Before the pandemic, face masks of any kind, including KN95 masks, surgical masks, and other protective items like face shields, could be found for sale easily in online stores, and people had no problem buying them in bulk and wholesale. Now, N95 masks are highly valuable items, and they can be shipped using the Uline shipping company. But, they also ship other items, and we’ll talk about this here, and we’ll also explain why N95 masks are so important during the coronavirus pandemic.
Uline is a shipping service American company based in Illinois, with operations in almost every state in the USA, as well as in Canada and Mexico. It was founded in 1980 by Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, inspired by the local need for a shipping supply distributor. Initially starting in their basement, they expanded over the years to achieve an international company.
They have operations in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Georgia. They also have them in Canada and Mexico, and a total of around 6,700 employees in total. They significantly expanded their business during the 80s and 90s.
They currently distribute NIOSH-approved N95 respirators, including products from the brands 3M, Moldex, and their very own line of PPE. However, they also have other products available in their catalog that they sell, even though the focus during this pandemic has been put solely on these respirators.
Understanding the coronavirus pandemic
COVID-19 is the name given to the new infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2, the new species of coronavirus recently discovered. Coronaviruses have been known to cause mild respiratory illnesses in humans, but the new virus discovered in December of last year seems to be more concerning than the rest of the coronaviruses known to men. The name SARS-CoV-2 means severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, and COVID-19 means coronavirus disease 2019.
At first, the virus seemed to follow the pattern shown by the other coronaviruses, but now nine months into the pandemic, we’ve learned through devastating results that the infection caused by this virus can be anywhere from asymptomatic to deadly. Most cases are very mild or asymptomatic, with common symptoms reported being dry cough, sore throat, and fever, sometimes accompanied by the loss of smell and/or taste, gastrointestinal symptoms, and chest and muscle pain.
But, certain factors could increase the vulnerability of a patient to develop severe forms of the disease and complications. These people include most notably older people, immunocompromised patients, and those with comorbidities like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, pre-existing lung diseases, or other types of organ failure. In them, infection with the novel coronavirus can lead to serious complications, including severe lung injury with the need for mechanical ventilation, thrombosis, or multi-organ failure. The virus also has a higher mortality rate in people with these high-risk factors.
The size of the percentage of severe cases is small in comparison with the milder ones, but it’s still a big concern when there are too many people infected at the same time. As we’ve seen happen around the world and in the USA, healthcare centers become overwhelmed and collapse. This is why younger people and even kids (over the age of 2 years old) also need to wear face-coverings to protect the vulnerable people in their communities since asymptomatic infections can still spread the disease.
Why are N95 masks so important at the moment?
N95 masks are considered the best disposable face mask available at the moment to face the coronavirus pandemic. Their high antiviral properties make it the face mask that offers the highest virus protection, making them more effective for the coronavirus than surgical, medical, or reusable fabric masks made at home. For this reason, they’re extremely important for healthcare providers to stay protected at work, where they’re in constant and close exposure to the virus.
The name of the face mask comes from the NIOSH classification for respirators, a filtration rating that names respirators based on two characteristics: oil-resistance and filtration rate. NIOSH stands for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and they’re a federal agency that regulates respirators as part of their goal to prevent work-related diseases.
Respiratory hazards, which are particles that can be detrimental to the worker’s health when inhaled for prolonged periods, are present in many workplaces. Respirators are used in these settings to protect the wearer from inhaling them, filtering them out through a filter media they contain, trapping them before they reach the wearer’s airways.
The NIOSH classification is considered the standard for filtration inside the USA, and the institution, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regulates respirators to make sure they meet the criteria for each type inside their classification. They test them and certify that they meet all the requirements, signaling their approval with a stamp or label.
Based on the classification, respirators are named according to the two characteristics they use. To indicate the oil resistance of the respirator, they use the letters N, R, and P, meaning not resistant, resistant, and oil-proof, respectively. The filtration rate is represented by the percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy, which can be either 95, 99, or 100%.
According to this, N95 masks are respirators that can filter out at least 95% of all the non-oil based airborne particles, such as dust, smoke, and viruses like the flu or the novel coronavirus. This is why they’re so effective during the pandemic, and need to be reserved for healthcare workers. Some of the most widely used models are the 3M N95 masks such as the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8511.
Using a face-covering is the only virus control resource we have available right now, and anyone who uses one is doing their part to prevent the spread of this virus. We recommend our readers to be safe in public.