More than three quarters of a million infections of COVID-19 across the planet, there are a major shortage of medical face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) such as surgical gloves. As a result, many people have taken to making their own surgical masks out of materials from their homes in a bid to beat the virus.
However, one doctor has warned homemade surgical masks do not work and should only be used as an absolute last resort.
Not only do homemade masks lack the necessary filtration equipment, but they are also unsterile, which can lead to other infections – particularly as fibres of cloth make their way to the lungs.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) spokeswoman Arleen Porcell told Wirecutter: “Homemade face masks are not considered [PPEs], and should be an option only when there are absolutely no respirators or face masks left, and used with other protective equipment, such as face shields.
“It’s important to note that this strategy is considered a last resort and does not adhere to the typical standards of care in the US, but acknowledges the hard realities on the ground.”
US hospitals are facing a stark shortage in medical masks, known as N95s, leading one doctor to compare the US’s strategy against coronavirus to that of the Soviet’s effort to clean up the Chernobyl disaster.
When cleaning up the disaster of 1986, Soviet employees were given makeshift uniforms made out of sheets of metal to protect themselves against the radiation – which obviously did not work.
In an opinion piece for Scientific American, emergency physician Joshua Lerner said: “In one of the most vivid scenes in the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, soldiers dressed in leather smocks ran out into radioactive areas to literally shovel radioactive material out of harm’s way.
“Horrifically underprotected, they suited up anyway to do their job. In later scenes, soldiers fashioned protection from scrap metal out of desperation while patrolling other hazardous areas.
“Please don’t tell me that in the richest country in the world in the 21st century, I’m supposed to work in a fictionalized Soviet-era disaster zone and fashion my own face mask out of cloth while others in our country hoard supplies for personal use and profiteering as so-called leaders sit around in meetings hearing themselves talk.
“I don’t want talk. I don’t want assurances. I want action.
“I want boxes of N95 masks piling up in hospitals, donated from the people who hoarded them or from stockpiles of less critical use.”