Revisiting the Protective Value of Barrier Face Coverings After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Theodore J. Witek Jr, DrPH; James A. Scott, PhD; John R. Balmes, MD


Am J Public Health. 2022;112(6):846-849. 

In This Article

But Everyone is Tired of it all!

Except for handwashing and the opportunity to support a "new hygiene normal" postpandemic, COVID-weary humans are craving for interaction and freedom from mandates, however effective they have been. While respecting the need for renewed social normalcy in due course, let's not overlook a critical opportunity to leverage what has been learned. For example, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have created a mask innovation challenge, prompting designs that address cost and ease of production, effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 and similar viruses, readable facial expression, intelligible speech, compatibility with eyewear, nonirritation of skin, long-use comfort, and ease of breathing.[21]

In conclusion, there are several areas where BFCs are likely to remain highly useful after the COVID-19 pandemic and anxiety about the emergence of new variants subside. These opportunities need to consider environmental settings, periods of higher risk, and evidenced-based rationale. Mandates may not be necessary, but common sense will be helpful. As noted by Lee and Lee,[22] those who believe that crisis is a combination of danger and opportunity may take guidance from Winston Churchill's words that "a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."