Beards May Stunt Effectiveness Of Mask-Wearing, Report Says

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In an article published by CNN on Tuesday, the outlet addressed potential concerns over the habit of growing beards and how this could negatively affect the ability for some people to effectively wear masks in order to end the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN ‘s article, “To shave or not to shave? How beards may affect Covid-19 risk,” stated that while growing facial hair might seem like it would not cause harm, it could negatively affect the ways in which a mask helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.

CNN reported: “An important part of wearing face masks to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus is that the mask fits snugly. Depending on a beard’s length and thickness, experts have said it may reduce the effectiveness of mask-wearing by creating more space between your face and the mask.”

Quoting Dr. Mona Gohara, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, the outlet stated that any open section “increases the chance that there is a virus that will get to the orifices, which can then obviously give you the disease.”

The article stated that although wearing masks does not provide full protection and perfect prevention of becoming infected with COVID-19, “it can help limit the spread of potentially virus-laden respiratory droplets among people.”

CNN reported that research has been conducted on the study of how beards “accumulate, harbor or shed more or less bacteria than bare faces. But the research was inconclusive and on bacteria.” Due to this fact, there is not much information on whether beards are harmful components when it comes to spreading viruses. Healthcare workers acknowledge, however, that facial hair can impede the ability for masks to fit properly.

“For a mask to have any chance of fitting properly, it needs to be mask to skin, not mask to hair,” Gohara said.

Qingyan Chen, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, said via email, “If a mask can completely cover a beard, there (shouldn’t) be any problem. If not, a beard is very likely to create a small gap between facial skin and mask unless one fastens the mask tightly … The small gap would create a leakage for air to enter (the) nose when inhaling and for air with virus to go to the surroundings when one exhales.”

CNN’s article continued, explaining how beards are difficult for some people to shave because some “may have worn the same style for years, finding their facial hair an important part of self-expression or image.” The article adds that beards can also be expressions of religious faith, “which might make the decision to shave them even harder.”

“Many infectious disease experts will say that if you can eliminate facial hair, or if you can at least trim it just so it fits within the confines of the mask, then that’s advisable,” Gohara said. “There have to be solutions for people where that’s not an option. And that’s something that, as medical providers, we need to address.”

Last week, The Daily Wire reported on a testy exchange between Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, regarding mask-wearing for people who are vaccinated or believed to be immune from COVID-19.

Paul asked, “Given that no scientific studies have shown significant numbers of reinfections of patients previously infected or previously vaccinated, what specific studies do you cite to argue the public should be wearing masks well into 2022?”

“I’m not sure I understand the connection of what you’re saying about masks and reinfection,” Fauci replied. “We’re talking about people who have never been infected before.”

“You’re telling everybody to wear a mask whether they’ve had an infection or a vaccine,” Paul fired. “What I’m saying is they have immunity and everybody agrees they have immunity. What studies do you have that people that’ve had the vaccine or had the infection are spreading the infection? If we’re not spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?”

“No, it’s not,” Fauci insisted. 

CNN’s article concluded with examples of how one might be able to continue growing facial hair while also wearing a mask. The outlet provided the suggestion of “Trimming your beard or wearing a different style, like a goatee” or purchasing a mask that can be placed over a beard that sits against someone’s neck.

Another alternative is joining “the double-masking trend, starting by wearing an N95 mask or masks with ties,” and then adding “another mask that you put over your beard, fit snugly against your jaw or neck, and secure by looping the straps behind your ears or by tying them behind your head.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated individuals states, “After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.”

According to the CDC vaccine tracking website, 13.7% of the United States population has been fully vaccinated.

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