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Unmasking the Coronavirus
If you have investigated purchasing facemasks or respirators specifically due to the coronavirus scare, I’m sure you’ve thought of a variety of questions. For instance, why are we seeing people on the streets wearing facemasks? Does this even protect us from Coronavirus? And what’s the deal with N95 respirators? Or the so-called “surgical masks”? Let’s clear some of this up right now.
Facemasks are loose-fitting and protect only from droplets and large respiratory particles. This would be not unlike a gunslinging bandit wearing a bandana in the old wild West. This does not filter small particles and doesn’t prevent leakage around the mask when the user inhales. The role of facemasks is to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes. Confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients should wear a facemask until they are isolated.
• N95 Respirators
A respirator is a personal protective device worn on the face and covers the nose and mouth. This reduces the risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles, gases, or vapors. N95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that remove large and small particles from the air that are breathed through it. These are tested to filter out at least 95% of 0.3 micron particles. These can filter out all types of particles. Workers undergo a medical evaluation and fit-test to confirm a proper seal before using a respirator in the workplace. When properly fitted, minimal leakage occurs when the user inhales and air is directed through the filter media.
• Surgical N95 Respirators
Surgical N95 respirators are recommended only for use by healthcare personnel. These protect from both airborne particles and fluid hazards. These are NOT needed outside of healthcare settings. In today’s environment, only healthcare personnel working in a sterile environment or those exposed to splashes, sprays, or splatters of body fluids should wear these respirators. In fact, most healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients should not need to use surgical N95 respirators and could use standard N95 respirators.
• People on The Street
Stay home when you’re sick, period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings. You’ve probably heard the term “social distancing” enough recently. This is because in most cases the spread of respiratory viruses happens among close personal contact within 6 feet. The recommended preventive actions are: Avoid sick people, don’t touch your face, and cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. Keep our healthcare personnel in your thoughts – they are the ones who need respirators the most.
Samie Lee Gossfeld – Verona Safety