by MIKE CHAIKEN
When Gov. Ned Lamont signed his order asking residents to wear face coverings and masks in public settings in late April to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic, the temperatures were hovering around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
It was cool enough to wear masks and coverings crafted out of heavier material without feeling too stifled.
Gyms and all sport activities were canceled so the question of what to wear when you exerted yourself didn’t come into the equation.
Now, it’s July. COVID-19 is still a concern. Temperatures are hitting the 90s in the northeast. And, gyms are open again but masks are mandated.
Suddenly, thick durable fabric masks are becoming sweaty and stifling. Breathable masks are in demand.
Savannah Giammarco, an events coordinator for iHeartRadio in Connecticut, isn’t ready to return to the gym yet. But when she goes, “I’d definitely go for something with breathable material that wicks away sweat and moisture… Some athletic brands… have put out some great options for people who want to get back into the gym and stay stylish.”
Nicole Reichenbach of Westchester County, N.Y.-based Elizabeth Cordelia had pivoted toward making masks like many designers in the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic. She started making masks under her own brand name and making masks to donate to nonprofits to help distribute in Africa.
The focus on design for Reichenbach originally had been on crafting masks that were useful and were appropriate attire for April’s weather.
“I honestly didn’t think I would still be making masks in the end of the June,” said Reichenbach. “It’s very strange unchartered time for everyone.”
But for customers looking to find comfortable masks for the steamy temperatures, Reichenbach has been using 100% cotton, which has been double layered for safety. “I think the cotton is the most breathable and it’s what is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.org).”
New York fashion designer Janelle Funari said she has taken a more technological fabric approach for designing her own line of breathable masks, especially as temperatures rise in the summer.
“The best choice are fabrics with anti-bacterial finishes and lined in cotton,” said Funari. For her masks, the designer said she uses cotton spandex lining to make them more breathable.
As the pandemic has continued, the big guns of apparel have started to enter the COVID-19 mask market.
Sports brand Adidas has been placing its logos on masks that also tap into technology for breathability.
Corporate communication officer for Adidas Rich Efrus said the brand has made its masks out of “Primegreen.” Adidas said the material is made out of a high performance recycled material. The masks have two layers of soft, breathable cloth– the internal layer is mesh and the outside is polyelastane.
Sports brand Under Armour also is making masks for these COVID-19 times.
“We set out to find a fabric combination that created structure to ensure the mask would stand off the face and offer maximum breathability,” said Under Armour’s Kyle Blakely, vice president of materials innovation, in a press release.
The first layer of the Under Armour masks have spacer fabric designed to stay off the mouth and nose for better airflow. The second layer is an open cell foam, which again lets air through but makes it difficult for moisture and sweat to pass. Finally, there is a layer with the fabric PROTX2, which inhibits the growth of bacteria on the mask.
Automobile races have resumed at Stafford Motor Speedway and this means Wolcott’s Sami Anderson is back behind the wheel of her race car.
Although Anderson doesn’t have to wear a mask like all Connecticut residents. The same mandate applies to her pit crew.
But Anderson said she doesn’t complain about wearing a mask, even if the temperature is unbearable trackside.
Anderson said she lives with her grandmother. Whether a mask is breathable or not or whether or not the mask is comfortable in the heat are beside the point for the driver. She will wear whatever mask she can to help her grandmother stay safe.
“I agree (masks) really stink when it’s hot out. You don’t want extra layers,” said Anderson. But, she said, “You do what you need to keep everyone safe.”
The British Journal of Sports Medicine agrees that it’s more important that a mask protects rather than whether or not it is breathable. The journal recently noted: “A face-covering is an effective way to prevent viral transmission in a community context.”
When exercising or exerting yourself, masks “could potentially increase the breathing effort and cause accumulation of CO2,” said the journal.
However, the report said, “A more breathable material will aid in comfort but may have the cost of less effective viral source control.”