Tank-automotive and Armaments Command recently changed its cloth face mask requirements to exclude those masks with exhalation valves. This means that face masks with exhalation valves will no longer be acceptable on all depots and arsenals under TACOM, nor by any of the workforce on the Detroit Arsenal where the commanding general of TACOM is the senior commander for the installation.
This new policy falls in line with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Army Public Health Center guidelines on the wear of cloth face masks to prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019.
The CDC first put out its policy for wearing face masks and coverings in late April. Initially, they believed that only healthcare workers needed to wear face masks to protect from COVID-19 in patients they were treating. However, it was later learned that asymptomatic individuals could transmit the virus to others.
These unknowing carriers were transmitting the virus into the air by normal speaking and breathing through the respiratory/water droplets they produced. Due to this transmission risk, the CDC put out guidelines for wearing cloth face coverings by the general population.
According to Diane Walters, Supervisory Occupational Health Nurse at the Detroit Arsenal, the masks with the exhalation valve do not provide protection against spreading the virus. This is why both the CDC and the Army Public Health Center highly discourage the use of those styles of masks.
“The goal of the mask is source containment, when you wear a mask with a valve, what you are exhaling is unfiltered, and you are putting others at risk,” said Walters.
By wearing a cloth face covering, most of the respiratory/water droplets are trapped by the cloth and are prevented from being exhaled into the air.
“The CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask made from at least two layers to provide the best protection,” Walters suggests.
It is important to note that the wearing of a face mask or covering is only one step in defeating the transmission of the virus. People must be vigilant with socially distancing from others, wearing a face mask when around others, washing your hands and keeping your work areas disinfected. Think of the four Ws: Wash your hands, Wear your mask, Watch your distance, and Watch your symptoms.