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Wednesday, July 28, 2021
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Cotton face masks aid in Delta variant surges

Double vaccination is shown to have efficacy against multiple variants. But in the case of unvaccinated people, countermeasures such as wearing face masks and hand hygiene are important.

In a recent press conference, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) stated, “Delta is the most transmissible of the variants identified so far. It has been identified in at least 85 countries and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations.”

Cotton-face-masks-aid-Delta-variant-surges
Figure: Face masks are an important protective measure.

This Delta variant is recognized as the cause of a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh, South Africa, and Sydney, Australia. Beginning July 1, Bangladesh will be in a strict lockdown under the watchful eyes of its military.

Bangladesh just recorded over 8,000 cases in a single day – a record since the pandemic started last year. Sydney is under a two-week lockdown to stop the spread of this variant.

While vaccination is the solution, until countries such as South Africa, Bangladesh, India, and others have enough vaccines to immunize the population, COVID-19 restrictions such as face covers and physical distancing are needed.

In densely populated areas, it may not be perfectly feasible to maintain physical distancing, but for the complete stay-at-home orders. In such cases, face masks are an important protective measure. Due to the increasing number of cases, Israel has also reinstated a mask mandate in indoor settings and large outdoor gatherings.

A street scene in the Uttara area in Dhaka, Bangladesh reinforces the need for face covers.

As the Delta variant is known to be highly contagious and is airborne, following COVID-19 safety protocols can save lives among unvaccinated people.

Ongoing research in the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech University has shown that multilayered nonwoven mats with layers made from cotton and sorbent fibers can exhibit over 90% filtration efficiency in trapping 30 nm-sized aerosols.

Since coronavirus particles normally range between 100-150 nm in diameter, nonwoven materials will be able to trap and destabilize them depending on the material of the filters. Reports show that cellulosic materials can quickly destabilize coronavirus compared to hard materials such as steel or plastic.

On June 25, an official from WHO stated, “Vaccine alone won’t stop the community transmission. People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, the physical distance, avoid crowding.”

Masks are important tools in the tool kit to protect people – importantly for those who are unvaccinated and who are immunocompromised.

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