The World Health Organization (WHO) shared new guidance regarding mask wearing at today's coronavirus briefing for health workers and the general public based on a review of evolving evidence.
WHO officials stressed that the new advice is an update to previous guidance, and that masks should only ever be used as part of an overall comprehensive strategy. "The cornerstone of the response in every country must be to find, isolate, test and care for every case and to trace and quarantine every contact", said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Here's what has changed and what hasn't:
What's hasn't changed:
To develop the guidance, the agency consulted with a range of international experts from different countries and disciplines such as infectious diseases and epidemiology. Their review of a variety of evidence demonstrated some new findings, including that face protections, including respirators or medical masks, can result in a large reduction of transmission of coronaviruses, including COVID-19.
Recommendations, such as those regarding fabric masks, are the result of new research that the WHO commissioned that was not available a month ago. This new evidence, said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead, has shown that the recommended fabric combination "can actually provide a mechanistic barrier that if someone were infected with COVID-19, you can prevent those droplets from going through and infecting someone."
Officials acknowledged that in some countries with dense populations it is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain social distancing, making masks "very important," stressed Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, and meaning that offices, transport agencies and schools will need to examine their recommendations closely as countries lift lockdown restrictions. "Every organization, industry and sector needs to think about what are the measures that need to be put in place," said Swaminathan.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, mask guidance has varied by country, expert and organization. Some countries have recommended non-medical masks only for sick people, while other experts have advocated for non-medical mask use by healthy members of the general public when outside of their homes. Some countries, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, even made mask wearing mandatory.
The WHO had previously recommended against the wearing of medical masks by the general public given the global PPE shortage. It had been reluctant to advocate for wider usage of non-medical masks by healthy people given the lack of data available at the time.
Today, WHO officials reminded the public that masks still must be worn correctly, cared for and kept clean to ensure that they are effective. "People can infect themselves if they use contaminated hands to adjust a mask or repeatedly take it on or off," explained the Director-General.
"I cannot say this clearly enough," said the Director-General. "Masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19."
The WHO has released new guidance on cloth masks, recommending that they consist of at least three layers of different materials: an inner layer being an absorbent material like cotton, a middle layer of non-woven materials such as polypropylene (for the filter) and an outer layer, which is a non absorbent material such as a polyester or a polyester blend. (Our F95 has four layers of which are two melt blown non woven layers)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing masks in public settings to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. A new study suggests that cases of COVID-19 could be cut significantly if 80 percent of people heeded this advice.
The research, published by a group of international experts, created a model that shows the cases could be cut significantly if "(near) universal masking" is adopted.
"Universal masking at 80 [percent] adoption flattens the curve significantly more than maintaining a strict lockdown," researchers wrote in the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.
"Masking at only 50 [percent] adoption is not sufficient to prevent continued spread," the researchers added. Replacing the strict lockdown with social distancing on May 31 without masking results in unchecked spread."
The model the researchers built is known as the maskim simulator. One of the collaborators on the study, economist Guy-Philippe Goldstein, told Forbes that in addition to social distancing, wearing a mask is the only thing working "to flatten the curve of infections" as the world waits for treatments and vaccines.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, one of the study's authors, University of California, Berkely, researcher De Kai, said he thought this research was "pretty urgent.
“I saw the country where I grew up [U.S.], where my family lives [now mostly in the Bay Area], about to face this pandemic without knowing much about something as simple as wearing a mask to protect themselves and others," Kai told the news outlet.
The authors also noted several countries or regions that have a history of wearing masks in public during non-pandemic times, including Macau, Beijing, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan, have seen drastic reductions in the number of cases from their respective peaks. Beijing, Singapore and Japan underwent "partial lockdown," while Macau and Taiwan did not.
By contrast, every state in the U.S. has undergone stay-at-home programs, though many are in the process of reopening in some way.
Earlier this month, a separate study on the same topic divided scientists, some of whom believed in the effectiveness of wearing masks, while others questioned the results.
