Create a scoring of mask effectiveness in terms of 1) preventing spread of COVID from the wearer and 2) preventing infection of the wearer.
Currently there is public health guidance to "wear facial coverings" when in public. This allows a wide range of products that are likely ineffective or poorly implemented to satisfy the guidance. As such, there is little to say about how effective these measures might be, and opens the guidance (and associated mandates) to justifiable criticism and rejection. Furthermore, while it is likely that facial coverings might provide some level of protection to the wearer, there is no estimate of this effect for any but actual PPE (e.g. N95 masks).
By providing the consumer with "public health" and "personal protection" scores for these products/designs such a standard could both improve the overall public health protective effect AND acceptance of mask-wearing among the public.
Create a simple standard protocol for evaluation of mask designs for likely effectiveness in daily use. This would involve a combination of factors, such as: particle filtration, comfort, facial sealing, etc. It could start with the current system used by NIOSH (ASTM-F2100), modified for characteristics helpful to the public health objectives.
Who will take these actions?
Preferably an independent testing organization, agency or lab. UL, CE, Consumer Reports, ASTM as examples. It is important that the legal aspects of this, including liability be addressed. Currently, masks being sold as "for Non-medical use only" are what the consumer is faced with. Such language discourages acceptance. Rather, a rating mark on the package from a recognized lab would be a huge improvement in acceptance and effectiveness.
It's notable that some leveraging of international progress could be beneficial to the effort.
What are the projected costs?
Costs include the development of the performance standard, test standards, product labeling requirements, certification and quality practices. These costs could be borne by a consortium of industry, government agency and non-profit (NGO).
Timeline is critical and very clearly this is a case where "perfect is the enemy of good". Given the work already done by various organizations to date, a time scale measure in a few months seems reasonable to begin certifying products.
About the author(s)
The author is a retired aviation engineer with experience in critical systems designs in a regulatory environment. The idea is contributed for free use, to stimulate discussion and action related to public safety.