Beautiful Virgin Islands

Tuesday, Oct 04, 2022

CMO recommends surgical, KN95 and N95 masks over cloth masks

CMO recommends surgical, KN95 and N95 masks over cloth masks

With COVID-19 continuing its latest surge in the Virgin Islands, Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Ronald Georges is once more urging residents and business owners to wear the proper masks and do so correctly.
Speaking at the recent stakeholders meeting hosted by the Ministry of Health last Thursday, Dr Georges said the issue of wearing masks correctly is very important as it will help in the reduction of the transmission of COVID-19.

This comes with the fear that the easily transmissible Omicron variant is already making its way through the territory despite no positive results returning from the samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

The Acting CMO said the current masks he has seen being worn by people in the Virgin Islands are virtually ineffective against protection from COVID-19 as the number of layers does not offer much protection from entry of the virus into your mouth and nasal passageways.

“We just want to drive home that a bandana or handkerchief around your mouth or those neck gaiters that people pull up over their mouths. Those are single layers of cloths and they quickly become wet with water vapour from exhalation, and these are not necessarily efficient ways of reducing transmission,” Dr Georges said.

“So, we want to insist that when people do come to your business, they are wearing a proper mask. A cloth mask should have more than two layers, but we prefer the surgical masks — the KN95 masks or the N95 masks,” the Acting CMO continued.

With this new recommendation, the concerns continue to rise on mask affordability and if the Health Ministry would aid in making masks available at local clinics for people who may not be able to afford them. However, when posed with the question at the stakeholder’s meeting, Dr Georges did not give a response to the question.

The N95, KN95, and surgical masks are designated as single-use masks because they are categorised as medical masks and usually medical professionals use them once to prevent cross-contamination when dealing with patients.

However, studies have shown that some of these single-use masks can be safely decontaminated for reuse two or three times without compromising their functional integrity.

Nonetheless, the issue of cost in comparison to the reusable cloth masks still poses a challenge to many people in the territory. During the early stages of the pandemic, BVI News conducted a study at various shops and stores in the territory to ascertain the cost of the single-use face masks.

It was found that a lot of local stores double the cost of the masks in comparison to others. Currently, a person can purchase a single surgical mask for at least a dollar at most stores across the territory.
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