cSo they want you to go back to work. They tell you that the safeguards are basically up to you, although they will sanitize your work area and space out employee desks and provide you with hand sanitizer. You must wear a mask. Bring one from home.
Don’t do it unless you are really up against it. A little research on masks tells me that 99% of masks worn by civilians are almost totally ineffective when it comes to stopping the tiny droplets of COVID 19 expelled by people sneezing or coughing. Single or double fabric layers, same deal. The only thing they are good for is to protect other people if you are infected. If you sneeze or cough, it will trap most of the COVID 19 next to your face. Ugh.
My first mask was homemade. I made it in the early days of the pandemic, when the web was full of advice on how to make your own , and many public-spirited people warmed up their old sewing machines , made masks, and many of them donated their home-made masks to area hospitals. My mask has survived a couple washings. The elastic band is out of an old pair of Hanes underwear, the stiffener piece over my nose is from a Dunkin Donuts coffee bag , and the white fabric is from a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner bag. It’s okay, but I have been reading that the acid test for masks is to get a flashlight and shine it through your mask. Too much light came through mine and I am busy making a new mask with two layers of fabric. It’ll probably work better, but not good enough to protect me in dangerous territory. And right now this town could be turning dangerous. There is COVID-19 here.
The virus is tiny, in the low micron range. A micron is .00004 of an inch. At an appropriate level of magnification, woven cotton looks like a coarse window screen, and a drop of virus is small enough to float right through. The good I-95 masks, the so-called “gold standard” from 3M that can filter 95% or more of viral drops in the micron range are still in short supply, and only are available to people working in hospitals.. If I were in a ward in a nursing home or hospital and I heard one of the people in the ward coughing , I would want a N-95 mask toot suite. They probably wouldn’t give me one. The short supply of masks means that N-95 masks are just for health professionals.
We are opening up America to this viral attack without the equipment needed to protect people. No rifles for the soldiers. The situation reminds me of the post-apocalyptic 1959 movie “On the Beach.” People waiting for the end of the world. The movie starred Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. It pictured a world after a nuclear war had destroyed all human life in the Northern Hemisphere. The only people alive lived in Australia, and in an elegiac ending, everyone down there will take suicide pills as the readings rise, and the last U.S. submarine sails north to satisfy the wishes of its crew, who want to die at home.
After many months of off and on measures, there is no assurance that the United States is on top of this crisis. Here in Massachusetts it seems to be spreading from nursing home to nursing home. The Soldiers Home in Holyoke is the scene of a disaster, with many fatalities so far. The march of the virus seems inexorable. We sit at home, and wait and wait and fume helplessly as our ham-handed President spins the wheel and fires another regulatory figure. And refuses to wear a mask.
I remember when the pandemic was happening to other people. It was new and it only affected the Chinese, and those Chinese in particular who lived in or around Wuhan. We watched TV nights and there were thousands of Chinese all wearing masks. The department in charge of guesswork guessed that the epidemic had originated in a section of the Wuhan market that sold wild animal meat. All these Chinese wearing masks. I thought that the Chinese were peculiar people.to panic this way. And yes, maybe cultural arrogance gets in the way of our learning how the Chinese managed to beat the disease down to a near-standstill. For many days, no new cases were reported in China. Zero.
Science magazine recently interviewed George Gao, a distinguished Chinese scientist who had been involved in the Wuhan crisis from the beginning. He is the Director General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (their CDC). He said that the big mistake that Western societies are making is that people are not wearing masks. The Chinese evidently launched a crash program to manufacture masks. Firms that were manufacturing toys or diapers were setting up production lines..
