I can’t believe we still talk about masks, two years into this Covid pandemic. It is nostalgic to think of the days when my patients and I could talk freely to each other without fearing that we could inadvertently infect each other with a deadly virus. I often wonder now, how my new patients look below their masks, as I can see only their eyes. I try to make light of wearing a mask, and remind myself of all the positive aspects, like how it has helped me stay away from the virus all this time.
It’s less distracting when looking at a patients’ face now, since there are no more shades of lipstick that catch my eyes. Women tend to wear more simple earrings, so they won’t get caught in the ear loops of the masks. Maybe it’s nicer that everyone looks almost the same; there ’s no more judgment of how one looks. Beauty does not outlive death from a viral crisis.
For almost two years, many people used cloth masks to express a little bit about themselves . I saw so many elegant masks, from flower patterns in the summer, to animals that people adore, from companies’ or sports teams’ logos, to abstract artsy patterns. And then the Omicron variant arrived along with newer research, changing the likelihood of seeing all those “identity” or fashionable masks.
Infectious disease experts including those at the CDC recently advised that people should shed their cloth masks and wear more protective masks such as N95 or KN95 which filter out a much higher percentages of viral particles. Omicron is so infectious that in the U.S., it has been responsible for more than 95% of all Covid cases in recent days. The chart below demonstrates the danger of wearing cloth masks while being with someone who carries the COVID virus.
What to make of this chart? N95 masks greatly protect us from being infected with Covid, especially when we are dealing with the highly infectious variant Omicron. A few important take away lessons from this chart:
— when we wear an N95 mask, even if the infected person wears NO mask, it would take on average 2.5 hours of interaction to get an infectious dose of viral particles.
—When both parties wear SURGICAL masks, it would take only an hour before the virus is transmitted, and only 40 minutes if one party wears cloth masks
— If both parties are wearing N95 masks, it might take as long as 25 hours for the virus to be transmitted from the infected party.
N95 masks are much more available and reasonable in price now as compared to when this pandemic started in 2020. Below are some links to useful articles to help you select reliable N95 or KN95 masks to protect you and your families:
Until the Covid crisis settles down, take good care of yourself by gaining extra protection from better masks like N95 or KN95. I know it is so uncomfortable wearing N95 masks all day at work. I have been drinking less water, and no longer eat snacks occasionally between patients. For all I know, Omicron has led to more weight loss from the weight I gained in 2020 when the pandemic started! However, it’s probably easier for me to breathe under an N95 mask than to have lung complications from this deadly virus and stop breathing all together. For now, I will hold my snacks and, every few hours, carefully take off my N95 briefly, behind a closed door, for some sips of water. It is worth the inconvenience for me during this crisis to stay uninfected as long as I can.