The novel coronavirus brought a new definition of normal – which now includes wearing facemasks that cover your nose and mouth. We’ve seen some patients wearing a particular type of mask called a “valve mask” like the ones pictured below. While we thank you for masking up and doing your part to stop the spread of this virus, please do not wear these masks. Here’s why. Valve masks have a one-way valve allowing exhaled air to pass through a small round or square filter attached to the front. They only filter air breathed in, not breathed out. So it may protect the wearer from some pathogens in the air, but it does nothing to protect the people around you. When exhaled air passes unfiltered into the environment, it takes your respiratory droplets with it, and this is how coronavirus spreads. Your breath, sneezes, coughs, respiratory droplets still spread. This valved mask defeats the purpose of the CDC’s universal masking guidelines – to prevent transmission from infected individuals (with or without symptoms) to people around them.
So, if you get your hands on an N95 with a valve and you think because N95s are the gold standard for protection it will protect those around you, it won’t. The N95 masks reserved for healthcare professionals’ use don’t contain this valve. We understand the valved masks are a little more comfortable for the wearer, but during this pandemic, a homemade cloth mask, bandana, or surgical mask is far superior. Please replace your valved mask with one of these options instead.