Face masks are key in the ongoing fight to contain the spread of coronavirus. However, current face mask designs can be uncomfortable to certain individuals. Those who wear glasses, for example, often complain about face masks fogging up their eyewear, and it can be hard to keep a face mask on a young child when the loops are hurting their ears.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched the Mask Innovation Challenge, an initiative to find a barrier face mask design that solves deficiencies in current models. The contest launched at the end of March and will run until April 21 and is open to US citizens and residents. You can submit your idea at the BARDA Mask Innovation Challenge submission webpage.
Designs will be evaluated for their filtering capabilities, comfort and fit, airflow, among other metrics. Masks are not permitted to carry sprays or drugs, and they must be completely new designs, so modifying current FDA- and NIOSH-approved designs is strictly prohibited. The total winnings for the contest are $500,000. The first phase of the Mask Innovation Challenge is expected to produce up to 10 unique designs. Those 10 winners will split $100,000 in prize money or up to $10,000 per winner.
As vaccinations are rolled out worldwide, there’s a growing sentiment that face masks are no longer as necessary as they were at the peak of the pandemic. In reality, the consistent and proper wearing of face masks is more important now than ever.
A person only becomes fully-vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of vaccine. You’re making yourself vulnerable to infection if you do away with your face mask too soon.
Just because you’re fully-vaccinated and immune to the virus doesn’t mean you can’t transmit it to other people. You can still make your unvaccinated friends and family sick if you visit them without adhering to recommended social distancing and face mask protocol.