I am a fourth-year student doctor at the University of Washington. After reading the article discussing mandating cloth masks in Spokane, I felt it necessary to share research showing that cloth masks increase risk of infection.
Prior to COVID-19, hospital staff seldom wore masks outside of direct patient care. This is because universal masking is unnecessary and provides a false sense of security. In 2015 a randomized trial found that the rates of viral infection were significantly higher with cloth masks compare to medical masks and that 97% of particles go through cloth masks.
This article also noted that cloth masks have increased moisture retention, are often reused and with the poor filtration there is likely an increased risk of infection. Keep in mind, the people in this research had medical training on proper mask usage.
The general public will likely almost immediately contaminate their mask by touching it. COVID-19 along with other bacteria and viruses will logically be able to live on the surface of the cloth mask longer because it is warm and moist. The general public should not be mandated to breathe through virus-infested material.
Research shows wearing a mask outside of direct patient care has more to do with reducing anxiety than it does with reducing infection rates.
Based on this medical evidence and standard hospital practices, I am strongly against cloth mask use and urge our public officials to not mandate cloth masks in public.