May 15th 2020
Putting Masks to the test
Check out this great video
When news of a mysterious viral pneumonia linked to a market in Wuhan, China, reached the outside world in early January, one of my first reactions was to order a modest supply of masks. Just a few weeks later, there wasn’t a mask to be bought in stores, or online for a reasonable price — just widespread price gouging. Many health experts, no doubt motivated by the sensible and urgent aim of preserving the remaining masks for health care workers, started telling people that they didn’t need masks or that they wouldn’t know how to wear them.
As the pandemic rages on, there will be many difficult messages for the public. Unfortunately, the top-down conversation around masks has become a case study in how not to communicate with the public, especially now that the traditional gatekeepers like media and health authorities have much less control. The message became counterproductive and may have encouraged even more hoarding because it seemed as though authorities were shaping the message around managing the scarcity rather than confronting the reality of the situation.
First, many health experts, including the surgeon general of the United States, told the public simultaneously that masks weren’t necessary for protecting the general public and that health care workers needed the dwindling supply. This contradiction confuses an ordinary listener. How do these masks magically protect the wearers only and only if they work in a particular field?
Second, there were attempts to bolster the first message, that ordinary people didn’t need masks, by telling people that masks, especially medical-grade respirator masks (such as the N95 masks), needed proper fitting and that ordinary people without such fitting wouldn’t benefit. This message was also deeply counterproductive. Many people also wash their hands wrong, but we don’t respond to that by telling them not to bother. Instead, we provide instructions; we post signs in bathrooms; we help people sing songs that time their hand-washing. Telling people they can’t possibly figure out how to wear a mask properly isn’t a winning message. Besides, when you tell people that something works only if done right, they think they will be the person who does it right, even if everyone else doesn’t.
Third, of course masks work — maybe not perfectly and not all to the same degree, but they provide some protection. Their use has always been advised as part of the standard response to being around infected people, especially for people who may be vulnerable. World Health Organization officials wear masks during their news briefings. That was the reason I had bought a few in early January — I had been conducting research in Hong Kong, which has a lot of contact with mainland China, and expected to go back. I had studied and taught about the sociology of pandemics and knew from the SARS experience in 2003 that health officials in many high-risk Asian countries had advised wearing masks.
It is of course true that masks don’t work perfectly, that they don’t replace hand-washing and social distancing, and that they work better if they fit properly. And of course, surgical masks (the disposable type that surgeons wear) don’t filter out small viral particles the way medical-grade respirator masks rated N95 and above do. However, even surgical masks protect a bit more than not wearing masks at all. We know from flu research that mask-wearing can help decrease transmission rates along with frequent hand-washing and social-distancing. Now that we are facing a respirator mask shortage, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that surgical masks are “an acceptable alternative” for health care workers — again, obviously because some protection, even if imperfect, is better than none. In the face of this, publicly presenting an absolute answer — “You don’t need them” — for something that requires a qualified response just makes people trust authorities even less.
Fourth, the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. told the public to wear masks if they were sick. However, there is increasing evidence of asymptomatic transmission, especially through younger people who have milder cases and don’t know they are sick but are still infectious. Since the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. do say that masks lessen the chances that infected people will infect others, then everyone should use masks. If the public is told that only the sick people are to wear masks, then those who do wear them will be stigmatized and people may well avoid wearing them if it screams “I’m sick.” Further, it’s very difficult to be tested for Covid-19 in the United States. How are people supposed to know for sure when to mask up?
Fifth, places like Hong Kong and Taiwan that jumped to action early with social distancing and universal mask wearing have the pandemic under much greater control, despite having significant travel from mainland China. Hong Kong health officials credit universal mask wearing as part of the solution and recommend universal mask wearing. In fact, Taiwan responded to the coronavirus by immediately ramping up mask production.
Sixth, masks are an important signal that it’s not business as usual as well as an act of solidarity. Pandemics require us to change our behavior — our socialization, hygiene, work and more — collectively, and knowing our fellow citizens are on board is important for all efforts.
Finally, providing top-down guidance with such obvious contradictions backfires exactly because lack of trust is what fuels hoarding and misinformation. It used to be said that back in the Soviet Union, if there was a line, you first got in line and then figured out what the line was for — people knew that there were going to be shortages and that the authorities often lied, so they hoarded. And when people feel as though they may not be getting the full truth from the authorities, snake-oil sellers and price gougers have an easier time.
