With the second highest number of cases by state in the United States, California has certainly been hit hard by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19. As of June 29, 2020, nearly 217,000 Californians have tested positive for the disease, and nearly 6,000 have died. What’s worse is that these numbers are ever on the rise as the global pandemic continues to plague the United States and the world at large. It's no wonder people have begun asking the question, where to buy n95 masks?
So how did it all start?
California’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 came back positive on January 26, 2020, nearly two months after the genesis of the disease in humans in Wuhan City, China. While the first positive case in California, this marked the third confirmed case in the United States, meaning that California was hit fast and early by the novel virus. California’s first patient, a man in his 50’s, had just returned from Wuhan itself, the epicenter of the original outbreak and site of a superspreader event in its wet market, the Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, which handled live mammals and may have been the exact spot where the virus first jumped from animal to human. The man was released from the hospital in Orange County several days later on February 1 to continue isolating at home. Five days after the first case, though, California confirmed its seventh case on January 31, a man who had also returned from Wuhan, China. He recovered via in-home isolation and was released from isolation on February 20, after making a full recovery. The long term effects of SARS-CoV-2 post-recovery are still largely unknown.
Meanwhile, on January 29, the Department of State evacuated nearly 200 employees and their families from Hubei Province, China to a military base in Riverside County.
On February 2, more new cases were reported, including the second instance of human-to-human transmission evidenced in the state, as all previous cases had been contracted abroad.
On February 5, the United States evacuated more citizens from Hubei to 2 more air bases in California, one in Solano County and another in San Diego, and mandated a 14-day quarantine. Other evacuees were taken the following day to Nebraska and Texas. The same day, February 6, was the first COVID-19 related death in the state, a 57-year-old woman who had reportedly fallen ill with the flu sometime in January, recovered while working at home, and suddenly died on February 6. Because she had not traveled recently, her death provided evidence for growing community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, which had most likely been occurring undetected in the United States since December of 2019.
This evidence of community transmission grew as cases with no known origin or source of exposure continued to rise, prompting the CDC to revise its criteria for COVID testing, sending out the new guidelines on February 28, 2020.
From there, as the disease continued to spread throughout the Golden State and U.S. as a whole, cases increased exponentially due to the high infectivity rate, measured as “R” for “reproductive number”, of the virus. At its peak, coronavirus’s R was nearly a 3, meaning that for each single person infected, they would go on to infect an average of 3 others, spreading the disease exponentially. The rapid spread led California’s Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency for California on March 4th. The Grand Cruiseship, which had been the site of viral spreading, was consequently required in compliance with the CDC, the state of California, and public health officials in San Francisco, to terminate a port call in Mexico and return to San Francisco on March 5th. Sixty-two passengers who may have had contact with previous coronavirus cases (one of whom died earlier that same day), as well as 21 others aboard who were exhibiting potential symptoms of the virus, were required to quarantine aboard the ship. Test kits were airlifted to the ship, which was ordered by the state of California to remain offshore to prevent any further spread.
More community spread cases were confirmed over the following days in San Francisco and Santa Clara County, and reports found that 11% of patients reporting non-flu respiratory symptoms were, indeed, positive for coronavirus. Santa Clara became the first county to begin issuing more stringent social-distancing policies, beginning March 9.
Throughout March, social distancing protocols ramped up and the spread became increasingly serious. On the 15th, Governor Newsom called for at-risk populations such as the immunocompromised and people over the age of 65 to self-isolate at home, as well as the voluntary closure of bars and restaurants. The next day, March 16, several counties imposed a three-week-long shelter in place for residents, lasting from midnight of March 17 until April 7 to flatten the curve. Other counties followed suit. On the 22 of March, President Donald Trump directed federal aid from the Federal EMergency Management Agency to provide an additional 2,000 beds for California, which was now in critical condition and experiencing a mass shortage of hospital supplies, including beds and ventilators. Two days later, on the 24th, Governor Newsom passed an executive order to postpone prison intakes, as well as intakes for juvenile detention centers, to slow infection and contamination in the prison system. Counties continued to revise stay-at-home orders to comply with state-wide regulations, which cracked down on which businesses were essential, as well as closing public areas such as parks and beaches. On March 30, several counties extended these orders to stay in place until May 3.
