Archive for the ‘masks’ Category

Why N95 masks are still hard to get, even though production is up

March 1st, 2021
Medical masks move along a conveyor belt.

Enlarge / A machine makes respiratory masks in a family-owned medical equipment factory in north Miami, Florida, on February 15, 2021. The firm now has 30 million unsold masks because it can't find buyers in the United States. (credit: Chandan Khanna | AFP | Getty Images)

Even though we've had more good vaccine news lately, COVID-19 in the US is still very much a widespread concern. We're still going to need masks for many months to come. So why, a year into the pandemic, are good ones still so hard to find?

The New York Times reports that there are dozens of small, US-based businesses that have pivoted to making medical-grade masks, but they can't sell them to consumers because of policies put in place to protect supply chains at the beginning of the pandemic.

Facebook and Instagram will be happy to show you ads for cute, fashion-forward fabric masks (in adult and children's sizes)—but not ads for actual medical-grade, government-approved N95 masks. The social network explained to the NYT that its policies are meant both to preserve supplies for workers in the health care field who need them the most and also to cut down on sales of counterfeits.

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Posted in amazon, coronavirus, COVID-19, Facebook, kn95, masks, n95, Policy, supply chains | Comments (0)

As experts call for nationwide mask mandate, anti-maskers stab guard 27 times

October 29th, 2020
VANCOUVER, Oct. 24, 2020 - A voter wearing a face mask is seen outside a polling station during the provincial election day in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Oct. 24, 2020.

Enlarge / VANCOUVER, Oct. 24, 2020 - A voter wearing a face mask is seen outside a polling station during the provincial election day in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Oct. 24, 2020. (credit: Getty | Xinhua News Agency)

As US coronavirus cases dramatically shoot up to the highest peak yet in the pandemic, prominent public health experts are calling for a nationwide mandate to wear masks to try to drag down disease spread.

The call comes as violent clashes over masks continue in places that already have face-covering requirements.

In a Wednesday interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci called for a national mandate. “We’re not in a good place,” Fauci said, referring to the ongoing, record-breaking rise in daily case numbers.

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Posted in COVID-19, fauci, fda, mask mandate, masks, pandemic, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

White House-CDC tensions explode as Trump contradicts its leadership

September 17th, 2020
Image of President Trump speaking from behind a lectern.

Enlarge / US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in which he frequently contradicted his own health experts. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

There was good news and then bad news for public health expertise yesterday. In the wake of increasingly unhinged behavior from a President Trump-appointed communications director at the US Department of Health and Human Services, he and one of his key appointees have left their posts—one for two months, one permanently. But any hopes that science might resume being the main driver of US health policy were short-lived. Earlier in the day, CDC head Robert Redfield and other Health and Human Services officials testified before a Senate panel. By the evening, the president himself was calling his own CDC director mistaken about everything from mask use to the schedule of vaccine availability.

By the end of the day, Redfield was tweeting statements that balanced ambiguity against seeming to support Trump's view.

A backdrop of turmoil

A constant background of tension has existed between the Trump administration (which wants the country to return to normal operations despite the medical consequences) and public health officials (who actually want to protect the public's health). But several things have driven those tensions into the open recently, starting with last week's revelation that political appointees were attempting to interfere with reports from career scientists at the CDC. That issue was seemingly resolved in the CDC's favor, as a key administration figure in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Michael Caputo, took a two-month medical leave after making a video in which he spoke of armed uprisings and conspiratorial cabals of CDC scientists.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, HHS, masks, Policy, redfield, science, testing, Trump, vaccine | Comments (0)

Rite Aid deployed facial recognition in hundreds of stores, report finds

July 28th, 2020
A masked woman pulls a cart on an urban street corner.

Enlarge / A woman wearing a mask walks past a Rite-Aid store in Portland, Oregon, in May 2020. (credit: hapabapa | Getty Images)

Pharmacy chain Rite Aid deployed facial recognition technology in hundreds of store locations in the nation's largest cities, particularly in low-income neighborhoods predominantly home to people of color, a new report has found.

Reuters today published an in-depth report citing internal documents, interviews with more than 40 sources familiar with the systems, and first-hand observation of cameras in stores, which found the technology was deployed in at least 200 stores, including 75 identified in New York and Los Angeles.