Given that there is indeed a mask shortage and that medical workers absolutely do need these masks more, what should the authorities have said? The full painful truth. Despite warnings from experts for decades, especially after the near miss of SARS, we still weren’t prepared for this pandemic, and we did not ramp up domestic production when we could, and now there’s a mask shortage — and that’s disastrous because our front line health care workers deserve the best protection. Besides, if they fall ill, we will all be doomed.
If anything, a call for people who hoarded masks to donate some of them to their local medical workers would probably work better than telling people that they don’t need them or that they won’t manage to make them work. “Look, more masks would be great. We are doing our best to ramp up production. Till then, if our medical workers fall ill, we will all be worse off. Please donate any excess — maybe more than two weeks’ worth per person — to your hospital” sounds corny, but it’s the truth. Two weeks is a reasonable standard because the C.D.C. and the W.H.O. still recommend wearing masks if you’re taking care of someone with a milder illness self-isolating at home, something that will increasingly be necessary as hospitals get overwhelmed.
Research shows that during disasters, people can show strikingly altruistic behavior, but interventions by authorities can backfire if they fuel mistrust or treat the public as an adversary rather than people who will step up if treated with respect. Given that even homemade masks may work better than no masks, wearing them might be something to direct people to do while they stay at home more, as we all should.
We will no doubt face many challenges as the pandemic moves through our societies, and people will need to cooperate. The sooner we create the conditions under which such cooperation can bloom, the better off we all will be.
Dr. Tufekci is a professor of information science who specializes in the social effects of technology.
Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, the author of “Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest” and a contributing opinion writer.
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April 15, 2020
Imposing a stricter measure to control the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that he would start requiring people in New York to wear masks or face coverings in public whenever social distancing was not possible.
The order will take effect on Friday and will apply to people who are unable to keep six feet away from others in public settings, such as on a bus or subway, on a crowded sidewalk or inside a grocery store.
“Stopping the spread is everything,” Mr. Cuomo said during his daily briefing in Albany. “How can you not wear a mask when you’re going to come close to a person?”
The new requirements are bound to make face coverings an inescapable and perhaps jarring sight in New York City for the foreseeable future. They could also introduce a level of mutual obligation and civic duty about wearing masks in public that is more firmly established in Asia than in the West.
Maryland also announced on Wednesday that it would require people to wear masks in public.
Mr. Cuomo said local governments would enforce the order, but he noted that riders without face coverings would not be ejected from public transit. The pandemic has devastated New York’s public transit system, with 59 workers having died of the virus and 2,269 testing positive for the infection.
The state would consider issuing civil penalties to people who fail to abide by the order, but not criminal penalties: “You’re not going to go to jail for not wearing a mask,” Mr. Cuomo said.
Permitted face coverings include proper masks, as well as scarves or bandannas, the governor said.
A similar rule was issued in New Jersey last week. The order, issued by Gov. Philip D. Murphy, made it mandatory for all people inside stores and other essential businesses to wear face coverings unless they are under 2 years old or have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.
Signs have popped up at stores throughout New Jersey warning customers that they will not be allowed in unless they cover their faces. Some stores have taken a stronger stance, asking people without coverings to leave.
“These restrictions that I have laid out must be followed throughout the state,” Mr. Murphy said last week. “We are taking the step to protect both customers and essential workers.”
The mandates were the latest public safety measures from two states that are at the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. New York and New Jersey have worked in tandem since the outbreak reached the region, shuttering nonessential businesses at the same time and recently forming a coalition with neighboring states to coordinate the reopening of their economies.
In announcing Maryland’s order on masks in public settings, Gov. Larry Hogan said, “The wearing of masks is something we may have to become more accustomed to in order to safely reopen our state.”
New York, New Jersey and Maryland are so far the only states to have issued broad orders mandating face coverings in most public settings, according to the most recent information from the National Governors Association. Puerto Rico and Guam have implemented similar measures.
Nonbinding guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage people to wear face coverings in settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain to prevent the transmission of the virus. The infection spreads primarily through droplets generated when, for instance, a sick person coughs or sneezes.
