Better Masks for All
Masking helps keep schools accessible and reduces risk for ALL students and staff.
We support Superintendent Duran, and the Arlington County School Board, in announcing that under their constitutionally invested authority they will continue to mandate universal masking in our schools at this time. This is an effective health measure that ensures all children have access to in-person education, and in a recent meta-analysis of more than 70 studies, researchers found that the widespread use of masks reduces COVID-19 infections by 53%. A recent study by the University of Michigan founds schools without masks had 62% MORE COVID-19 cases. Unfortunately, the new Virginia governor’s executive order is riddled with misinformation. Here’s our press release in support of continuing universal masking for now in our schools, and following the CDC’s guidance on this:
READ MORE: Smart Restart Press Release (Jan. 16, 2022)
2022 Mask Drive
Smart Restart organized a 2022 fundraiser that will provide at least 15,000 masks to APS staff members.
We want to help our community upgrade their masks. The effort began in December, as we rushed to try to shield as many people as possible from the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, and to make several different varieties of N95 masks available to staff to try — including teachers, assistants office staff, cafeteria staff, custodians, bus and transportation staff, aquatics staff, etc. We have also provided tips on how to achieve the best fit and how to reuse the masks multiple times.
The respirators that we have provided are American-made N95s, including:
3m Aura N95s (boat shape): As many as 90% of people can achieve a 99% effective fit on their first try with this design. Here’s a video how to fit your 3m Aura N95. We have had luck finding these via local Home Depots and Staples. Also, they are available at the 3m store on Amazon.
3m Vflex N95s (duckbill): These are available in a small size, as well as the regular size we provided. These are a great respirator to wear if you have to do a lot of talking. They won’t slip as much as other kinds of masks. Here’s a video how to fit your mask. We have found these consistently available on 3m’s store on Amazon (keep checking if out of stock) and through hardware stores; sold in a box of 50, which is a lot of respirators!
DemeTECH NIOSH N95s (flat fold style): Here’s a video explaining how to wear this style of respirator. These are similar in design to Chinese-made KN95 masks, but the DemeTECH respirators we provided are American-made and NIOSH-approved, so very high quality. About 60% of Chinese KN95 masks were found to be fakes by regulators, leading the FDA to remove any emergency use authorization for these masks in healthcare, because the masks could not filter out particles from the air as advertised. Shop Project N95 or visit the DemeTECH website if you like this style, and you can buy a box of 20 — and have some guarantee of the quality of what you are purchasing.
Halyard N95s (peach duckbill) or ACI N95 (blue duckbill): We have provided several duckbill style N95 respirators. These respirators are breathable, but fit far more snugly than a surgical or cloth mask. The design of the respirator keeps it far from your mouth, and many people can achieve a very good fit with this style of mask when some of the above options don’t work. Here’s a video how to don a duckbill style mask. One of the benefits of these styles of masks is that they are very easy to find online, and they are less expensive. It’s relatively easy to find a box of 35 or even 50 N95 masks, sold via many drug stores, health stores, and Amazon. They are designed for a single use, but again, they are both easy to find and relatively inexpensive compared to other options. And the design is vastly superior to other cheap “medical” masks being sold that will have 50% inward leakage because they are so loose fitting! As worn, these duckbill N95 respirators can achieve +99% filtration efficiency.
We have provided multiple styles so staff can try different masks and perhaps find one that they like.
Starting in early 2021, and through last fall, Smart Restart also provided thousands of Korean-made KF94 masks, which were independently vetted and rated at 99% filtration efficiency, to both students and staff.
In our current mask drive, we are providing some additional Bluna Facefit KF94s and BOTN Medium KF94s to staff, as well as donating a smaller amount of BOTN Mediums to older students, and Bluna Kids KF94s to younger students, whose families are in greatest need of assistance to afford better masks. These KF94s are available for purchase at KollecteUSA. If out of stock, we suggest to keep checking the site.
Here’s a video how to wear a KF94 mask, which also discusses the Bluna Facefit.
We call on APS to source and provide additional high quality masks, and to stockpile masks to distribute to those students in need — and ALL staff members — during the next surge of Omicron or a new variant.
Residents of the US are also now able to pick up 3 free N95 masks per person at participating pharmacies and community health centers, as part of a national program. We hope that staff and parents will take advantage of this effort! (More details here.)
With the spread of Omicron, the need for better quality masks became very urgent, and public health experts have called for everyone to start wearing “high-filtration masks,” called respirators, if possible, and to upgrade older cloth and surgical style masks that leak inward a lot.
(Cloth masks can provide source control and filter up to 72% of aerosols from the air, which helps everyone in a space be at less risk; but cloth and surgical masks can’t protect you individually from infection as well as a high-filtration respirator can.)
Click here to find out a lot more about respirators, which are specially designed to prevent the inhalation of airborne contaminants and germs like the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Long Does the Mask Last?
You can use an N95 or KF94 mask for up to 40 hours, or 8 hours at a time.
When you take it off, put it in a paper bag and leave it alone for 3 days. Come back to it, and wear again — until you hit about 40 hours, it gets soiled, or the straps or ear loops break. Usually, the straps or ear loops might fail before you hit 40 hours. That is pretty normal.
Please note that the CDC advises that healthcare providers wear N95 masks only one time.
However, regular people may not have the budget to buy a mask a day, so mask experts have advised that it is okay for the public to reuse respirators to make the most of them. Click here if you want to read the original guidance on reusing respirators, from the creator of the N95.
How Do You Get a Good Fit?
The Washington Post recently published this graphic, and an article about why we should upgrade old cloth and surgical style masks to better fitted and higher filtration N95 respirators.
And below, this is one of the best videos we’ve found that answers common questions people have about high-filtration masks, including how to get a good fit. First, you must bend the nose wire so it seals to your face. If you have a flat-fold style mask, make sure to unbend the point and smooth it out so it shapes to fit your face exactly. Second, make sure there are no gaps at the chin, or sides, where you can feel air coming in when you breathe. “Mask Nerd” Aaron Collins describes how to do a basic self check in this video, which is geared to helping ordinary people protect themselves against COVID-19.
Mask Nerd’s Data and Sources to Purchase Masks
Mask Nerd and Engineer Aaron Collin’s YouTube Reviews of High Quality Masks Available to the Public
Mask Links and Information Sources:
CDC MMWR Review: Masks reduced infection risk by 21-37% in Georgia schools study.
CDC Warning about Too Many Counterfeit KN95 Respirators (Better to buy N95s / KF94s for this reason.)
FDA Revocation of Emergency Use Approval for KN95 Masks in Healthcare (Better to buy N95s now!)
A Quick Explainer on Masks and CDC Guidance by “Your Local Epidemiologist”
Mask Requirements in School Work! A Summary by “Your Local Epidemiologist”