Merits of the masks

Popular mask choices all perform differently 


Carrigan Brush

photo illustration.

Story by Doug Kyles, news editor

There are few things that one can say everyone has in common. However, one can confidently say that the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 is a shared ordeal. And with this shared problem, comes a shared attempt at a solution: masking up. 

Masks. Face Coverings. Protection. It’s our responsibility, our last line of defense against the virus that worms its way into every facet of our life and the tool that’s allowed us to return to semi normalcy. Even beyond personal choice, the government itself ensures all in public are not without a shield between this world of disease and the bodies of the citizens they are duty-bound to protect. 

Not all masks, though, are created equal. And how could they be. In the months since March, countless varieties of masks have been created and adopted. Beyond simple mask personalization, these face coverings come in all different forms: medical-grade face masks, face shields, cloth DIY coverings, and buffs. Every choice has its pros and cons, some trade convenience for safety, and vice versa.

N95 Masks 

Considered the holy grail for mask technology, and for good reason, these “professional virus blockers” are named for their ability to filter up to 95% of airborne particulates, through medical grade filtration. It is no contest; these masks are consistently the best performer.

 However, as such a hot commodity, these masks are hard to come across. More often than not, they are reserved for healthcare workers, and thus few make their way to the hands of others. Attempt to shop online for one of these, and you’ll be met with knock off versions of N95’s, shady websites price gouging as much as possible, and — at the very least — extended shipping times. 

Disposable Surgical Masks

The N95’s little brother, disposable surgical masks are not a poor choice in terms of efficacy, originating from a medical setting, unlike many other of these choices. 

“I prefer disposable masks because it feels easier to breathe,” senior Cate Rounds said. “And, they’re supposed to be safer when it comes to avoiding the virus.”

Cheaply obtained and just as easily disposed of, they are fairly convenient, at the expense of the environment. In fact, along with the usual swaths of plastic cups and aluminum cans, a new genre of litter has surfaced. Now, hand sanitizer bottles, latex gloves and of course, disposable masks, have made their way into our oceans. And while there are certainly places for single use items like these, perhaps something that must be worn and replaced every day, would be better served with a reusable option.

Face Shields

Face shields have been in use for years in hospitals to shield medical personnel from potentially hazardous substances. Now, they are an alternative for those who see masks as particularly uncomfortable or inconvenient. They have found popularity at Texas High among teachers who must project to students and don’t want to be encumbered by a mask. It is still unclear whether these can completely replace an actual face mask.

Cloth Masks, store bought and DIY

According to the CDC, the very common cloth mask is less effective than medical masks in terms of filtration, but it still leagues more protective than no mask. In the first few months of the Pandemic, it was contested whether we should wear these masks at all, and experts have now made it clear they are acceptable in use against the virus.

Perhaps the most customizable, and potentially fashionable choice, one can find a different mask to compliment any outfit, in any number of stores.


Thin, cotton and polyester buffs and gaiters fit the broad requirement of a “face covering”. However, the limited filtration capability and design created to let water through, may actually be worse than wearing no mask at all, according to new research, which has since been pushed back against but not entirely disproven. 

What these coverings offer, however, is convenience. They can be removed and replaced quite easily, and made cheaply. TISD made the decision to offer a Tiger branded buff to every student for the school year, and these factors could be why buffs were decided on.

“I find buffs much more convenient because they are easier to take on and off,” Junior Jacob Grierson said. “I don’t have to worry about losing it when taking it off, or having straps that [irritate] me.”

Whether you realize it or not, each time you dawn whatever face covering you prefer, you are making a choice. One is left to decide somewhere in between multiple factors: convenience, safety, cost, reusability, and sustainability. There is no perfect option, but there is essentially a right one. By cooperating with guidelines and consistently choosing to cover one’s face, with whatever kind of mask you prefer, you are assisting in combating coronavirus.