The COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic is caused by a new respiratory virus discovered at the end of last year. The SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is the virus responsible for this disease, and it’s a microorganism that is still being studied and researched to better understand the effects on the body it can have.
We now know much more than we did back in January, and we know that the virus is transmitted through fluid droplets released by infected individuals containing the pathogen. When an uninfected person inhales this particle, the virus colonizes the airways and causes varying levels of damage.
N95 masks have been known to be the best among the disposable face masks available, which is why they’ve been reserved for healthcare centers where it is most needed. But this valuable feature has turned them into a scarce item. Shortages are severely affecting medical centers across the country, and a new surge in cases is already making this problem worse.
In this article, we’ll discuss the availability of the N95 mask in Connecticut.
Where to find N95 masks in Connecticut
As we mentioned, most of the states in the country have been affected by the shortages of medical supplies. N95 masks have been particularly hard to find, and Connecticut hasn’t been the exception to this rule. Back in April, it was reported that thousands of N95 masks were to be cleaned and decontaminated with hydrogen peroxide vapor.
However, this alleviated the situation back then, but now the country is expecting shortages to become more pronounced with a new surge of COVID-19, and with the flu season approaching as well. Healthcare providers can use non-profit organizations, like Get Us PPE, an organization devoted solely to provide healthcare centers with the required PPE.
The federal agency inside the USA with the job to prevent work-related injuries or diseases is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). As a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they make recommendations and give out information that is based on scientific research to the workplaces across the country.
This institution, as part of their job to ensure occupational safety, also regulates respirators, the devices used in work-settings with respiratory hazards to prevent the workers from inhaling them. NIOSH tests and certifies if the respirator meets the criteria for each of the respirator types inside their classification, considered to be the standard for filtration in the United States.
This classification is based on two characteristics:
- Resistance to oil: this indicates whether or not the respirator can filter out particles that contain molecules of oil in them. Based on this, the respirator name will have a letter: N if they’re not resistant, R if they’re somewhat resistant, and P if they’re oil-proof, the highest level of resistance.
- Filtration efficacy: this tells us how many airborne particles from the air the respirator can filter out, represented by the percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy. These percentages can be either 95, 99, or 100%.
The combination of the three possible alternatives in each characteristic gives us a total of nine types of respirators inside the classification. There are N100, R95, and P99 respirators, and of course, N95 masks are a type of respirator inside this classification as well. According to the explanation given above, N95 respirators can’t filter out particles with oil in them and have an efficacy of 95% of the airborne particles in the air.
They’re not effective against oil-based particles, like glycerine or cutting fluids, as well as particles that are smaller than 0.3 micrometers, like vapors and gases. Some examples of the particles they are effective against include dust, smoke, some metals, and certain microorganisms that are harmful to the human body, like the tuberculosis bacteria or viruses like the flu or the novel coronavirus.
For this reason, N95 respirators have become as of this year the main medical supply needed by healthcare workers. They are constantly in situations of high exposure to the virus, which is why they need the highest level of protection from a face mask. N95 masks are the best disposable face masks for virus protection available right now, with antiviral properties that make them the best option there is out there. 3M N95 masks are the most used ones inside the country, with popular models being the 3M 8511 and the 3M 8210. They’re often used with face shields in healthcare settings to increase protection to the eyes as well.
N95 masks are different from surgical and medical masks, as well as reusable fabric masks. But, they’re most commonly confused with KN95 masks because of the similar name, and this similarity has a reason. KN95 masks are regulated by a standard for filtration used in China, but they’re considered to be equivalents to N95 masks here in the USA. They’re generally considered to be interchangeable, and KN95 masks can substitute N95 masks when these aren’t available. Similarly, under the European standard, FFP2 respirators are the equivalent to N95 masks.
N95 masks could be found for sale and available to buy in wholesale and bulk just last year, but those days are in the past now. The CDC urges people to wear a face mask that isn’t medical-grade, to reserve these supplies for healthcare workers. We would like to remind our readers to use a face mask because anyone who uses one (including kids over the age of 2 with a smaller size) is preventing the spread of the virus, but to always use alternatives, leaving N95 masks and other medical-grade masks to the healthcare workers on the frontline.