(Warning, clicks to reference materials seem to be one-way affairs, you might need your browser to get back to blogpost)
The result was that the medical people had lots of masks available to give out. We saw them distributing them to everyone in the Wuhan area. Not just to the doctors and nurses that were working in emergency rooms, but to everyone that lived in the area. There was a crash program to manufacture masks. And they rapidly knocked the Pandemic down. When our CDC’s National Personal Protection Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) tested masks made by forty different Chinese manufacturers, the N-95s and pseudo-95s made in China, their effectiveness figures were all over the map. Click on “International Assessment Results” to look at the test results and links to the various manufacturers. These KN-95s they tested were evidently similar to the masks that the Patriot’s. plane brought back from China. There was widespread conjecture that Kraft and our governor, Charlie Baker, had bought a lot of useless counterfeits, but it ain’t necessarily so. As a CDC specialist said at the close of a seminar on buying masks from China, “Just because your mask you bought for your hospital or your state is of uncertain provenance and has bad numbers and maybe was made by an outfit that was manufacturing toys six months ago, it doesn’t mean that their masks are no good. The NPPTL tested forty models of N-95s and KN95s. 25 of the 40 stopped 90% of the viral particles, 16 intercepted 95% , and a couple of them managed to stop all of the particles. Masks made by the Anshun Health & Medical Technology Company in Guiyang , a city in south central China, had a maximum filtration efficiency of 100%, and a minimum rating of 99.99%
I am not vouching for this company. Everybody has to do their due diligence. Buying masks from Chinese manufacturers and distributors is a hazardous business,especially if you have deep pockets and big ambitions. This webinar is an excellent introduction to the science of acquiring N-95s and is a credit to the staff of the much – maligned CDC, and is also a credit to the State of Indiana, who sent two representative of their development Corp. Luke Fasso told the gathering that it helps to have staff people that speak Mandarin. And you need to demand a sample and make sure that it fits one of our faces. Many masks are made to fit Asiatic type faces. Danny Chen, who was a consultant for the state on acquisition, talked about the necessity of playing hardball if you buy in China. You shouldn’t deal with third-party hustlers, but talk directly with the factory. Ask them to produce data that proves they work for the factory. A lot of people in the United States have had to come up to speed on China. They definitively have a substantial production capacity. As of January 1 2020 , when our people began fleeing from China, we didn’t manufacture that many masks in the U.S.
The only 3M plants making N95s in the US are two relatively small plants in Aberdeen, South Dakota and Valley, Nebraska. The factories are now working all three shiftsto fill orders, but I know that Aberdeen is a relatively small plant employing 650 people. We have shipped our manufacturing overseas, and now we are paying the price. 3M today is mainly 3MChina, a wholly owned subsidiary. Honeywell has opened a new plant in Smithfield RI, and another bigger plant is being built in Phoenix. On May first they shipped their first pallet of masks from Phoenix. Eventually Honeywell plans to ship billions of masks yearly, but as of right now, hospitals and state governments are desperate to get useful effective equipment. Masks can only be worn so long before they get ineffective.
What would have happened if our government had admitted its unpreparedness to deal with this outbreak? What if we had better relations with China and told them in January ;that we were putting their country in quarantine, and refused to take in Americans living in the Wuhan area.. What if we had said, no sorry cannot do. Stay in China and the Chinese government will take care of you. We will take you back when you are better. We won’t take new people from China until things get better. What might have happened? Would the great majority of them have recovered? Would the United States have been spared the epidemic? Maybe and maybe not.
So now we are all wearing these useless cloth masks. Masks made out of cotton; masks that don’t seal properly. If your company wants you to work in their office building demand that they acquire equipment that meets NIOSH standards. The pressure is on from Washington for firms to get back to work.
Now some universities and colleges are planning to open up. I read in the New York Times that the University of Tennessee is going ahead with convening big planning groups of administrators, teachers and security people to plan the process. One professor was wondering how he was going to enforce social distancing when there was only one door to get in and out of his classroom. He wondered how he was going to handle the students who refused to wear a mask. If the President doesn’t wear a mask why should they? An infected person can turn a classroom into a “hot spot” An out of control frat party ?