During April, the number of cases and death tolls continued to rise. By April 1, the public health situation had become so dire that Governor Newsom announced the closure of all schools, public, private, and those of higher learning, for the remainder of the academic year. On April 7, the mayor of Los Angeles instituted a Worker Protection Order that mandated all employees and customers of essential businesses wear a face covering to help prevent the spread of infectious respiratory droplets that carry COVID-19, and that businesses may refuse service and entry to anyone refusing to comply. Governor Newsom also announced that California would provide upwards of 200 million masks, including N95 masks, via a deal secured by the state, as well as that the state of California would pay for housing accommodations for essential workers
who were afraid of staying with their families for fear of possibly infecting their loved ones. On the 13th, the governors of California, Washington, and Oregon announced the Western States Pact, affirming that the three states would coordinate gradual economic reopening so as to help control the outbreak on the West Coast. On April 16, California recorded 101 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period, setting a deadly new state record for single day deaths.
As California continued to whether the effects of COVID-19 and flatten the curve, May moved in. A four-stage reopening plan was implemented, providing a framework for structured gradual reopening to continue to control the spread of COVID-19 while also providing a multi-step roadmap to returning to normalcy since overcoming the “peak” of new cases from mid-April to early May. May 7 marked the beginning of phase 2, which allowed for low-risk sectors of the economy to begin gradual reopening so long as they maintained new health and safety protocols. A few weeks later, stage 3 began on May 18, which provided for the reopening of businesses that fell under the stage 3 restrictions, but that reopening must be approved by the county. A week later, personal care services such as hair salons were allowed to reopen with restrictions.
In early June, the selectivity of businesses that fell under stage 3 was expanded to include higher-risk businesses, allowing them to reopen if they were willing and able to adhere to protective measures such as reduced seating capacities and additional safety and hygiene protocols.
Since these reopenings, there has been a resurgence in spikes in the number of cases and deaths in the state of California. Some guidelines are still in place as the Golden State moves into Stage 4, including a 250-person cap on gatherings, so long as 6 feet of social distance can be maintained in smaller groups, and mandating that face coverings be worn state-wide whenever in public places, with certain exceptions such as preventative health concerns or for children under two years of age.
“Science shows that face coverings work,” Newsom has stated, asserting the need for the mandate.
San Francisco's Mayor London Breed has also defended her city’s mask mandate, saying, “That at the height of this pandemic we are still having a conversation about PPE really blows my mind. There has been nothing more frustrating.”
Increased demand for hospital equipment and PPE has strained supply in California as well as the rest of the United States. As such, prices for personal care goods like hand sanitizer and toilet paper have risen. This shortage of masks and similar products is a result of medical experts conveying increasing evidence that the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is best mitigated by using facial coverings — even cloth coverings greatly reduce the chance of transmission.
Studies have shown that COVID-19 is primarily contracted from respiratory droplets via sneezes, coughs, laughing, speaking, and breathing, leading Public Health organizations such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to strongly urge people to use face coverings. Cloth face masks, the lower tier of face coverings, hamper the spread of germs between your nose and mouth, and the surrounding air; additionally these coverings prevent the wearers from touching their face, reducing the likelihood that germs are introduced to the face via one's hands.
What to do?
A better alternative to homemade cloth coverings are N95 masks like those made by 3M. These 3M masks have been tested and verified to prevent many harmful particles from entering your mouth and lungs. While other masks catch the wearers respiratory droplets that may contain the virus so that they are not spread into the surrounding air, the focus of this method is on mitigating your own spread and not reducing your personal risk of contracting COVID. Therefore, this model struggles to protect individuals unless everyone is adhering to the guidelines put in place by these public health organizations. As states continue to open up, the public health situation almost mirrors a bit of first-time-driver wisdom dictating that its not your driving you have to worry about, but every other driver on the road — when going out in public it’s important to prepare for the fact that many people who are also out will not be taking recommended precautions that may protect others.
Scientists agree the best way to mitigate the spread of this virus is for everyone to be protected by facial coverings in settings in which people must interact with each other. Cloth masks function by passively collecting droplets that may escape your mouth or may be floating around in the air; the risk of this is that these harmful particles then remain on your cloth face covering until you wash it. N95 masks filter out 95% of particles, protecting from much smaller particles that might easily make it through a woven face mask.
In the early stages of this pandemic response, non-essential workers were expected to stay isolated and as such the expectation was that the average person wouldn’t be regularly exposed to this virus and thus did not need anything more than a cloth face covering. As Californians return to work, restrictions begin to ease up, and medical professionals increasingly agree that face coverings are the best way to mitigate disease spread, diligence in preventing the spread of COVID-19 is perhaps the most important it has ever been. Clinical Supplies is one of very few organizations that sells coveted American-made 3M N95 masks in addition to lighter-duty masks, providing protection and peace of mind to families and large organizations.
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