Q: Shouldn’t we focus on creating a vaccine? It should be coming pretty soon so we won’t need N95s in the future.
A: Vaccines aren’t all that easy to develop. For example, scientists have been working to ready a vaccine for the HIV virus since 1984, and have still not been able to create one yet. So, it’s been 36 years and counting. Fortunately we have condoms that provide almost 100% protection. Likewise, with an N95 mask and eye protection, you are almost 100% protected from COVID.
"HIV was first identified in 1984. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced at the time that they hoped to have a vaccine ready within two years. Despite many trials of possible vaccines, though, a truly effective vaccine is still not available." (Source)
And, even when they do find a vaccine, they are often only partially effective. The annual vaccine used in the United States for the common flu is only effective on 40% to 60% of those vaccinated. (Source)
Q: What about the N95s that have a vent? Those let your breath come right out, so then you’re not protecting others.
A: It’s true that some N95 masks, not all, are equipped with an exhaust vent, which
opens by air pressure when you breathe out. But you can simply tape closed the valve. I use white medical tape because it’s the same color as the N95 mask. That way, your exhales are filtered by the N95 mask so they don’t come out.
Nice idea to remember: If we eventually have N95 masks for everyone, and you
see someone with an N95 with a valve, and they haven’t taped over it, well, you’re
safe if you’re wearing an N95, but if you’re nice and ask them if they know how to tape it over, they might not have known. And so if you’re super nice, you can tell them the trick without offending them, and they’ll probably appreciate knowing how to protect their loved ones better.
Q: What’s the difference between a Mask and an N95 Respirator Mask?
A: A mask is any kind of face covering. In general, it’s just something you wear on
your face, other than glasses. So when we are told to wear a mask, almost any mask,
even a homemade one, it’s just anything in front of your nose and mouth. It doesn’t
have to stop viruses, and it doesn’t even have to be air tight around the edges. Unless it is a scientifically proven, and CDC registered, “respirator” mask, then it will not stop viruses from easily passing through when you breathe out or in. Any moisture containing the virus can go through these masks when they are not worn properly.
Q: What about just social distancing? Isn’t that enough to stop the virus?
A: If you’re outside and six feet apart, and especially if there’s a little wind, the viruses
breathed out are quickly diluted and dispersed by the outside air around you. So in that case a regular cloth mask might get the job done, and even no mask might work as long as you make sure to keep your distance.
If you are inside, however, like say… staying only in your own room on a cruise
ship for a few weeks, if the heating and air conditioning vents are all shared between
the rooms, well then even though you’re well beyond six feet of anyone else in other
rooms, it doesn't matter much, they breathe the virus out and you breathe it in, and vice-versa. Eventually you all get infected. You could all wear cotton masks on your faces while locked down in your cruise ship rooms and guess what, you’d all be breathing the virus in and out. (Source)
So, social distancing is good, but wearing a N95 mask is perfect, especially when you're indoors.
Q: Don’t we need to reserve N95 masks for doctors? Isn’t it immoral or selfish to wear an N95 if you are not a healthcare worker?
A: This is a really tough question without an easy answer. I’ve thought about this a lot and my best response is this: in an ideal world, everyone who needs N95 masks would have them. There would be no shortage at all. And I also agree that doctors and healthcare workers are high priority. Since our government has failed to provide N95 masks for everyone who need them, I am hoping to bring a focus to these groups, in particular with teachers. Through this project, I hope to raise awareness about the fact that we do not have enough N95 masks in the United States, by beginning with teachers and then moving to protect others. My project is focusing on teachers at this time because I don’t see anyone advocating for their health and well-being right now and I’d like to fill the gap. I hope that soon the government or a large private company will start up some big N95 factories in the United States, and then this won’t even be a question.