As a business, Great Scot endeavours to operate using peer-reviewed data and statistical insights as an axiom for our evidence-based approach to decision making.
By donating thousands of well made, well-fitting double thickness fabric masks, we aim to support the drive to slow the transmission of coronavirus, COVID-19 and help spare the dwindling supplies of critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers.
We believe that if our actions can save the life of even one person, our efforts will be hugely rewarded.
We thought we would share with you just some of the evidence that persuaded us that we should redirect much of our garment production to this effort.
Having told their populations that wearing masks was all but useless against the coronavirus, several western countries have performed dramatic U-turns in the last few days.
In Europe, people wearing face masks in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic were often met with strange looks. Now the tide seems to be shifting their way.
While most western countries’ authorities didn’t initially recommend the practice for the general population, multiple governments from the Czech Republic to the U.S. now oblige or recommend everyone to cover their mouth and nose.
THE ROBERT KOCH INSTITUTE UPDATED THEIR ADVICE ON APRIL 3RD, 2020
"Through a mouth-nose protection (MNS) or, in the current shortage, a textile barrier in the sense of an MNS (so-called community mask or mouth-nose covering), droplets that can be e.g. Intercepted when speaking, coughing or sneezing. This can reduce the risk of infecting another person through coughing, sneezing or talking (third-party protection)". Full document can be found here: https://www.rki.de/SharedDocs/FAQ/NCOV2019/FAQ_Mund_Nasen_Schutz.html
THE FEDERAL INSTITUTE FOR DRUGS AND MEDICAL DEVICES (UPDATED 31ST MARCH, 2020)
trans. "The best protection against potential virus transmission is still offered by consistently distancing yourself from other, potentially virus-carrying people. Nonetheless, (this) physical barrier, which is the proper wearing of a community mask, can provide some protection against larger droplets and mouth/nose mucous membrane contact.
In France, the ACADÉMIE NATIONALE DE MÉDECINE (National Academy of Medicine) ruled on Friday that a "general public" mask should be made compulsory for outings during and after confinement. The French government itself changed its position by announcing the manufacture of "alternative" masks to be used by the public, other than medical ones.
In the USA THE SURGEON GENERAL Dr Jerome Adams made the following statement on April 3, 2020:
In light of new evidence, @CDCgov recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html …
Dr Anthony Fauci, who is leading the US government's response, has backed research that the disease can be suspended in ultra-fine mist formed when people exhale. He contends that research indicates "the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing. The recent studies Dr Fauci refers to are listed here:
- Rothe C, Schunk M, Sothmann P, et al. Transmission of 2019-nCoV Infection from an Asymptomatic Contact in Germany. The New England journal of medicine. 2020;382(10):970-971.
- Zou L, Ruan F, Huang M, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load in Upper Respiratory Specimens of Infected Patients. The New England journal of medicine. 2020;382(12):1177-1179.
- Pan X, Chen D, Xia Y, et al. Asymptomatic cases in a family cluster with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The Lancet Infectious diseases. 2020.
- Bai Y, Yao L, Wei T, et al. Presumed Asymptomatic Carrier Transmission of COVID-19. Jama. 2020.
- Kimball A HK, Arons M, et al. Asymptomatic and Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Residents of a Long-Term Care Skilled Nursing Facility — King County, Washington, March 2020. MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2020; ePub: 27 March 2020.
- Wei WE LZ, Chiew CJ, Yong SE, Toh MP, Lee VJ. Presymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — Singapore, January 23–March 16, 2020. MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2020;ePub: 1 April 2020.
- Li R, Pei S, Chen B, et al. Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2). Science (New York, NY). 2020.
Dr. Harvey Fineberg, former president of the National Academy of Medicine and head of a new federal committee on infectious diseases, told CNN on April 2 that he is wearing a mask in public, especially at grocery stores, for this very reason. "While the current specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing," he said. It is these "silent carriers" – people infected with the virus but without fever, cough, or muscle aches – that proponents of universal mask wearing point to as proof that more could be done beyond social distancing to slow the virus's spread.
THE CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL makes clear that the cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Throughout the USA Governors and mayors, however, have started encouraging the precautions to reduce the spread of the virus by people who might not know they are infected.
Some cities have gone as far as setting fines for failing to wear a mask. In Laredo, Texas, anyone over the age of five who walks into a store or takes public transit without their mouth and nose covered by a mask or bandana could now be fined up to $1,000.
These new measures are designed to "flatten the curve," or slow the spread of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.
The advice in the UK has been slow and mixed. The BBC in particular seems uncertain about their message to the British public.
On the one hand, yesterday (7th April, 2020) the BBC quoted the Westminster government who don't wish to encourage their uses as this might cause the public to be lulled into a false sense of security. The BBC link this to evidence and suggested that the use of homemade masks are dangerous. However, the evidence they link does seem instead to understand that cloth masks, while not a cure or as protective as clinical PPE, do have a role to play:
'Altogether, common fabric cloth masks are not considered protective against respiratory viruses and their use should not be encouraged. In the context of severe personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, and only if surgical masks or respirators are not available, home-made cloth masks (e.g. scarves) are proposed as a last-resort interim solution by the US CDC until availability of standard PPE is restored https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/face-masks.html [published March 26, 2020]
Conversely, today on BBC 4's More or Less program, Coronavirus deaths, facemasks and a potential baby boom, the panel discusses the current evidence recently published and conclude that, non-surgical masks – when used in conjunction with social distancing and washing your hands is "for the greater good" https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000h6cb
Both of the BBC articles were published/aired within 24 hours of each other. It is worth noting that the BBC 4 program More or Less has a mission statement where "Tim Hartford explains, - and sometimes debunks – the numbers and statistics used on political debate; the news and everyday life" https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qshd
Infection expert Dr Rupert Beale of the FRANCIS CRICK INSTITUTE IN LONDON refers to a recently published study in Nature. "This new study presents strong and compelling evidence in favour of mask-wearing." He asserts that "Public health officials must immediately take note of this important new evidence. Mask wearing does not completely prevent transmission... but (it) should form part of the 'exit strategy' from lockdown," he added. The research he refers to Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and the efficacy of face masks is here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0843-2
The WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is actively reviewing his stance on cloth face coverings. "There is an ongoing debate about the use of masks at community level…This is still a very new virus and we're learning all the time. As the pandemic evolves, so does the evidence and so does our advice," he added.
Another study determined that, while masks made out of cotton T-shirts were far less effective than manufactured surgical masks in preventing wearers from expelling droplets, they did reduce droplets and were better than no protection at all.
The surgical masks that doctors and nurses typically wear are designed for one-time use, while cloth masks used by the general public would likely be washed, which raises another concern.
A study from Nepal on cloth masks designed to protect wearers from larger particles, such as pollution or pollen, found that washing and drying practices deteriorated the mask's efficiency because they damaged the cloth material.
So, it is clear that urgent research is needed on the best material suitable for universal masks, their storage and care, or the creation of proper reusable masks for the public.
In the meantime, a well-made mask from robust, tightly woven material which is well-fitting may help the greater good if you are an asymptomatic spreader and it may offer protection to a healthy individual if combined with social distancing and strict hand-washing practices.
Our masks in no way should be considered as medical grade masks or a substitution for social distancing, thorough hand-washing or self-isolation.
Our cloth masks do not stop you from contracting COVID 19.
Our masks may lessen viral shedding from asymptomatic wearers while protecting diminishing PPE stocks which should be reserved for front line health-care professionals.
Remember to take your mask off from the back of your head. Do not touch it, or your face and wash your mask regularly.