Within just a few months of mask mandates being lifted, they are slowly being put back in place to keep ourselves and others safe.  

Winona State has issued a mask mandate to ensure a safe and healthy return this fall. This is mask mandate happened because we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant and partly because our campus vaccination rate is currently unknown.  

The Delta variant is more transmissible compared to other variants and strains of COVID-19. It’s claimed to be just as transmissible as chickenpox by public health officials. It takes smaller particles of this new variant to transfer to others, meaning that wearing an effective, well-fitting mask will help keep those particles from spreading to others.

Face Covering & Social Distancing Non-Compliance Reporting

See someone on campus that made you feel unsafe by not wearing a mask or being too close in your personal space?

As we begin our fall semester, you may want to revamp your masking attire. Chances are your masks have been washed dozens of times which causes the fabric to loosen and be less effective. When shopping for new masks, keep these tips in mind on how to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Wearing Your Mask 

Before we dive in any further, let’s go back to the basics and talk about how you should properly wear a mask, so it protects yourself and others around you. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Your mouth and nose should be fully covered. 
  • Your mask should fit snugly against the sides of your face, so there are no gaps. 
  • You shouldn’t have any difficulty breathing while wearing the cloth face covering. 
  • Your mask should be tied or otherwise secured to prevent slipping. 
  • You should handle your mask with the straps or strings, and you should avoid touching the front of your mask. 
  • You should wash or sanitize your hands before putting the mask on and after taking it off. 

 

Types of Masks

There are two types of protective masks depending on how many layers are built in. 

3-Layer Cloth Face Mask

You may be wondering, What does each layer do for me? And what do they do for others? 

The outer layermade of non-absorbent material like polyester or another poly-blend fabrichelps to keep other airborne particles from coming into your mask. 

The middle layer, made of synthetic material or fibers like nylon, acts as a filter to help prevent particles from coming in and going out. 

Finally, the inside layer, made of absorbent material like cotton, helps to absorb particles coming out.

2-Layer Cloth Face Mask

This is another option for you while shopping for a mask. The type usually includes a filter pocket where the filter is “sandwiched” between the outer and inner layers.  

Filters help boost the effectiveness of the mask. Three kinds of filters include: 

  • HEPA filters 
  • Carbon filters 
  • Coffee filters 

You can also make your own filter by using a piece of synthetic material like nylon, polyester, acrylic, or spandex. 

Regardless of which type of mask you choose, remember to wash it regularly or replace your filter after each use. 

What to Avoid

Avoid exhalation valves or vents on the mask because these haven’t been proven to be more effective and pose a risk of increased particles going in and out of your mask. Also avoid neck tubes, neck gaiters, scarves, and bandannas. 

Don’t consider a cloth mask to be the end-all-be-all method of reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19. According to the CDC, cloth masks should be used along with other recommended practices like physical distancing, hand washing, and staying at home. 

Shape & Fit of Mask

Shape

The shape of the mask you choose is another factor that can dictate its effectiveness. 

Cone style masks, which form to your face, provide the most amount of protection. If this shape isn’t available near you, look for masks with a nose wire to provide a more “snug fit.” You should also check the product dimensions to find the correct size to purchase. 

Improve Your Fit

A well fitted mask that’s snug up against your face is key to having the most effective mask. 

New CDC guidance focuses on the importance of wearing a face mask that fits snug on your face. If your face mask fits snugly in will better protect yourself and others. Below are a few ways to improve mask fit and filtration. 

What to Do

Wear a mask with a nose wire. A nose wire helps to improve fit of your mask and prevents air from leaking out the top of your mask.  

Wear a mask with a filter or brace. This will provide a snugger fit and help to prevent air from leaking out of your mask.  

Wear a mask that fits snug around your nose, mouth and chin. This will help to prevent air from leaking out of your mask.  

Wear a mask with at least two layers or add layers to improve mask fit. If you have a cloth mask with only one layer consider putting a disposable mask underneath it to improve fit and protection.  

Knot and tuck your ear loops to make a more snug fit when wearing a 3-Ply disposable facemask.  

What Not to Do

DO NOT wear two disposable masks at one time. Disposable masks are not meant to fit tightly so wearing more than one will not improve fit.  

DO NOT add another mask or layer to a KN95 mask.  

DO NOT wear a mask if it causes you to have difficulty breathing. 

Mask Effectiveness 

You want a mask that looks good, feels good, and does its job. There are two ways you can test the effectiveness of your mask: 

1. Flashlight Test – Shine a flashlight onto your cloth mask. Can the light shine through? If yes, then you need more layers or a different filter. 

2. Candle Test – Carefully light a candle. Can you blow it out while wearing your mask? If no, then you’re good to go! 

 

Got Fog? 

You know what’s more annoying than having to wear a mask? Wearing a mask that fogs up your glasses. 

To prevent your vision from being compromised, wear your glasses over your mask. Selecting a mask with a nose wire will provide a more “snug fit” and keep your breaths inside. You can also use medical adhesive to lightly tape your mask onto your face to further prevent fogging. 

 

Mask Washing 101

Masks should be washed daily or at least in between each use. Machine washing and drying is best and can be washed with other clothing. Here’s what you do: 

  1. Fill a basin or bucket with hot water, 1-2 tablespoons of detergent or 1 Tide Pod, and your mask(s). 
  2. Cover the basin or bucket with lid and shake until the water gets sudsy. 
  3. Soak your mask for 30 minutes, then drain. 
  4. Refill the basin or bucket with water to rinse. 
  5. Rinse the rest of the soap out of your mask with the running water. 
  6. Lay down your mask flat or hang it up to dry. 

Where to Buy Face Masks  

If your mask is starting to exhibit signs of wear and tear such as holes or material thinning it may be time to consider buying a new face mask or changing it out with a newer one that you have. Below are online stores and places in Winona that have masks available for purchase.  

In-Store

  • Target  
  • Walmart  
  • Walgreens  
  • Menards  
  • Fleet Farm 

Mask Accessories

Mask Holder and Extender – Helps to take pressure off your ears and fit your mask tightly to your face. 

Face Mask Lanyard –  Helps hold mask in place both when in use and when not in use.  

Mask Cord Adjuster – Helps you to adjust your masks ear straps so that your mask fits better.  

Mask Brace – Helps secure loose fitting masks and minimizes air leakage. 

We recommend owning multiple masks to rotate and clean, especially if you have in-person classes or are an essential worker. 

If we follow these guidelines together, then we will overcome this pandemic together. Let’s each do our part! 

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Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson graduated in 2020 with a degree in Art: I-Design. As a student, she worked with the University Marketing & Communications team as a writer and photographer. She was hired after graduation to support public health communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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