Universities, Schools and Businesses Are Increasingly Requiring Medical-Grade Masks: What That Means for Promo PPE Demand
This week, the Los Angeles School District announced that students should upgrade their cloth masks in favor of more substantial medical-grade masks to fight the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19.
According to NPR, the school district sent a message last Friday with new guidelines on masks, requiring students to wear "well-fitting, non-cloth masks with a nose wire," while employees must wear surgical-grade masks, too.
The issue now is that the Omicron variant is so much more easily spread than previous strains. "Cloth masks are not going to cut it with Omicron," Linsey Marr, a virus researcher at Virginia Tech, told NPR.
Marr said that a cloth mask with a filter is still better than nothing, but in terms of trying to really limit the spread of Omicron, it might not be sufficient.
— CDC (@CDCgov) January 23, 2022
The move by the Los Angeles School District is part of a growing trend. Other educational institutions like Temple University in Philadelphia, the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona are now requiring students to upgrade their masks as they return to in-person learning.
According to the LA Times, Los Angeles County will also begin requiring employers to provide medical-grade masks to employees who work indoors or in close contact with others.
"It's all about the size of the pores in the mask," Martin Blaser, director of Rutgers University's Center of Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "A mask is like a sieve. A sieve has pores. The N95 has very small pores. They retain 95% of droplets that come their way. That's where the name N95 comes from."
Medical experts like Blaser still believe that a cloth mask is better than nothing, but if people have access to more substantial masks, they should choose them instead.
It's tough right now, because those N95 masks were highly coveted at the beginning of the pandemic, and experts warned that the average citizen should reserve them for frontline health professionals who were at greater risk. Still, demand for surgical-grade masks reached critical mass, and hospitals were forced to reuse masks for longer than usual while paying inflated prices for masks.
Our administration announced it will make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile available to the public. The masks are being shipped to pharmacies and community health centers across the country, where they will be available for free.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) January 23, 2022
That demand has led to fraud in the promotional industry and beyond. There have been multiple stories of people saying they were associated with companies like 3M and had access to large quantities of masks, only to fail to deliver once they received payment.
Now that the average citizen is advised to use medical-grade masks, demand for them is increasing as businesses and organizations of all kinds look to replace their reusable masks. While PPE demand is still well below its pandemic peak, suppliers and distributors have indicated that it has picked up since the end of 2021.
Unlike before, promo companies have better access to medical-grade masks, and prices are far more stable. But that's all the more reason to buy from trusted sources and be wary of potential scammers looking to cash in on the demand with counterfeit masks.