well being. It is impossible to completely isolate the immunocompromised population from the larger society, and if we could, that still would not be the right thing to do. The reality is that we must all live together. This means focusing on societal and group efficacy, rather than focusing on our individual wants. Many other countries in the world do not have a problem in conducting themselves in this way. Wearing a mask is not a large sacrifice to make so that everyone can be as safe as possible, and so that we as a society can live more freely in every other regard.
How do I decide where I should wear a mask?
The first thing that anyone should do before taking a mask off is have an idea of what environment they are going into. This will usually mean putting a mask on before going in, so that you can safely scope out a place. Environments that have ceilings that are less than twelve feet high or lots of smaller rooms around will be less able to properly circulate air, meaning that they pose a higher risk. Furthermore, if you can smell aromas that are not directly in front of you, then that will also indicate that there is not a lot of ventilation in that space. Using a mask in such a scenario is highly advised.
Another thing to watch out for is places that experience a lot of traffic. These places will be more likely to pose a risk of contraction regardless of their size, just because of the number of people.
Should I send my children to school with a mask?
Once again, if we were looking at a scenario where less than two in 100,000 people in schools were contracting COVID-19, then not masking in schools would be okay. However, right now this is not even close to being the case. Another factor to consider is that most children have not had three doses of a vaccine, let alone two. The effects of illness will probably not be as bad for the average child, but the odds of contracting the virus compared to an adult are technically worse. These children can then return home and infect family members, even those more at risk of severe effects, like grandparents. We should be protecting children as much as possible right now, and in order to do this they should still be wearing masks.
I would like to continue masking. What sort of mask should I be wearing?
The most important quality that an effective mask has is a good seal. A good seal will cover both the nose and the mouth. Cloth masks are not as popular as they used to be and they are less effective overall. The best types of masks to wear are medical respirators with a 95 rating, like N95s or KN95s. Second to those would be surgical masks. Whatever you decide to use, try to have something with at least three layers of protection.
Masks should also be comfortable. This is a quality that is often overlooked, but having a comfortable mask can lead to good mask wearing habits. Uncomfortable masks can cause people to perform actions like pulling down masks to scratch their nose or breathe. Men should also refrain from having beards when wearing masks, as they can have a negative effect on maintaining a good seal. No air should escape from a mask while you are wearing it, so if you feel air on your eyes, or your glasses are fogging up, then you are not getting a strong seal.
Should I be wearing a mask moving forward?
Always put a mask/respirator on before walking into a place or a room. This will allow you to get an idea of how safe a space is without immediately putting yourself at risk. You can use social media to get an idea of how bad case counts are. Social media will be the first place to see the effects of dropping mask mandates, like a rise in cases, as many people will mention when they are COVID-19 positive. Right now, people’s self efficacy is at a high. Most are okay with using a mask and taking the right precautions. This may change though in the future, as some people become more relaxed. Using barrier protections like masking has always had lots of value, and it will continue to do so in the future as well, regardless of what most people decide to do. Try to be cautious, as it is always best to assume that there are more cases than we can know about.
Where can I get mask fit tested for an N95 rated mask?
If you are interested in getting a mask fit test for work or even just for the extra safety that it provides, then you can click here for our qualitative mask fit testing services. We even offer a selection of masks that you can choose from.