Doctors: Wet masks don’t protect from COVID

With snow moving into Western Washington, doctors are warning residents to swap out wet masks for dry ones.

Doctors say when your mask is wet, it is less likely to protect you from COVID-19. When the mask gets wet, it is more difficult to breathe through and it is likely air will escape through the sides.

“They become very uncomfortable when they’re wet,” explained Dr. Jeff Duchin, Public Health Seattle and King County, “People tend to manipulate them a lot because they’re feeling uncomfortable.”

At UW Medicine, Dr. Seth Cohen says people should cover their masks if they’re out in the snow to prevent them from absorbing moisture.

“Moisture changes the way a mask fits,” explained Dr. Cohen, “The goal is for air to pass through the mask and be filtered, but if the mask is wet or soggy the air won’t pass through it, instead it goes around the sides which defeats the purpose of the mask. "

He says disposable masks are most at risk of breaking down or ripping if they get wet.

Doctors recognize COVID fatigue has set in, but say this is not the time to give up on protecting yourself. Instead, they say it is time to step up your mask use. The UK variant is in Western Washington, and they believe the number of cases could be doubling every 10 days, fueling a fourth wave.

To make your mask last longer in winter weather, he says to cover it up.

“If people are out in the snow near others it’s a good idea to bring spare masks for you and your family. Make sure you wear the mask under a scarf or ski mask,” recommended Dr. Cohen.