Are You Wearing Protection?

Since there has been much ado about “protection” during the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought I would put together some information concerning protecting oneself and the use of personal protective equipment.  I hope you find this interesting as I did.

What Type of Mask Are You Wearing?

It has recently been recommended that protective covering be worn by everyone.  In stores, masks are in short supply.  People are resorting to making their own version of protection, either by folding bandanas, scarves, or fabric.  Fasteners are being used with elastic sewn in, rubber hair bands or simply tied behind the head.  People are getting very creative.  There are also those who have access to hospital masks or surgical masks.  It is very important to understand exactly what each will accomplish.

While disposable respirators look similar to masks used during surgery and other medical procedures, the two are designed for very different purposes.

First off, the two types of protection differ in how they function. Surgical masks are primarily made to keep particles breathed out by the wearer – for example, saliva or mucus – from contaminating the work environment. Respirators, on the other hand, protect the wearer against potentially hazardous particles created by the work environment.

The two types also fit differently, with respirators sealing tightly to the face and surgical masks fitting more loosely. Respirators include specialized filter media, while masks typically do not. Wear time and certain regulatory standards also differ between the two. (3M, 2020)

Any protection is better than none. But – to recap, a surgical mask protects others from particles released from the wearer.  Likewise, any cloth you might put across your face will help do the same thing.  A respirator protects the wearer from hazardous particles in the environment.

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Shelf Life

According to Mirriam-Webster, shelf life represents the period of time during which a material may be stored and remain suitable for use. (Merriam-Webster, 2020)

When respirators are maintained outside of the established storage conditions, 3M (or any manufacturer) cannot ensure that the respirators will meet performance requirements. In this event, many different kinds of changes can occur to the respirator including cosmetic changes and degradation of components such as headbands, nose foam and nose clips. Examples of cosmetic changes include discoloration of materials. Examples of degradation include crumbling of nose foam or breaking of headbands (3M, 2020)

In times of increased demand and decreased supply, consideration can be given to use the N95s listed above past their manufacturer-designated shelf life when responding to COVID-19. Although this preliminary information from the NIOSH study suggests certain N95 models beyond their manufacturer-designated shelf life[ii] will be protective, CDC recommends that N95s that have exceeded their manufacturer-designated shelf life should be used only as outlined in the Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators

 Rotating Stockpile

Just thinking about the shortage now, I have to wonder if shelf life did not contribute to the lack of stockpile in reserve.  Hospitals operate as individual businesses (or groupings as in the case of Decatur/Morgan hospital).  But if all healthcare facilities were a part of a much larger plan to stockpile via government backing, I believe we might be able to better provide for an emergency such as this in the future.

For example:  If hospitals know they go through XXX masks and respirators in the course of doing business in a year, then the government could conceivably stockpile XXXXX for cases of emergency such as this: acquiring XXX each  year and then towards the 4th year of the 5-year shelf life, distribute to the hospitals and purchasing new for the stockpile.  This way, the stock is being rotated, the expiration dates adhered to and the loss minimized.

What To Do?

It is important to note that wearing a mask does not erase the need to keep your distance from others. “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining six-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus,” the CDC website says.(Abramson and Robin, 2020)

During this outbreak, I personally decided that my focus needed to be on washing my hands every hour, using sanitizer when not washing and keeping my hands away from my face.  I am one of those people who puts my hands to my face often.  It has taken a bit of reminding myself – but I am touching my face very little and when I do, it is not with my fingers or the palm side of my hand.  I also strictly adhere to the 6 foot rule of distancing.  So if you see me out and about (which is rare these days) know that you can wave to me, but keep back.  I will be more than happy to give you a hug when this is over.

R-O-A-R with L ❤ V E


3M Personal Safety Division, February 5, 2020 retrieved from the world wide web on April 5, 2020 from file:///C:/Users/cumbe/Downloads/multimedia.pdf

3M Science Applied to Life, retrieved from the world wide web on April 5, 2020 from

Abramson, Ashley & Robin, Marci, Allure Wellness, April 4, 2020 retrieved from the world wide web on April 5, 2020 from

CDC, retrieved from the world wide web on April 5, 2020 from

Merriam-Webster, retrieved from the world wide web on April 5, 2020 from

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