Denouncing homemade masks as only 2% effective, Dr. Betsy McCaughey, chair of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, says "career officials at Health and Human Services knowingly allowed the nation to be undersupplied" as they focused on global initiatives.
"Don't blame any president, Democratic or Republican, for this oversight," McCaughey, former Lt. Governor of New York, wrote in a Fox News opinion piece Sunday, headlined "Coronavirus masks – what works, new rules and explaining the shortage." "The career officials at Health and Human Services knowingly allowed the nation to be undersupplied.
"They never requested enough money to adequately stock the Strategic National Stockpile. Their agenda was global, tracking down polio in Pakistan, pouring nearly $5 billion in the fight against Ebola overseas, and funding a Global Health Security Agenda serving 49 countries. But no masks for Americans."
McCaughey added the warning a homemade mask is just 2-3% effective against stopping airborne virus particles, as woven cloth masks allow in 97% of viral particles,
"That means almost no protection for the wearer at all," McCaughey wrote. "Wearing a homemade cotton mask is a false assurance, explains epidemiologist May Chu. She says it will block only about 2% of airflow."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has bungled the handling of recommendations on Americans wearing masks, too, she wrote.
"When the coronavirus struck here, the CDC offered only mask double talk," according to McCaughey. "The agency said on the one hand masks are vital to protect healthcare workers, and on the other hand, masks won't make the public safer. It defies common sense.
"The agency should have leveled with people, admitting supplies had to be saved for front-line caregivers."
N95 masks are going to be stocked up on now under the Trump administration amid the White House coronavirus task force response to the global pandemic, she vowed. They have been scientifically proven to be effective.
"N95 masks, which are molded and fit tight to the face, filter out 95% of viral particles, even the smallest ones," McCaughey wrote. "These masks offer the best protection, but they are in short supply, and public officials want them reserved for healthcare workers on the front lines.
"Surgical masks, the kind you see commonly worn in hospitals and dentists' offices, are flat and held to the face with elastic. They're made from a nonwoven material, polypropylene, that is a somewhat effective filter. They protect the wearer from about 56% of viral droplets emitted by an infected person nearby, according to research in the British Medical Journal."
The U.S. N95 stockpile shortage is a failing of the past now.
"Year after year after year, through three presidencies, federal health bureaucrats ignored warnings about inadequate supplies of masks and other equipment in the event of a pandemic," she continued. "Ten federal reports sounded the alarm, even as the nation witnessed SARS, MERS, avian flu, and swine flu that circled the globe. In 2009, during the swine flu outbreak, the federal Strategic National Stockpile dispersed 85 million N95 masks, as well as other protective masks. The masks were never replaced afterward.
"Next time the U.S. will have enough masks," she concluded.
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