The US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) updated its guidelines on face mask use earlier this week to warn the public to avoid masks with exhalation valves or vents as the organization continues to recommend general face mask use in the fight against COVID-19.
Most health authorities in the world continue to state that nearly everyone, infected or not, should practice wearing masks in public to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, which has already left over 740,000 dead globally.
“The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled out through holes in the material. This can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus,” the CDC explains on its site.
Face masks have been identified as a crucial tool in the global fight against the pandemic, lowering the risk of those infecting from spreading the virus, and those healthy from contracting it.
Research released last month on face masks further urged public caution in repeated use of individual masks. Scientists found that face masks could remain contaminated with the coronavirus for days, meaning wearers should treat their masks with care to prevent becoming infected with the virus.
While face masks are generally meant to be for single use in a medical setting, a shortage of personal protective equipment worldwide has many reusing their face masks, which could lead to infections.
The CDC has been recommending since April that cloth masks should be worn in public settings where social distancing measures are hard to practice, like in grocery stores and pharmacies, to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others,” a statement from the time read.
The CDC also said that cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials. Scrap fabric, a bandana, or an old t-shirt can be used to fashion a mask.