Biden, who calls wearing masks a “patriotic act,” signed an executive order Wednesday – his first as president – to ask Americans to wear masks of their choice for the first 100 days of the new administration. The executive order also requires the use of a mask on all federal properties, although in this case not only any old mask will be appropriate.
On Wednesday after taking office, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki showed off her white N95 mask in the press room. “I rubbed it, of course, here today and will continue to do so,” Psaki said after taking off his medical mask and addressing the questions.
N95 masks are considered the gold standard in personal protective equipment as they block 95% of large and small particles using a unique electrostatic precipitator.
The filter works by trapping neutral particles such as bacteria and viruses before passing through the mask, protecting the user and the people around them. It̵
Studies show that masks significantly reduce the chances of coronavirus transmission or contraction. But not all masks provide the same protection. Depending on the fabric and the number of layers, home-made and simple fabric masks have a range of effectiveness that can reach up to 26%, making the user vulnerable.
Some experts, such as Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School doctor Dr. Abraar Karan, have been advocating for the public use of N95 masks since the beginning of the pandemic. In an interview with CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Karan outlined why the N95 is critical at this stage of the pandemic.
“If for four weeks the country essentially wore these masks in those risky conditions like the one indoors, what difference do you think there will be?” Gupta asked.
“That would stop the epidemic,” Karan replied.
The quality of protection that a face mask can provide is crucial. Respiratory disease such as coronavirus is transmitted through aerosols, small particles that are carried and hung in the air. Some virus-carrying particles are small enough to travel through or around lower quality masks, making the user vulnerable to inhaling viral particles.
“We now know that aerosols are best distributed when there is poor ventilation, overcrowding and close contact, which is prolonged,” Karan said in an interview with Gupta. block aerosols. ”
Karan is not the only expert who supports better masks for the general public. Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote in a publication in the Wall Street Journal that “encouraging Americans to wear higher quality masks is a simple step that may make a difference.”
The biggest problem is the lack of supplies. This week marked a full year of coronavirus, and the Biden administration has pledged to invoke the Defense Manufacturing Act more often to stimulate the production of N95 masks and other critical supplies. Experts hope production will reach speed so that it can provide a sufficient population.
“A well-fitted N95 is the best thing you can do,” Dr. Anthony Foci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday. “You could now get production at a much higher rate.”
Karan believes that N95 masks can be an essential asset to open up the economy, as the spread of the vaccine remains slow and quarantine fatigue increases.
“If we have better personal protection for people, they can return to work safer. They can re-engage more safely, especially if testing and tracking is not where we need it,” Karan said.
“That would be one way to get people back and get the economy back.”
Some European countries are already taking this step to prevent the spread of coronavirus within their borders. Earlier this week, Germany and France arranged for all citizens to wear high-filtration masks such as the N95 in all public places.
After months of treating coronavirus patients, Karan says it’s time to invest to make sure the masks people wear are even more effective. “Focus on getting better masks for as many people as possible, focus on the messages around the masks, be in line with your messages, make the masks part of American culture to stop the epidemic.”
The key here is to always wear a mask when you are in public. A study in the Lancet Digital Health found that a 10% increase in mask wear could triple the chances of maintaining control over the transmission of viruses in the community. The ability to control the spread of the coronavirus is in our hands … and on our faces.