Wednesday, August 5, 2020

See Through Face Masks

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Transparency is one of the most used words of the day. Often, though, transparency is difficult in practice and may seem opaque to those demanding it but here is a case where transparency and practice meet.

Case: transparent face masks.

Who really needs them? Deaf people and the hard of hearing who read lips  Teachers who work with children. Caregivers who work with the elderly. Those who miss smiling at their students.

To my surprise, prototypes and custom made models are increasingly available and according to a report on transparent face masks, NPR's  Business Desk correspondent, Yoki Noguchi"At least one company — Clear Mask (her essay provides a link), based in Baltimore — has gone so far as to seek and earn FDA "'clearance'" that its mask with a transparent panel is "'substantially equivalent'" to a medical-grade surgical mask for hospitals and other front-line uses."

ClearMask, was started by four Johns Hopkins University students and has attracted considerable attention worldwide according to Noguchi.

You may wonder whether the transparent face shields work. Obviously, they would appear to. But there is an issue as Noguchi notes. "[T]hey are open at the bottom and not recommended by the CDC "'for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings,'" according to the agency's website (linked). And after a coronavirus outbreak in a Swiss restaurant recently — one in which employees wearing face shields became infected with the virus, while those in cloth masks didn't — health officials in Switzerland and some European countries also have been panning reliance on face shields (linked)."

I have seen health care professionals using both non-see through masks and face shields which seems like a good practice, e.g., "open your mouth and say "Ah" where faces are close to one another.

One mask seamstress who is an elementary teacher has turned her summer to making masks as well as  custom transparent masks that use the plastic, Mylar. When asked about the efficacy of such homemade masks, David Aronoff, director of infectious disease at the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation said "'We know that the virus cannot penetrate plastic or solid materials, so see-through masks provide potentially a great option for balancing infection prevention with the desire to be able to see somebody's mouth move.'

"'The main thing that we really need to get people to understand is that wearing a face covering is really important. And if it helps them to wear one that has a cut-out in the middle with a piece of plastic to make it easier to see — that's great.'"

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