I thought it was a step in the right direction when President Biden assured Americans that every person who cannot afford a face mask will be provided one, free of charge. This was announced in late February.
In all, 25 million face masks will be mailed out to over 1,300 community health centers and 60,0000 food pantries and soup kitchens.
The masks are reusable, and will help over 12 million Americans have access to reusable face masks. This is a step in the right direction, for sure.
What had made this particularly interesting for me, was that I had been planning for weeks to write an editorial for Staten Islander urging President Biden to provide masks to all Americans.
However, there are a few key differences between my plan and what’s planned by the Administration. I shall explain:
My idea is for the Federal Government to supply masks to all Americans. That includes non-citizens living on our lands, both people living here on work visas, as well as undocumented migrant workers. We all shop in the same stores, attend the same religious services, and take the same public transportation. If we’re all in this together, we must back those words with resolute action.
Additionally, there will be no income cap. Everyone should get a mask. Period.
Another important difference between my idea and President Biden’s plan is the type of mask distributed. The benefits of using masks of the N-95 type are clear. N95 respirators are regulated by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Yet the face masks that will be available under the President’s plan are less effective at protecting from pathogens than N-95 masks, as well as completely unregulated.
There are serious considerations. The FDA urges people with health conditions that make breathing difficult to check with their health care provider before using an N95 respirator. This is because the smaller mesh size of the fabric created a condition whereby the wearer may find breathing more difficult.
Ironically, these are the patients at highest risk for respiratory complications from COVID. So certainly, N95 masks cannot be mandated, however such masks should nevertheless be available. And, of course, if suffering from health conditions that affect breathing, check with your health care provider before wearing.
The typical face masks we presently use, and are required to wear by law while out and about, are not effective at stemming the spread of COVID 19. The last year of ongoing experiments in societies near and far prove that “masking up” is insufficient. We all wore masks, and yet COVID continued to spread like wildfire.
N-95 masks work better. It’s a proven fact. If COVID is still spreading, it’s likely because many of our measures were simply tests, because as a world society, we’ve never been challenged in this way before and had insufficient data concerning how to proceed. All nations should have been better prepared. But none were.
Hopefully, we’ll learn from our collective experience and try harder to institute effective measures, while discarding practices that failed.
The War Powers Act should be used to accomplish these goals; this is why such laws were made, and this is a perfect circumstance to benefit from its utility. Presently, the CDC does not recommend that the “general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from…COVID-19….Critical supplies must…be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders…”
But if our supply and manufacturing capacity were to increase, this would not be of issue.
And, research should be started into a mask that is both reusable and N-95 certified. This would stop the pollution that the cheap disposable masks that everyone wears is causing, which unchecked, will undoubtedly result in a net loss of wildlife as the scourge of mask pollution spreads through the ecosystems.
In this respect, President Biden’s plan is a great step forward. Putting reusable masks in Americans’ hands removes a steady stream of disposable face masks from the landfills, streets, rivers, and oceans.
In summary, it’s good to see some action being taken. There are excellent preliminary steps toward beating COVID-19. But why stop there? As President, Mr. Biden can order anything reasonable, and nothing in my plan is unreasonable. In fact, it’s the logical conclusion to the Administration’s plans regarding face masks and the public.
D. Alban, President
Assertive Kids Foundation