Of all the COVID-19 problems facing America, the mask shortage might be the most baffling. Masks are now so impossible to find that health-care workers are reusing theirs multiple times.
Grocery-store workers, who are at high risk of contracting the virus, have been denied masks for months. The new trend of creating homemade masks is increasing the spread of the virus due to the ineffectiveness of the fabrics which they are made.
Many of the masks are manufactured in China; the country slowed mask manufacturing and stopped shipping them to the U.S. during its own coronavirus outbreak.
But the United States was supposed to have its own supply of masks in the Strategic National Stockpile, a secret hiding place for emergency supplies stored in an undisclosed number of warehouses around the country. As of April 1st, it was nearly depleted.
WHY THE STRATEGIC NATIONAL STOCKPILE IS OUT OF MASKS?
One of the most important reasons is the fact that in 2009 they distributed 85 million N95 masks to fight the flu. This great expense has dragged him down to this day in the face of this global pandemic.
These 85 million N95 masks were never supplied back into the reserve, which means that it is a reserve in which they did not invest with a future plan.
The US Food and Drug Administration announced that it has canceled the approval for some manufacturers in China to sell N95 respirators in the United States because they do not comply with the regulations, which are highly restrictive in China and follow a controlled process.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists N95 masks, which are designed to filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles, as critical protective supplies that must be reserved for the use of health care workers.
The FDA’s move follows its decision last month to ask China to revise new export quality control rules for protective equipment needed, so they are not an obstacle to timely supplies.
The agency said it had previously authorized the use of those respirators manufactured in China that have been tested by a recognized independent laboratory, even if they hadn’t been tested by US authorities.
However, as a number of these respirators failed to meet the minimum performance standards, the FDA said it was withdrawing the approval of all respirators authorized under the previous criterion.
At least 65 manufacturers have now been banned from selling their masks in the US due to testing failures, the New York Times reported.
On the heels of the relaxed safety requirement, millions of N95 masks made in China were sold or donated to US hospitals.
Although they no longer had to go through rigorous US testing before sale in the US, testing is still happening after the protective gear is brought to market.
CDC scientists started testing these N95 masks in mid-April.
Amid the shortage of masks, health care workers have been forced to sanitize and reuse personal protective equipment (PPE) or use masks that provide less protection than N95s.
But wearing an N95 mask that does not, in fact, keep out that high proportion of tiny particles – like viruses – could create a false sense of security and endanger the workers wearing them.
Despite their failure back in April, the FDA didn’t revoke the selling privileges of those 65 (out of 80) companies until Thursday, May 7.
‘Respirators that have been tested by NIOSH and failed to demonstrate a Minimum Particulate Filtration Efficiency of 95 percent may be considered for use as face masks for source control, to help slow the spread of infection when a person speaks, coughs, or sneezes,’ the FDA said in a statement.
‘Health care facilities should be aware that this use of face masks is different from personal protective equipment for health care personnel.’
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