That federal recommendation was issued after research showed that many people were infected with the virus but did not show symptoms.
Across New Jersey, businesses were still grappling with the enforcement of the new rules, which some people have flouted, leading to arrests in some instances.
Supermarkets have posted signs on their doors telling customers they cannot come in without a mask, but some shoppers have refused to wear coverings and laughed off the requirement, said Matt Fattah, the owner of a C-Town supermarket in Jersey City.
“A lot of people think they don’t have to follow the rules,” Mr. Fattah said. “My employees are all on board, wear masks and gloves 100 percent of the time. Customers, first few days, it was an issue. Like the bag ban, a lot of customers thought it was a joke, that we were joking.”
Earlier this week, the owners of a toy store in Lakewood, a town near the Jersey Shore, were charged with violating the order after police spotted about 10 people crowded inside the shop. Only three of them were wearing masks, according to the police.
And in Pleasantville, a town just west of Atlantic City, a 35-year-old man was arrested on several charges, including violating emergency orders, after he came into a Dunkin’ Donuts without a mask and refused to leave after employees asked him to.
Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said the police would continue to cite and arrest those who ignored orders mandating social distancing and the wearing of masks.
“Because lives are at stake, enforcement action will be taken without hesitation against those who are blatantly placing the lives of others at risk,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Murphy, the New Jersey governor, said it was up to businesses to set their own policies on how to deal with customers who do not wear a face covering.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said all New Yorkers must wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible, including on public transport, in stores and on crowded sidewalks.
By Joseph G. Allen
April 2, 2020 at 2:14 p.m. EDT
Joseph G. Allen is an assistant professor of exposure and assessment science, director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of “Healthy Buildings.”
The debate is over. You should be wearing a mask when you go out.
The public health benefits are fourfold:
First, masks of any type help prevent the user from infecting others by acting as a physical barrier that will block large droplets from coughs and sneezes. These droplets can travel up to 20 feet with a powerful sneeze, so six feet of social distancing is not always enough. And wearing masks is not just a good thing for those who are actively sick: Any one of us might be harboring this virus asymptomatically and could transmit it to others, cascading into a thousand new infections.
Second, masks will protect you from others around you who might be sick. The degree of protection will depend on the mask type, and we absolutely must reserve our scarce supply of N95 respirators — which filter out 95 percent of aerosols — for front-line health-care workers. The consequences of commercial mask shortages are so severe for our health-care workers that the rest of us cannot afford to be using them.
That means the general public must resort to DIY masks. The good news is that you can craft your own using something that pretty much everyone has in their home: a 100-percent-cotton T-shirt. (Here’s a good tutorial on how to make one.) Depending on factors such as the fabric thickness and the fit around the nose and mouth, these can be anywhere from 50 to 70 percent efficient at capturing particles.
Third, masks serve as a reminder not to touch your face. A virus has to find a way into your body to begin its takeover of your cellular machinery. By now, we’ve all heard the guidance not to touch your face so that if you do pick up the virus on your hands, you won’t transfer it right into a hospitable environment. Wearing a mask puts a physical barrier between your hands and your nose and mouth, and, maybe more importantly, reminds you to use more caution.
Fourth, wearing a mask serves as a vital social cue. You are sending a signal to others that there is a real threat out there. When enough people do it, it will become self-reinforcing. Standing six feet from people at the grocery store felt awkward at first, but it quickly became normalized and even appreciated. Now if someone stands too close to you, it’s offensive. Soon, not wearing a mask will seem selfish.
Now let’s talk about the right way to use masks:
Be advised: Wearing a mask does not replace other important public health control measures such as hand-washing, social distancing, covering your cough and cleaning surfaces. In fact, masks are a type of personal protective equipment, which health professionals consider the last line of defense.
Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel
Assistant Professor/Director, Healthy Buildings program, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Dr. Joseph G. Allen is an assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, with John Macomber at Harvard Business School. He began his career conducting forensic health investigations of sick buildings in several hundred buildings across a diverse range of industries, including healthcare, biotechnology, education, commercial office real estate and manufacturing.
“It’s like going to war with a butter knife.” That’s the description one physician in New York City offered for how he and his colleagues are trying to suppress the coronavirus, even as they deal with dwindling stocks of health-care supplies and personal protective equipment.
