The COVID-19 pandemic started at the beginning of the year, spreading through several countries, and finally reaching the United States in February/March. Back then, many of us thought this was temporary, and that it would be solved quickly. The common thought was that this self-isolation and social distancing would last a couple of weeks, but it’s been around six months.
A big question was about the return to schools. Would it be safe? Would everything be slowing down and being solved by September? The truth is we’re in the same spot as we were back in March, but schools still opened up. This risky decision has come with some problems, but would purchase N95 masks in bulk solve them? Let us explain.
First, a little information about N95 masks
This disposable face mask has gathered attention over the last several months. Why is this such a valuable item for virus protection? We’ve all heard on the news that it’s been sold out everywhere, especially physical stores, and that people have turned to online stores to buy the N95 masks they can find for sale. This is all because of the masks antiviral filtering capacities which are higher than regular medical or surgical face masks, making it very valuable for anyone at high risk of getting infected, like healthcare workers.
N95 respirators come from the classification made by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). According to this institute, respirators are classified into different types taking into account several standards, but mainly two characteristics: oil resistance and minimum particulate filtration efficacy. Under this classification, N95 masks are the types of respirators that are not resistant to oil (indicated by the ‘N’) and can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles (particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns).
NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and as a federal agency, it has the responsibility of making sure any work-related injuries or illnesses are prevented. Therefore, NIOSH needs to approve any disposable face mask that claims to be N95 for it to be legitimate and safe to be used at work.
N95 masks are a critical part of many work fields since they can filter out particles like smoke, dust, and bioaerosols like the virus that causes the flu or the coronavirus. N95 masks are considered to be the best protection against the coronavirus for people in high-risk situations, like healthcare workers, people with infected relatives of which they have to take care, people with comorbidities or other factors that increase the risk of them getting complications from the coronavirus, and people who are going to be in very close to other people, like the situation in which college students have been since the start of classes.
A little information about the coronavirus
The virus known as the “coronavirus” is called SARS-CoV-2, a species from the broad genus of coronaviruses. This is a new type of coronavirus that was first studied and reported in December of last year in China. Since this was a new virus, a lot of fear came from the unknown, and the unexpected symptoms it was causing.
Coronaviruses have always caused mild respiratory infections, but the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019), the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2, was showing a varied set of symptoms. While some people developed asymptomatic or very mild flu-like symptoms, other people were getting very concerning complications involving multiple organs, not only the lungs.
Even though we now know much more than what we knew back in February, there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this virus. It’s generally known that older people, and people with comorbidities, mainly cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, and obesity, as well as underlying lung illnesses and immunocompromised patients, are at a higher risk of experiencing these complications.
However, while young people have a smaller risk of severe illness, they are a big source of infection. By being asymptomatic or having mild unspecific symptoms, they are potentially spreading the virus without knowing it. Plus, even if percentages of severe illness and death are smaller, the more people get infected, the number of severe cases in young people will increase as well. So yes, young people also need to take measures to not get infected and not infect others.
Cases rising in colleges since classes started in September
With all the problems and the increasing cases of COVID-19, colleges and schools decided to start classes with certain measures. Some of them are completely online, some are partly in person, and some are fully opening as before, with more safety measures. But, after just a few weeks, in-person classes have already started to show problems in many colleges.
Take for example the University of Wisconsin. By September 8th, they had already reported a large increase in their positive test results which were returned over the Labor Day weekend. Florida State University has reported more than 700 students tested positive just last week (the week of the 31st of August through the 6th of September).
Anyone who uses N95 masks correctly is guaranteed to stay protected. These are not reusable face masks therefore they need to be bought in bulk or wholesale. There are so many resources where colleges can buy them to make sure their students are safe.
Some good options include 3M N95 masks, especially the 3M 8210 and 3M 8511 models. Additionally, colleges can stock up on other protective items, like face shields or KN95 masks, which work just as well. As citizens of the USA, college students need to stay protected, and purchasing N95 masks in bulk is a great option.