Since the beginning of the pandemic, one issue has been the top concern for many experts around the world: medical supplies. The United States was in danger of facing a potential shortage of these supplies, particularly N95 masks. Did we increase our production of this valuable supply? Have we reached the goals for N95 masks? In this article, we’ll analyze all these questions.
N95 masks: why are they important?
N95 masks are a very particular type of disposable face mask with a much higher antiviral filter, considered to be the best resource for virus protection right now, much higher than surgical face masks or reusable cloth masks. N95 masks are also known as N95 respirators, and have been used as personal protective equipment in a wide variety of industries.
The name comes from a respirator classification established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH for short. They make recommendations to prevent work-related illnesses or injuries, and also regulate respirators to make sure they meet their standards for filtration.
The rating system for respirators is based on their resistance to oil and their minimum particulate filtration efficacy. ‘N’ means not resistant to oil, and the number 95 indicates that it can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles, which are particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns.
These characteristics make N95 masks optimal for filtration of particles like coal smoke, dust, and bioaerosols like the flu virus or the new coronavirus, which are all airborne and non-oil based. This is why N95 masks are used for protection in industries like painting, mining, and construction, where these airborne particles are considered respiratory hazards.
People need to know that N95 masks need to be approved by NIOSH to be considered legitimate N95 respirators. Without this approval label, the mask hasn’t been properly regulated, and anyone who uses them could be at risk of inhaling these dangerous particles.
Coronavirus and the CDC recommendations about N95 masks
The term coronavirus refers to a genus of viruses that are known to cause respiratory infections in humans, which are usually very mild. With the discovery of a new species of coronavirus at the end of last year, the first case being reported in China in December of 2019, scientists were wondering if it would follow the same pattern as all the other known coronaviruses.
As we know now, many months later, the majority of the cases are asymptomatic or very mild, with flu-like symptoms like dry cough and sore throat. However, there are high-risk populations, like older people, diabetic people, or immunocompromised patients, among others, where the virus can cause a severe illness and affect other organs besides the lungs.
This is why it’s important to prevent as much as possible the spread of the disease, because even though the percentage of severe cases has a relatively small size, when a lot of people get infected at the same time, it becomes a real healthcare problem. And, right now, we know the best type of protection are face masks.
As we explained, N95 masks are the best type of antiviral protection you can get, but these need to be prioritized for healthcare workers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the general public shouldn’t use N95 respirators, since these are critical supplies that should be reserved for first responders and healthcare workers.
Members of the public are recommended to use reusable cloth coverings or other lower-grade disposable face masks, like surgical ones, when they are in public settings, and this will be enough to avoid the spread of the virus. They also state that the best way to prevent the spread is to avoid exposure to it, taking social distancing rules and hygiene into consideration.
Donald Trump and the 300 million masks needed by fall
In May, when the pandemic was just beginning, the issue of medical supplies was very concerning. A lot of countries had already been experiencing shortages of multiple resources, but the most valuable item was undoubtedly the N95 mask. At this time, the United States emergency stockpile contained only 13 million N95 masks.
The goal of the Trump administration was to reach a number of 300 million N95 masks by the fall of this year, which was the estimated number needed to face the pandemic properly. Eventually, the stockpile would reach 1 billion N95 respirators, and the President assured the people he could make sure no shortages would happen in the United States.
According to Yahoo News, a briefing document sent to senior officials in the Department of Health and Human Services date September 25, the number of available N95 masks from the government is 87.6 million, which is not close to the 300 million N95 masks that were said to be available by the fall. According to the news site, the White House declined to comment on this new stockpile number.
With shortages already happening in many states, the reopening of schools, colleges, and businesses, and the flexible measures taken in many states, these shortages are expected to increase around the country.
If you want to stay protected, make sure to buy the protective equipment necessary to stay safe in public settings. There are plenty of available options for sale online, where you can buy in bulk or wholesale. Products like KN95 masks, face shields, and 3M N95 masks, like the 3M 8511 and the 3M 8210 models, can easily be found online, even in smaller sizes for kids. Please, remember to stay safe.