Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an emergency for all the countries around the world. This virus has spread from the first case in China in December of last year, to almost every country in the world, where healthcare centers are collapsing, and people are dying.
Shortages of N95 respirators have been reported in many states of the USA, counterfeit models without proper regulation are being sold, and prices are going up for these protective items that are so necessary right now. It’s important for the general public, and especially for those who are essential workers, to know where they can find N95 masks.
What is an N95 mask?
N95 respirators, also known as N95 masks, are a very particular type of disposable face mask. These are not reusable and are not typically intended to be used as medical or surgical protective equipment. These masks have to meet certain criteria to be classified as such, and in the United States, the institute that regulates this is NIOSH.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has a series of standards that N95 respirators have to meet to be considered as such. The two main characteristics of the N95 mask are what give it its name:
- The ‘N’ means that the mask is not resistant to oil. This makes it efficient as a filter for non-oil-based particles, such as dust, smoke, and bioaerosols like viruses, like the ones that cause COVID-19 and the flu. This is because the mask has an antiviral filter.
- The ‘95’ means that it has a minimum filtration rate of 95% of all airborne particles. This means the mask filtrates 95% of particles that are 0.3 micrometers in diameter, just like the virus that causes COVID-19.
These two properties, along with all the other regulations made by NIOSH, make this face mask an essential item for healthcare workers. To be used as medical or surgical equipment, however, N95 masks need additional approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
It's important to note that KN95 masks are not the same as N95 masks. KN95 masks are manufactured under standards determined by the Chinese government. However, these two masks are very similar and can be interchangeable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of all the N95 models that are certified by the NIOSH. You can consult this list to make sure your N95 mask is legitimate, and not a counterfeit. We make this recommendation because, during the last months, counterfeit N95 masks have been sold without NIOSH approval, putting at risk everyone who uses them and those around them.
What Lowe’s has been doing for the pandemic
Lowe's has been one of America's most dedicated companies when it comes to support during the COVID-19 emergency. First off, they maintain a very clean and socially distance protocol inside their stores, so that employees and customers alike are staying safe inside while they do their shopping. All employees and customers must use face masks while they're inside the store, and the company happily provides face masks for everyone.
They’ve also been very considerate to their employees. Among the many benefits they’ve received to alleviate all the problems that come with the pandemic, Lowe’s gave all of their employees two extra vacation weeks, and 14 days of paid emergency leave in the case employees need to take care of themselves or any family member who’s not feeling well.
Lowe’s has also donated money and supplies to communities in need, as well as to their Employee Relief Fund to help with any economic emergencies associates might be facing due to the pandemic. They also temporarily raised employee’s wages during April, and gave substantial bonuses that would help their employees.
Every store also has a pantry full of food that workers can take home or consume during their shifts, which also helps them out a lot. And the company provides them with all the protective gear they need to be safe during their work hours inside the store, to prevent infection.
What protection gear do they sell?
Among the protection gear Lowe’s sales in their stores, they have 3M N95 masks, including the models 3M 8511 and 3M 8210, and KN95 masks. Other types of equipment that are essential for healthcare workers include face shields, which are also crucial for protection against the virus.
With all the shortages and price gouging we’ve seen, as well as fake N95 masks being sold without proper regulation, Lowe’s remains a safe place to buy your protection gear. You can be sure all the items sold there are high-quality and have all the certifications needed to be considered fully safe.
N95 masks and disposable masks designed for medical or surgical use can be found easily online. You can buy them in bulk from the comfort and safety of your home, and still be sure you’re getting the best protection for your family and kids (who need special N95 masks with a smaller size).
These face masks for sale are not reusable, therefore we highly recommend to buy them in bulk. With shortages starting in the United States, protection against the virus is crucial to stop the spread of the infection and lower the number of cases. This is the only way we can help out those healthcare workers fighting to keep us healthy and safe.