A special commentary submitted by Dr. Brian Still for Focus Daily News
How You Can Help Slow The Spread Of COVID-19
Are you tired of COVID-19 threatening our way of life? Are you anxious that it may infect you or a loved one? Are you ready to bring the fight to the virus instead of waiting on it to bring the fight to us?
Well if that’s you, your wait is over. Healthcare facilities across the country especially those in hot zones are running low on personal protective equipment (PPE). They need our help and they are screaming it from the rooftops for anyone who can hear.
Hospital workers in Washington state have begun making masks out of tape, foam, elastic and other materials found at hardware stores. Administrative workers in hospitals have had their jobs repurposed into making makeshift masks.
According to Perry Russom at NBC10 Boston, Dr. Peter Slavin, president of Mass General stated that he is looking for anyone with a 3D printer to help make masks. He says there is a formula online. “I would hope companies across the country…would start making masks later this afternoon.”
This mask shortage is driven by both a lack of supply and increased demand. Approximately half of the masks produced in the world are made in China. Also, due to the hysteria that this virus has generated large numbers of the public have started hoarding medical supplies.
The federal government has ordered additional masks, however due to problems with the supply chain some experts estimate this will take up to eighteen months to fulfill this order.
Unfortunately, healthcare workers are on the frontline of this fight and in China at least 3300 hundred workers were infected. Its likely a large number of these was due to shortages in masks and other protective equipment.
So what should we do about it?
- Stay home unless you absolutely have to go out. If you are over age 60 or live with someone over age 60, do not go out for any reason if you can, get someone to run errands (groceries, etc) for you.
- Be aware that foreign surfaces are the largest risk of infection spread. This virus can live on cardboard for about 24 hours and on plastic and metal for over 3 days. So, sterilize surfaces.
- If you have been hoarding masks please grab one for the family member that you designate to go out and get supplies (groceries etc). Then send the rest to the hospital. If you have boxes of gloves, please follow the same logic.
- If you have a 3D printer, there are plans online for free that will allow you to print masks for those that need them. For the design below you would need to add small cut out of MERV 14 filter or higher and if available a small carbon filter. (Just cut out HVAC filter material from your hardware store.)https://www.3dnatives.com/en/mask-against-covid-19-180320205/
- If you don’t have a 3D printer then you can still make masks with material from the hardware store. Easy to find items including spare cloth for the exterior, HVAC filters for inserts and strings on both sides at top and bottom for securing the mask to fit. This youtube video provides description of one model
- Due to concerns about the need to physically isolate, if you can form a neighborhood group and appoint one person to stock up on supplies this would be best then they can leave them on their porch for others.
For those of you worried that your mask will not be effective enough to protect the healthcare worker, consider this:
a dish towel by itself is 83% effective at filtering out 1 µm particles. A surgical mask, which will probably be inferior to your creation, filters out 97% of 1 µm sized particles. Accordingly, the real concern is the lack of a mask at all, which is what our healthcare providers are facing in some areas of the country.
Regarding the concern that you may be infected and spread infection by making masks. If you are symptomatic, this is not the activity for you. If your not symptomatic, this virus is unlikely to live on a paper like surface longer than 24 hours, so this risk is minimal.
So, please if you have spare time, you can help. We are war. Not with republicans, democrats or the chinese. We are at war with a virus and your country needs you.
Written by Brian Still, M.D.
Brian Still, M.D. is a physician specializing in psychiatry that graduated medical school in 2006 from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He has additional postdoctoral training in clinical pathology from Emory University. In 2011, he completed a residency program in psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is a diplomat of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He is an actively practicing clinician that currently serves as the medical director for Carolina Addiction and Psychiatric Treatment Associates.