And with mask mandates coming to a halt, will workers still be using face masks in the near future? Moore reckons that as we trend towards the new “post-pandemic normal”, mask use in the general public will be tied to waves of new variants, hospital capacity and personal risk assessments.
“The science does not give us a good indication of where this pandemic goes from here,” he says. “Without worldwide vaccine equity, it is very possible we will continue to see waves of new variants evolve,” especially in regions with disparities in health care. “In any event, we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future, and individuals may continue to wear masks or respirators in public, especially those more clinically vulnerable,” says Moore.
And while mask and respirator usage in the general public is less predictable, he says that there is an expectation to continue seeing a very high use in health care settings. “During the height of the AIDS crisis, medical gloves became more prevalent and are still part of standard precautions today,” says Moore. “We see masks – specifically N95 respirators – following a similar trend, especially given the new research in aerosol science and modes of pathogen transmission.”
With so many recent innovations, questions abound as to what the post-COVID face mask market will look like. Moore says that as our understanding of science has evolved during the pandemic, we have seen a shift away from cloth, pleated, or surgical masks to well-fitted masks and N95 (or equivalent) respirators. “We expect to continue to see innovation in respirators that can form a proper seal and protect the wearer from small aerosols.”
“With fewer use cases for pleated or surgical masks, we see them being fully replaced by high efficiency fitted masks. We also expect to see localized mask manufacturing as countries continue to protect their supply chain of essential PPE and their ability to respond to any future pandemics,” he says.