August 10, 2020: Face Coverings with Exhalation Valves
Face coverings or masks with exhalation valves protect the wearer from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but may not prevent the virus spreading from the wearer to others (that is, they may not be effective for source control).
Face coverings are meant to protect the wearer from airborne contaminants from reaching the nose or mouth. If an exhalation valve is installed, the valve allows the wearer to exhale more easily and helps ensure the mask does not get moist during extended periods of use. They are intended mainly for industrial or construction use when dusts, musts or fumes create an unsafe exposure.
Exhalation valves may allow the wearer’s exhaled, unfiltered air to escape into the immediate area. If the wearer is infected, the exhaled air may be contaminated.
College supplied face coverings do not have exhalation valves. Should you choose to bring your own face covering to work, please be sure that it does not have an exhalation valve.
Until data are available to describe how effective masks with exhalation valves are in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from the wearer to others:
- Wear a respirator without an exhalation valve when both source control and respiratory protection are required.
- If only a respirator with an exhalation valve is available and source control is needed, cover the exhalation valve with a surgical mask, procedure mask, or a cloth face covering that does not interfere with the respirator fit.
Remember: Wearing face coverings lowers the risk of spread to others. Wear a face covering!
(Source: Adapted from CDC)