Boston doctors call for national hi-fi mask distribution program to prevent COVID-19 spread

Boston doctors call for national hi-fi mask distribution program to prevent COVID-19 spread

Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital are pressing for a national initiative to distribute high-filtration masks, such as N95s, to every household in the United States to prevent the out-of-control spread of COVID-19 that is claiming thousands of lives daily. 

Dr. Abraar Karan and Dr. Ranu Dhillon laid out the case for a National Hi-Fi Mask Initiative in an op-ed in STAT on Thursday, co-authored with Devabhaktuni Srikrishna, founder of Patient Knowhow.

“More and better masks can help get us to that point with fewer infections and deaths,” the doctors wrote. “With validated designs already on the market, mass production of hi-fi masks could be done relatively quickly.”

Hi-fi masks are the best protection against the small particles that spread the virus, the doctors wrote. Reducing the spread of the virus by protecting against those droplets is essential as the nation waits for the general population to get vaccinated, they said.  

“Ideally, a set of masks would be mailed to each U.S. household every month — the costs of doing so pale in comparison to the pandemic’s toll on lives and the economy,” they wrote in the op-ed. “The use of such masks would, in combination with other risk-reduction strategies, create safer workspaces for essential workers, many who are not currently prioritized to get early vaccinations. Since the pandemic began, surgical and cloth masks have become widely available at pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stories, online, and elsewhere. Hi-fi masks should also be made ubiquitously available through these same venues, some of which are already coordinating with the federal government to roll out COVID-19 vaccines.”

On Twitter, Karan explained that Americans could then use the masks any time they were outside their homes in indoor spaces. 

“As the pandemic surges, most of the cases I am now seeing in the hospital do not know where or how they were infected,” he wrote. “A number of them report wearing cloth masks regularly, and this is much better than no mask, but we know that not all masks are created equal. N95 masks that healthcare workers like myself use in the hospital offer the best protection.”

Ten months into the pandemic, many people have been unable to obtain N95s on their own and many health care workers still do not have adequate supplies of the protective equipment, the doctor wrote. 

“Better masks should be a serious priority here,” Karan said, stressing that the equipment focuses on stopping the way the virus transmits and, unlike vaccines, isn’t tied specifically to a variant.  

Ensuring everyone has access to more protective masks is another way of protecting against the new variant of COVID-19, which experts believe is more easily spread. 

“As vaccines roll out over this year, we cannot afford continued spread as it is happening,” Karan said. “We cannot rely on incremental policy changes with exponential viral growth. We need to do everything we can do urgently — better masks are central.” 

THREAD

1/ Our new piece in @statnews — along with vaccine rollout, the US needs a high filtration mask initiative

Every American should have access to high filtration masks for use any time they have to be outside their home in indoor spaces #covid19

___https://t.co/fGA1zoM7Eu pic.twitter.com/4LX2DPeLYm

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

3/ N95 masks that healthcare workers like myself use in the hospital offer the best protection

We use these masks for *any* #covid19 patient we are treating, whether or not they are undergoing an “aerosol generating procedure”

Cc @DrTomFrieden https://t.co/IfcUwIDlAx

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

4.5/ Now, 10 months in when we have consensus that better masks are a win-win- we are stuck in a place where people can’t get them

People have been trying to navigate this market on their own with basically no support & running into issues incl fake masks

cc @meganranney pic.twitter.com/0Ac8qGvBkJ

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

6/ And the vast majority of us cannot afford to “stay home” no matter how much this phrase is repeated. We have to get groceries/other basic supplies; many work on the frontlines in diff jobs, healthcare or otherwise; others use public transport. #covid19 https://t.co/bw3TGDkCqp

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

8/ Masks that can do both of these things well will have a sig effect on reducing growth

They essentially function as a temp vaccine in terms of stopping spread (possibly better, given we don’t know how well our current vaccines stop onward transmission) #covid19 @AdamJKucharski

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

9/ From the beginning of this epidemic, if we all had high filtration masks at our disposal, we could have started reopening more safely

Many of us brought this up numerous times this entire year

We are now looking to @Transition46 @mtosterholm#covid19 https://t.co/DRv1lZxsGB pic.twitter.com/9Gqtb8V97K

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

11/ I was shocked to hear this week that *healthcare workers* in parts of this country still don’t have adequate supplies of N95 masks

Some said they were not even allowed to bring their own N95 masks in to work (!) & were only allowed work N95 masks for aerosol gen procedures https://t.co/fauDkM4R4d

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

13/ Many experts have called for the best way to slow the spread of new variants is to keep doubling down on transmission-halting interventions

Better masks should be a serious priority here

The Defense Production Act should be leveraged for this just as for vaccines #covid19 pic.twitter.com/4uCdp4BPen

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

14/ As vaccines roll out over this year, we cannot afford continued spread as it is happening

We cannot rely on incremental policy changes with exponential viral growth

We need to do everything we can do urgently— better masks are centralhttps://t.co/wdgTUdS1Hc

— Abraar Karan (@AbraarKaran) January 7, 2021

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