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COMIC: You're Wearing It Wrong! A Face Mask Safety Refresher

One cat shows an ad for masks on their phone to their friend. "Hey, look at these stylish masks! Wanna buy some?" "Not really," the friend replies, "Those masks look improperly vented. The models are wearing the masks wrong too."
A conversation between the cats. "I'm realizing I don't know as much about mask safety as I thought I did," says the cat with the phone. "And look at all these ads ... how do I know which ones are safe?"
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The other cat jumps to its feet and poses, arms out, "Seems like it's time for a refresher on mask safety!" The words "refresher for mask safety" are in a red bubble font with streamers popping out around it. "How are you making your words look like that?" asks the first cat.
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First off, face masks! What's out there? N95 masks block 95% of small airborne particles, but are in short supply. KN95s are the Chinese counterpart, but testing has revealed inconsistent quality. Surgical masks are designed to mostly protect others from the wearer. The effectiveness of fabric masks depends on different criteria.
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Some criteria that make a safer fabric mask: tight weave fabric; multiple layers of fabric (ideally two layers and a filter); a tight seal and shape that cups to your face; and pleats or folds.
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Polypropylene and four layers of tissue paper are both good filter materials. Coffee filters are not safe to use. And if a filter isn't an option, three or more layers of tight weave fabric also does a decent job.
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Some mask no-nos: valves or vents without a filter, reusing masks without washing, counterfeit masks, or improperly wearing a mask.
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You breathe out of your nose and mouth, so both need to be covered at all times when wearing a mask to protect yourself and others. When removing a mask, grab by the loops. If reusing a fabric mask, make sure to wash it daily.
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"Well, that's all from me!" the cat giving the presentation finishes, "Even with a safer mask, close and prolonged contact can still be risky." "Like the hour it took to give this presentation?" the other one snarks.
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"Aw, I'm just messing with you," continues the cat who just spoke, "All this info can be a lot to keep up with, but I want to learn to help keep us and everyone around us safe." "Well, it's a team effort!" remarks the other cat. "We're all in this together."
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This comic is based on reporting by Maria Godoy of NPR.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.