Whenever a customer entered a store that uses the tech, their image was logged in a database. On return visits, the software added new images to existing customer profiles. It then ran those images against a list of "people Rite Aid previously observed engaging in potential criminal activity." When the software made a match, store security employees received a smartphone push notification.

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Posted in bias, Biz & IT, facial recognition, masks, NIST, pandemic, panopticon, Policy, racial bias, Racism, rite aid, surveillance | Comments (0)

As pandemic rages out of control, CDC head warns of darker times this fall

July 15th, 2020
A serious man in a business suit puts on a surgical mask.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Pool)

If seasonal influenza roars back this fall while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, the combined weight of the diseases could cause US healthcare systems to collapse, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday.

The grim warning comes as COVID-19 is spreading out of control in many areas of the country, which is now seeing upwards of 60,000 new cases a day.

I am worried,” CDC director Robert Redfield said in a live interview with Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of the medical journal JAMA. “I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health.”

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, flu, healthcare, Infectious disease, influenza, masks, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

3M sues price-gougers who used Amazon to sell masks at 1,800% markup

June 10th, 2020
A store window includes a bust of Michelangelo's David.

Enlarge / The (replica) disembodied marble head of David probably didn't need a 3M mask, but he nonetheless looked fashionable sporting it in the window of a jewelry shop in Switzerland in March 2020. (credit: Christiane Oelrich | picture alliance | Getty Images)

3M—which manufactures N95 filtration masks that have been in high demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began—is suing merchants who used Amazon to sell 3M and counterfeit masks for more than 18 times their standard price.

A group of third-party merchants on Amazon "operated an illegal scheme to advertise and sell counterfeit, damaged, deficient, or otherwise altered respirators" to customers, 3M alleges in the complaint (PDF), filed in federal court in California.

3M has drastically increased its production of N95 respirator masks, the company says, but has kept its pricing between $0.63 and $3.40 per mask, depending on the model. The resellers in the suit, however, were allegedly selling a model that has a typical list price of $1.27 for for an average of $23.21 per mask, more than 18 times higher than 3M's price.

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Posted in 3M, Biz & IT, COVID-19, masks, N95 masks, Policy, price gouging | Comments (0)

WHO now recommends the public use masks—good masks—in COVID-19 areas

June 6th, 2020
French fashion student sews homemade protective face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Enlarge / French fashion student sews homemade protective face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. (credit: Getty | GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT)

The World Health Organization on Friday updated its guidance on the use of masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, making several changes and additions. Most notably, the agency is now recommending that governments encourage healthy members of the general public to wear masks in specific situations as part of comprehensive prevention efforts.

The new guidance puts the agency more in line with many countries worldwide that have already recommended masking the public, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which made the recommendation in early April.

However, the WHO made its updated guidance with many caveats—and some highly specific recommendations not provided by the US CDC.

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Posted in COVID-19, emerging infectious disease, guidance, Infectious disease, masks, pandemic, prevention, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, WHO | Comments (0)

Face masks for COVID-19: A deep dive into the data

April 3rd, 2020
Self-sewn protective face masks in a fabric store on April 3, 2020 in Jena, Germany.

Enlarge / Self-sewn protective face masks in a fabric store on April 3, 2020 in Jena, Germany. (credit: Getty | Jens Schlueter)

As COVID-19 cases increase sharply nationwide, some health experts are now recommending that healthy members of the public wear cloth masks when they’re out and about. The White House is reportedly expected to support that recommendation.

If they do, it would be an about-face from previous guidance on mask usage. Until now, officials at the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies worldwide have discouraged the public from wearing masks unless they are sick or caring for someone who is sick. They noted that there is little evidence to support mass masking and that the limited data we do have suggests it may reduce disease transmission only marginally at best.

With evidence of benefits in short supply, experts also raised concerns about potential harms. Mask wearing may give people a false sense of security, some experts said. This may lead some members of the public to be lax about other, far more critical precautions, such as staying two meters apart from others, limiting outings, and washing their hands frequently and thoroughly.

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Posted in aerosols, cloth mask, COVID-19, Features, filtration, Infectious disease, masks, pandemic, public health, respiratory infection, SARS-CoV-2, science, surgical mask | Comments (0)