Amid the nation’s strongest wave of COVID-19 cases, some universities are requiring students to ditch cloth and surgical masks and wear the more protective KN-95 or N-95 masks.
New Orleans LSU Health Sciences Center now requires students and faculty to wear KN-95 or N-95 masks inside campus buildings, college leaders announcement January 3, citing the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Campus members will receive five masks to use over a 10-day period.
Julio Figueroa, chief of infectious diseases at LSU School of Medicine, said the main concern wasn’t for students to pick him up from hospital.
“It’s not the clinicians who bring it from the hospital to the campus, it’s the people who go and do their thing and who are infected and bring it to the campus,” Figueroa said.
Other universities, like the University of Maryland and the University of Southern California, will implement similar policies.
LSU’s Baton Rouge campus has reimplemented its mask mandate for the spring semester, but will not require certain types of masks. The university will also allow professors to organize online classes during the first two weeks of the semester.
Although cloth masks became popular during the pandemic, they do not offer as much protection against disease-carrying particles as KN-95 or N-95 masks.
Dr Abraar Karan, an infectious disease expert at Stanford University, told NPR that respirators like the N-95 or KN-95 are made with a material with an electrostatic charge that “actually attracts these particles. when they float “and prevent people from inhaling them.
A study 2020 of the University of California, Davis suggests that KN-95 respirators reduce particulate emissions to the outside by 90% on average when talking and coughing, while surgical masks reduce emissions by 74%, compared to wearing no mask.
During the first days of the pandemic, the N-95 and other types of respirators were in short supply and the public was encouraged not to purchase them so that there was a sufficient supply for healthcare workers. . Now, the most effective masks are available to order online, but their supply is limited at drug stores and other carriers like Lowes, The Home Depot, and Walmart.
At a press conference on Jan.6, Dr. Joe Kanter, the Louisiana public health officer, encouraged the public to take advantage of their availability. Kanter, who is also an emergency room doctor, said he wears the KN-95 mask.
“I did not have COVID during this outbreak, if I have a choice in the matter I would like not to, so I changed the masks I wear and everything I wear the KN -95 “, he said.
Although KN-95 and N-95 masks are more readily available, they are still more expensive than other masks. Disposable flu masks sell for around $ 0.25 a piece online,
KN-95 certified masks, which are also single-use, retail for $ 1 each. Cloth masks are frequently seen on clearance racks for less than $ 1 a piece, but can sometimes sell for as much as $ 3 to $ 5.
For cases of crisis capacity, the Center for Disease Control has issued guidelines allowing limited reuse of masks. One recommendation called for a rotation of three to four masks, sealing them in breathable containers between uses.
If a KN-95 or an N-95 is not available, or out of budget for an individual, a return to double masking is an effective way to boost the efficiency of existing resources.
Surgical masks are the most effective type of mask after respiratory masks, according to a study by Duke. Adding a cloth mask to a surgical mask improves its fit by filling in the spaces around the nose and mouth.