Good Luck Getting a Real Coronavirus Face Mask

Ideas and Issues
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New Orleans   The headlines are breaking, and the stock market is tanking.  The coronavirus is coming to the United States, and the Center for Disease Control says there’s no way to stop it from spreading through our open borders and diverse population.  President Trump, whupping it up with another autocratic buddy, this time Prime Minister Modi in India, claims the virus is no problem and we’re ready.  The Secretary of Health and Human Services says, no worries, we have 30 million N95 masks that only cost $1 a piece, so we’re good to go.

First, there are lots of different N95 masks, so be warned that one can be easily duped.  Look at Amazon.  The N95 bird flu mask that protects against viruses is unavailable.  The N95’s that are a dollar and change are for “particulate matter.”  That’s not a virus protector.  An N95 respirator from A.M. Leonard Agricultural supplies is about $17, but is unavailable.  This won’t be easy.

An N95 means that the mask has been tested and shown to block 95% of what might be coming at you.  The FDA walks a careful line:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not generally recommend facemasks and respirators for use in home or community settings.  However, they may be appropriate for persons at increased risk of severe illness from influenza or other respiratory diseases.  Please consult with your health care provider for more information about when to use N95 Respirators at home or in the community.

Be careful, friends and neighbors.  There are many masks for particulate matter, but let me repeat, a virus is not particulate, as we know from basic biology class, it’s air and water borne.  The best advice has been to wash your hands like a crazy person at every opportunity and keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth and eyes.

Back to masks for a minute, I will recount our own search.  For an hour mi companera hit one site after another.  Masks that seem to qualify with respirator capacity and virus protection were not available at any price, and certainly not a dollar.   Most of them wouldn’t guarantee delivery until anywhere between mid-March and mid-April.  All of which might be too late on the prevention side.  Please tell the virus to postpone its entry into any workplace or community near you!  Those were the ones that said they might have some in stock.  The vast majority said they were out of stock.  Period.  You could backorder.

We ended up ordering from a US-based company, though who knows where their manufacturing location might be.  Don’t take this as a recommendation.  Each mask qualified to block at N95-99 range on viral.  Who knows when we will actually get the masks?  They say “high demand” means “one to five business days for processing and handling with an addition one to two days to be shipped out directly and due to popularity an estimated one to five weeks for your order to arrive in the US.  Other countries may take two to six weeks.  These are only estimates.”  We hope this isn’t a scam.  The masks were $30 each.

The President wants to take money from low income families for energy assistance, from cancer protection, the elderly services, and the Center for Medical Services to pay for some of the preparation.  Of course, most of these sources include the most vulnerable populations for the virus.

The government is manufacturing fake news if they believe the country is prepared to protect the population from the coronavirus that has now sickened 80,000 and killed 2700.  Masks won’t do the trick.  Washington and the President are fiddling around while the country is at risk.  This should be a huge political issue right now!