Hi, I’m Emerson Grace, a sophomore at Redwood High School. When the pandemic hit, I started reading about how to protect myself from Coronavirus. In March, I went to the CDC website and read that an N95 respirator mask should protect me from just about any virus, including this one. It’s not just a mask, it's a respirator mask, and it prevents you from inhaling the virus.
Though an N95 mask looks like other masks, it’s actually significantly different. If you wear an N95, and wear it properly, then you can be safe from the virus the same way doctors and hospital nurses are.
When schools started talking about opening back up, I thought about my teachers, and hoped that they’d all have N95 masks since they would be in the same room with students, breathing the same air. But that did not seem to be in the plans.
Yes, cloth masks could be used, but they do not provide the same protection that N95s do. Especially in a closed environment like the classroom, it seems important for my teachers to have ideal protection against the virus if they feel like they need it.
So, I've been raising money to buy N95 masks to give to teachers. I don’t think any teacher should have to risk their health just to do their job. Also, I would hate to see some of my older teachers have to choose between risking infection or retiring.
My brother and I have gone door-to-door in our neighborhoods asking for donations. We document every dollar received and spend every dollar on N95 masks to give to any of our teachers who want them. Fortunately, it has been possible to purchase N95 masks on a relatively small scale, so we are up and running. And a teacher only needs 3 to 6 masks per month when they are properly decontaminated and reused carefully, just as many hospitals do.
First, I want to protect my teachers so they can be confident in coming back to school. Once I’ve accomplished that, I am considering raising money to protect others, including elders and their caretakers, especially those in nursing homes. Right now, in California, most nursing home workers do not have N95 masks, and they are not tested for infection regularly. But once all staff have N95 masks, then they will be protected themselves, and they would also fully protect their patients who are at higher risk.