Over the past two days, I’ve talked with 22 health-care professionals, almost all of whom used metaphors and analogies usually reserved for combat movies. They are “soldiers” on the “front lines” and in the “trenches” fighting a “war” against a terrifying new “enemy” that is growing exponentially. But we’re failing these soldiers, sending them into battle without the weapons and armor they need to win.
“This is a disaster. [Our health-care workers] are risking their lives,” the physician told me. “We need to advocate for our frontline workers.”
Most of the health-care professionals I interviewed, including the physician in New York, asked to remain anonymous. “I’ve got small kids to support. I can’t afford backlash from my institution [for speaking out],” said a physician from Baltimore, echoing the fears of many colleagues. Regardless, he reached out because he finds the current situation “maddening and exhausting” and believes it must be fixed.
A New York City emergency-room physician echoed that sentiment. “We are flying blind right now.” She pointed to the lack of testing kits available in the United States. South Korea, a country of 51 million, has aggressively tested more than 270,000 people. By contrast, the United States, which often boasts about being the most powerful country in the world, has tested only about 82,000. She said the turnaround time to obtain results for the very few tests she has on hand is about three days.
Health-care workers often don’t have access to the testing kits that magically appear for celebrities and politicians. They are running out of the life-saving medical supplies they need to do their jobs.
The shortage of personal protective equipment is particularly acute. Medical workers are supposed to be using N95 masks, which reduce their exposure by filtering out at least 95 percent of particles in the air. But on Wednesday, President Trump said his administration had ordered 500 million of these masks after receiving complaints about widespread shortages. To cope with the burgeoning coronavirus crisis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told nurses to use bandanas and scarves as last-resort masks. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, meanwhile, have access to N95 masks as they apprehend immigrants during a national pandemic.
The escalating crisis led Margaux Snider to go public. She is the medical director of emergency medicine at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, in California. “As of today, I have had it,” she said. “I am willing to be on the record. We need supplies, and we need the public to take this seriously. I’m willing to lose my job before my life.” She wanted to put her name to that call, whatever the personal cost. “I am deeply disillusioned with a country that is unwilling to protect the people that stand between them and death, risking our lives seemingly without concern,” she said. She cited the recent news about two emergency-room doctors, in New Jersey and Washington State, who contracted COVID-19 and are now in critical condition.
Nearly every person I interviewed pointed to Italy as a preview of what’s about to happen to the U.S. health-care system unless drastic action is taken immediately. In Italy, 2,629 health workers have been infected by the coronavirus. On March 11, Roberto Stella, the leader of the Medical Guild of Varese, died from COVID-19 after he continued treating patients despite lacking proper protective gear.
Snider warned that this deadly trend will accelerate all across America, especially in small communities that are struggling to receive necessary supplies.
She said community hospitals are struggling to hold on to N95 masks and powered-air purifying respirator hoods, the white suits that look like they came out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. One community hospital in central California, Snider said, has only a single box of masks for the entire emergency department. That’s 30 masks, for a department that usually sees more than 30,000 patients a year.
“PPE matters the most,” she stressed. Emergency-room doctors and nurses are exposed to higher viral loads of the coronavirus, Snider explained, which means that, if infected, they may get sicker, faster, than the average citizen. When health-care professionals fall ill, no one else will be left, especially in small communities, to take care of patients as the coronavirus exponentially spreads.
I spoke with another physician who works at an outpatient clinic in the Washington, D.C., area. Most hospitals, she said, realized by last week that they don’t have enough equipment to deal with this outbreak. Medical workers are “totally vulnerable and exposed in an outpatient setting,” she said. She’s seeing people with complaints ranging from respiratory infection to coughs to runny noses to fevers. All of those could be symptoms of the common flu—or of COVID-19. People who are infected with the coronavirus can be asymptomatic, meaning they don’t feel sick, but can still pass the virus to family members, friends, and their community—and, if they’re health-care workers, to patients.
