This year has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease caused by a new species of virus that was previously unknown to scientists. With a more lethal outcome, the seemingly harmless disease can be very severe in certain groups of people, which is why the focus all-year-long has been on stopping the spread of the disease, to ease the workload of healthcare workers.
Since the virus is spread more easily in highly-populated areas, certain places are at higher risk of transmission than others. For example, healthcare workers are some of the most exposed people to COVID-19 infection, being in close contact with people who are either potential spreaders or are confirmed cases. The same thing happens in places like grocery stores or other essential workers.
Prisons are highly populated and don’t have a lot of room, making them one of the riskiest places for COVID-19 transmission. This is why prisoners have been required to use face-coverings in many states. But, while cloth masks are effective to stop the spread in general, sometimes a more effective face-covering is needed, like the N95 masks. Today, we’ll discuss the effectiveness of N95 masks, the use of N95 masks inside prisons, and which situations call for this medical-grade face mask.
N95 masks and their importance during the pandemic
N95 masks are the best disposable face mask for virus protection and offer the highest antiviral properties from any other type of face mask, including surgical and medical masks and reusable cloth masks, with or without the use of face shields. Some of the most purchased models are the 3M N95 masks, including the models 3M 8210 and 3M 8511.
The term ‘N95’ comes from the classification of respirators set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH. They set the standards for respirators inside the USA, as part of their goal to make recommendations based on science and research to prevent work-related injuries or illnesses.
According to this classification, N95 masks are respirators without oil-resistance and with a percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy of 95%. This makes them effective for protection against particles like smoke, dust, and viruses like the flu or the coronavirus. This is why they’ve been prioritized for healthcare workers, and anyone who uses them is getting the highest level of protection against COVID-19 from a disposable face mask.
Every N95 respirator needs to be approved by NIOSH to be legitimate, making sure they do meet the criteria to be named as such. For medical use, they need additional approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, they’ve granted Emergency Use Authorizations to many mask models that weren’t previously regulated by them amid the coronavirus emergency, including KN95 masks, the equivalent to N95 respirators under Chinese standards.
The Coronavirus pandemic: what we know so far
The new novel coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, is a new species inside the coronavirus genus and was first reported in December of last year. The infection has spread all over the world since then, leading to a full pandemic, and countless deaths and health conditions have been attributed to this deadly virus. The disease, COVID-19, means “coronavirus disease 2019”.
It mainly causes very mild respiratory symptoms, and the disease is characterized by dry cough, muscle pain, sore throat, and sometimes people can also lose their smell and taste senses. This is the case for the majority of the cases, with many of them even being asymptomatic. But, a considerable size of percentage of cases develops very serious health conditions and complications, including severe lung injury, multi-organ failure, thrombosis, and others.
The severity of the illness has been directly linked to the age of the patient, as well as the presence of certain comorbidities, like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, other respiratory illnesses, failure of other organs, and immunocompromised patients. In these people, COVID-19 can be potentially lethal.
Scientists and researchers have been studying this virus for most of the year, and even though we know much more about it now, there’s still a lot to work on. Even though younger people and kids don’t usually get a severe form of the illness, it is everyone’s duty to keep the most vulnerable people within their communities safe by wearing a face mask.
Should inmates wear N95 masks?
So far, most states around the country have been trying to control the spread of the virus inside prisons. For the most part, inmates are provided with either reusable cloth masks or surgical type masks. Workers inside the facility are also required to use face masks, and sometimes they would need N95 respirators to work in high-risk areas of the facility, like attending to confirmed cases or quarantined inmates.
The use of N95 masks by inmates hasn’t been recommended by any authority so far, but cases of COVID-19 inside prisons have been alarming this year. For example, inside California, the disease has infected more than 15,620 inmates and 4,317 workers, according to the corrections department. A total of 10 workers and 76 inmates have died from the virus.
To do your part in stopping the spread of this deadly disease, you have to wear a face-covering in public. There are many options for sale online which you can buy in bulk and/or wholesale. Remember that the most vulnerable people within our communities need our help, and it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and protected during these trying times.