The best thing since sliced bread? Online search engines. I can’t really think of anything better than entering a question into a Google search bar, and getting 7.23 billion answers in 1.28 seconds.
But during the past couple years, online search engines have been used for more than checking the weather or discovering fan theories about new episodes of Euphoria. Amidst the current development of the novel COVID-19 virus, websites like Google have become a little less entertaining and a little more informative—being transformed into public health hubs that are dedicated to spreading information about coronavirus-related concerns.
As the pandemic continues to plague the United States, more people are taking to sites like Google to learn about mask effectiveness. Doing so to discover how they can best contribute to the reduction of COVID-19 cases, these Internet users haven’t been guided by their judgment alone, though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has played a large role in expanding Americans’ knowledge of COVID-19 related safety precautions. But by updating their mask recommendations earlier last month, they’ve sparked a national conversation over which masks work best, and many Americans’ inability to purchase these products.
On January 14, 2022, the CDC released a media statement detailing their decision to update their consumer mask website, in an effort to “emphasize protection, fit, and comfort.” Through this update, they established KN95 and N95 respirators as masks that offer more protection than disposable surgical masks and the highest level of protection, respectively. But as many of us aren’t quite familiar with the differences between these masks, here’s a quick rundown.
N95 respirators are specialized filtering masks, specifically “designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.” Widely referred to as N95s, these feature edges that form a snug seal around the nose and mouth.
Similar to N95 respirators, KN95s are respiratory protection devices that meet the Chinese standard for medical masks. Including ear loops and coming in smaller sizes, these have become a public favorite due to the levels of comfort that they provide to their wearers. Moreover, KN95 masks have been spotted in numerous spots around the globe, possessing an especially large community of wearers. Of these individuals is Leila Kline–a senior here at Fort Lauderdale High.
“I wear this mask because I like how secure it fits over my nose and face,” Kline explained. “Compared to the surgical masks, I feel safer and it allows me to protect myself and my peers.”
After considering the fact that masks like KN95s have been established by the CDC as especially protective, one would assume that local and federal governments would make an effort to provide them to Americans for free. But unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. As N95 and KN95 respirators continue to trend and sell out in convenience stores, an increasing number of students and educators are calling for local governments to distribute them to people at no cost.
This public concern manifested itself into a student-led protest that was planned to occur on January 24th, 2022– urging leaders in the Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) system to provide free N95/KN95 masks to students, and implement regular PCR/antigen testing for students and staff in their educational facilities. While ultimately canceled due to safety concerns (which arose after a response was issued by the BCPS board), this public rally demonstrated students’ wishes to promote effective mask wearing throughout the county– representing a local shift away from disposable, surgical masks.
“I think the school board should be providing free KN95 masks because [they are] more protective and effective than surgical masks,” Kline established.
So, I guess you could consider KN95s and N95s to be the Guccis and Pradas of the mask community. But regardless of the validity of this statement, be assured that some protection is better than no protection. Mask wearing in itself is pretty luxury, to me.