This physician worked all last week without a mask. She now worries every day that she could be infected but asymptomatic, and spreading the virus to her loved ones, including her four children. And she’s worried about what’s coming in the weeks ahead. “There will be so many people in the hospital,” she told me. “It’s going to be overwhelming. Doctors are going to be infected. They’re going to be sick. I don’t know if we have the infrastructure to take care of this.”
At a White House press conference on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration’s recent measures have made 35 million N95 masks available, up from 3 million.
One government study from 2015, though, estimated that 1.7 billion to 3.5 billion such masks would be needed in a pandemic—and that was in its most optimistic scenario.
“People aren’t realizing the gravity of the situation,” a health-care worker in a Queens hospital told me. “We are going to run out of PPE.”
“Private companies that make these materials can make a huge difference in terms of the outcome, but they need to be supported by the government,” he said. The CEO of General Motors recently offered to manufacture hospital ventilators in her auto plants, and other offers followed. On Wednesday, Trump said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, a wartime measure, to accelerate production of PPE and health-care supplies, but later tweeted that he would only “invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.”
Almost every health-care professional I interviewed criticized the government’s lack of preparedness. “The biggest mistake we’ve made is that we awakened to this problem too late,” said the New York emergency-room doctor. “We had three months of warning from China and then Europe, and we didn’t take it seriously.”
“We have known for six weeks, and there was literally zero response and preparedness,” echoed another physician from New York City. “The entire health-care system is a massive failure on a federal level.”
They also voiced frustration toward the CDC and its changing guidelines on personal protective equipment. A few weeks ago the CDC said physicians needed N95 masks. Later, it said surgical masks would suffice. This week, it said bandanas and scarves can be used as a last resort. The physicians said they believe these shifting guidelines are driven by equipment shortages, and not the actual safety of health-care workers.
Some health-care professionals have decided to be proactive. Esther Choo started the hashtag #GetMePPE, urging health-care workers to share pictures of their equipment and stories of their struggles so Congress will take action.
Susan Puckett, a physician assistant from Boulder, Colorado, emailed me to say she has been hiding one N95 mask in her desk because of a shortage. She told me she is going to borrow her husband’s woodworking gear and goggles from the garage, because her office doesn’t have any eye protection, either.
Furkan Shinaishin, an attending emergency-medicine physician at Inova Loudoun Hospital, is more desperate. “Because of our shortage of masks, we keep one N95 mask per shift. After we’re done seeing the patient, we put it in a paper bag with our name on it. When it’s time to see the next patient, we put the same mask back on. It’s frightening.” She said because there’s no way to sterilize the mask, she and her colleagues were told to put a surgical mask on top of the N95 mask.
She has been on immunosuppressants because she has lupus, and she has two small girls at home. “I’m hoping I’m lucky enough that I’m not going to get it,” she said. “I literally couldn’t sleep last night after my shift because I was in such a panic.”
Like soldiers in the trenches, many of the health-care workers I talked with believe they simply have to take care of one another. “A lot of us on the front lines are just thinking about tomorrow. The next 12 hours. The next four hours,” Jason Sample told me. He is the chief of acute, trauma, and critical care at New York–Presbyterian Queens.
“I don’t want people to forget that everybody who works in the hospital is part of the health-care team—from the janitors to the people in the laundry room to the people in the lab. We’re just doing our best to protect each other.”
He said New Yorkers need to pull together, as they have in previous crises. “Everyone right now needs to focus on being kind to each other,” he said, his voice breaking. “People were just walking the streets [after the 9/11 attacks] and people who would never talk to you were like, ‘What can I do to help?’ People were just kind to each other. I just hope if anything good comes out of this at all, that’s what comes out of it.”
Despite the shortages, many medical workers are undeterred from pursuing their mission. “We have to get back on the front lines, because this is going to get worse,” a nurse practitioner in Oregon told me. She works in a free mobile clinic that provides services primarily for vulnerable clients, including undocumented immigrants, transgender individuals, and the homeless. She has no N95 masks and no gowns in the van. All she has are surgical masks with eye protection, which do not offer adequate protection from the coronavirus, and she has only four left. But she refuses to abandon her patients. “If I get infected, hopefully it doesn’t kill me,” she said.
Don’t we owe her more?
Journalist, lawyer, and playwright