Dr. Bryran Ormond, assistant professor, Wilson College of Textiles, NC State explained respiratory protection in an “Ask an Expert” session with Jing Liang, Medical PPE Consulting LLC.
Dr. Ormand has typically worked in the area of chemical and biological protective equipment, but with the onslaught of the pandemic, began to focus on respiratory protection generally, as it relates to the spread of COVID-19.
The reason respiratory protection is so important is that respiration is the primary means of contracting a viral infection. “You get much quicker absorption,” he said.
Aside from more complex apparatus for supplying clean air. An atmosphere-supplied respirator is effective, but will not last for long periods of time, whereas an air-purifying respirator “can be worn for hours,” he said.
Most of us will not need either one of these, however, but we have undoubtedly all used some kind of face covering, which might be a surgical or procedural face mask. Its main purpose is to limit the transmission of aerosols and droplets from the wearer to another individual, possibly a patient in surgery.
Otherwise, there are simple cloth face coverings that will cut down on the amount of aerosol sent into the air. “Aerosols are generated when you talk, when you sing, when you breathe,” he said. “They are always being emitted when you breathe out.”
However, there are currently no mandates or guidelines concerning face coverings for the general public. “We refer to it as the wild west,” he said, “[but] there is now an effort to create guidelines, to lay out the specifications that manufacturers can use, so the public can have some understanding of how they perform.”
He also added that, rather than a political statement, “the act of wearing a face covering is a public health strategy.”