The tragic shortage of good masks

The tragic shortage of good masks

 “Why aren’t we wearing better masks?” asked Zeynep Tufekci and Jeremy Howard. In the early days of the pandemic, Americans began wearing cloth masks to reduce the chances they would spread or be infected with the coronavirus. At the time, there was a dire shortage of N95 and other high-grade masks, so those were reserved for health-care workers. But “not all masks are equal.” While cloth masks are effective in blocking exhaled droplets and in reducing overall transmission rates, they lack the tight fit and highly protective filters of medical-grade masks. U.S.-made N95s and KN95s from China screen out 95 percent of tiny, virus- carrying droplets called aerosols, and thus provide strong protection to the wearer. At the start of the pandemic, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong all vastly scaled up their manufacture of medical-grade masks and have been distributing them to everyone. Not incidentally, Taiwan’s Covid-19 per capita death rate is 1,000 times lower than the U.S.’s. Tragically, the Trump administration made no effort to produce high- filtration masks for the general public. The Biden administration should “provide simple, clear, actionable, and specific information” about masks, and make medical-grade masks easy to get.

Comments