By Jayden Mark
With newer strains of Coronavirus being found, people are rushing out to buy face masks. However, when they arrive at department stores and medical supply stores, they find none on the shelves. Something similar happened with food and toilet paper at the onslaught when the disease first hit the US and panicked everyone.
Whether it is COVID-19, SARS, or another strain, they are all highly dangerous and easy to catch. The latest strain, which is an airborne illness. It’s spread to a total of 169 countries, the US being one of them. With such a fast-spreading virus and little preparation from the government, nurses, doctors, and first responders are now left without the PPE necessary to defend against this nasty pathogen.
A quick search online is all you need to see that many nurses have been infected and have passed the infection onto their families.
Of course, the general public also wants to protect themselves and are not able to “mask up” because of the shortage.
What Government Officials Are Doing
Most government officials at the state level are trying desperately to get PPE, such as N95 respirators and surgical masks, from anywhere along the global supply chain. However, this is posing to be nearly impossible. Manufacturers of such equipment are working tirelessly to make more masks. Still, there are strict rules and guidelines that must be followed, and testing has to be done to ensure that the masks are guaranteed to work against this and other viruses.
The Kindness of Strangers
Because of the shortage, many people are now choosing to make their own masks, especially for themselves and their families. The CDC claims that this is not going to stop anyone from getting coronavirus, regardless of the strain. Still, there isn’t much the CDC can do, either. It knows that healthcare workers and first responders need this life-saving PPE, and they cannot access it.
Therefore, CDC officials claim that homemade personal protective equipment is the next-best alternative when medical PPE is unavailable. If both patient and healthcare worker wear homemade PPE, it can help to reduce the spread of the virus.
With that, many companies and kind-hearted sewers have taken to making hundreds of homemade masks and are donating them to hospitals, firefighters, police officers, and other first responders.
But Is It Going to Work?
Most health care employees feel that these recommendations are not ideal and that homemade PPE isn’t going to work. Experts within the field have already suggested that homemade face masks don’t do much to prevent the flu and other respiratory illnesses. This also means that it is not effective against Coronavirus and its many strains.
The CDC claims that anything covering the nose and mouth is better than nothing. Still, it does recommend to pair a homemade mask or bandana with a face shield. However, the issue is that no one can tell how much the disease reduction is with these precautions.
Studies Suggest Otherwise
Some studies have actually shown that cloth masks can lead to more people being infected with such respiratory illnesses. The cloth tends to hold in moisture and has no filtering device.
Scientists tend to agree with this study, but they also claim that, in light of this unprecedented time, cloth masks are better than nothing. To combat the risk of developing Coronavirus, health care workers are warned to only use the masks once and then throw them away or wash them in hot water to kill off the germs.
No one really knows how long Coronavirus germs can last on clothing and cloth. However, studies have shown it can live 72 hours on plastic items and 24 hours on cardboard. Also, it can stay in the air for up to six hours.
Surgical Masks to the Rescue?
Of course, with so many health care workers unable to find N95 masks (which are the best choice to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in any form), some have turned to wearing surgical masks. Most non-essential surgeries have been postponed until the virus is quashed or a vaccine is found. Therefore, many hospitals still have surgical masks.
They are not as effective as N95 respirators, but they are better than homemade masks. Still, with such information widely known, there has been a shakeup in the distribution of surgical masks, as well.
Are N95 Masks the Best Choice to Begin With?
Most people (on all sides of the spectrum) wonder if masks, even N95 respirators, do anything to prevent the spread of the virus. The 95 part of the mask’s name indicates that it can filter out 95 percent of .3 and bigger microns. Therefore, no, a mask is not 100 percent effective, but it is the best option.
No PPE is perfect at protecting its wearers, so preventative measures must be used, as well. These can include:
While homemade face masks may not be able to prevent the spread of coronavirus, many people still insist on wearing them when other options aren’t available. Because of this, there are strict rules in place for making and donating such homemade masks.
Of course, those who want to make masks for personal use can skimp on following the rules, but the masks may be more ineffective. Therefore, it is ideal to make sure that you use appropriate templates and follow all of the directions.
If you want to donate homemade masks to your local hospitals, it is best to contact a representative to find out how to do this safely.
Health care workers who need PPE and have no access to it through the hospital may want to consider homemade options until such a time that supply is back. This is an upsetting and challenging time for many healthcare employees. Still, it is possible to reduce your risk of catching the virus by following the CDC guidelines and using preventative measures. You may also use a homemade face mask or a surgical mask with a face shield for added protection during this time of distress.