The spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic has been medical supplies. As soon as this new deathly disease started to become a pandemic, concerns about the amount of medical supplies we were going to need started to increase. Experts around the world urged governments to take measures to make sure their workers could stay protected before it was too late.
But, as it was bound to happen, shortages started to become a reality in many parts of the United States. N95 masks have certainly been the most affected item, as it has become extremely scarce around the world. This is due to the mask’s great antiviral properties. Healthcare workers and first responders need these types of disposable face masks right now, because anyone who uses these types of masks is safe from the virus, so it’s perfect for high-risk situations.
In this article, we’ll talk about why N95 masks are so important, and which non-profit organizations have been the most generous with N95 mask donations.
The term N95 has a very specific definition. N95 masks are much more protective than medical or surgical face masks and offer more virus protection. N95 masks are a very particular type of disposable face mask, considered to be a respirator. As such, it is part of the classification of respirators established by NIOSH, the American institution in charge of occupational safety.
Each country has a rating system or standards for their respirators because these are part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) of many work settings. NIOSH stands for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and they’re the institution that sets the standards for respirators in the USA. They test and regulate respirators to make sure they protect anyone who uses them at work.
They have a classification in which they take into consideration the resistance to oil and the minimum particulate filtration efficacy from the respirators. The first characteristic is indicated by the letters N, R, or P, indicating that the respirator is not resistant, resistant, or oil-proof respectively. The second characteristic is indicated by a number, which is the minimum percentage of airborne particulates the respirator can filter, which can be either 95, 99, or 100%.
N95 respirators, therefore, are not resistant to oil respirators that can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles from the air. This means they’re effective against non-oil based particles, like smoke, dust, or viruses like the flu or COVID-19. This is why they’re so valuable for virus protection right now.
Everyone needs to know that N95 masks need to have the approval seal by NIOSH. This means the respirator was tested and certified as an N95 mask by NIOSH, and therefore will perform properly. If the respirator will be used as medical PPE, it also needs approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A lot of models have been granted an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, and you can check it out on their website.
Nonprofits that have given away the most N95 masks
In difficult times like this one, giving back is very important. The pandemic has hit everyone very hard, in terms of physical and mental health, but also economically and socially. Healthcare centers have been fighting for medical supplies, so nonprofits have been a great help to get N95 masks, the most valuable item. Here are some of the nonprofits that have given away the most N95 masks:
- The Afya Foundation: this is a non-profit organization that finds unused medical PPE and supplies to deliver them to healthcare centers in need. They’re always seeking for donations of N95 masks.
- MaskForce NYC: this organization partnered with the RETI Center, which is a non-profit organization. According to them, they use their "supply chain and connections with larger partners to source FDA approved protective masks". These supplies are then delivered to healthcare centers in need.
Shortages around the USA
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a big threat around the world was the potential shortage of medical PPE and supplies. Face shields, gloves, KN95 masks, and surgical face masks and gowns were among the most affected items. But, of course, N95 masks have taken the lead on the scarcest product during the pandemic.
The predictions of shortages started to come true, and many states around the country started to get affected by them. Healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, have been reusing and limiting the amount of medical supplies they use, trying to make the most out of the supplies they get. This has put them in incredible danger since they are in contact with potential and confirmed cases of COVID-19 every day.
Healthcare workers aren’t the only ones affected. Workers in other areas are exposed to the virus as well and are at high risk of infection. But, workers in fields where the virus isn’t a threat, but other respiratory hazards are present, are being forced to work with other types of respiratory protection to prioritize the use of N95 masks for healthcare workers and first responders.
Reusable and disposable face masks, like the 3M N95 masks in the models 3M 8210 and 3M 8511, can be found for sale online, where you can buy in bulk or wholesale. You can even find a smaller size for kids since they shouldn’t use adult-sized masks. Remember to stay safe in public settings by wearing any type of face covering.