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Are we turning the coronavirus corner?

Covid-19   Patient Safety   Vaccines   Workplace Safety

Today’s Read: 3.5 minutes

On Monday, the Covid-19 vaccine rolled out to healthcare workers, and news that Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate will probably earn its EUA by Friday, which will make more vaccine doses available. This may be the beginning to the end of this pandemic, but there’s still a long way to go and, as 2020 taught us, much we can’t predict. Today we focus on prevention techniques that you can share with your family, friends, and patients, as we continue to experience the challenges of Covid-19 until herd immunity is reached.


Can contact tracing apps still help?

Yes, reports MIT Technology Review. Nearly half of Americans live somewhere that an app can signal whether they have crossed paths with someone infected with the disease.

While these apps might be too late to lessen transmission in a significant way on their own, the software can be useful for keeping people safe and knowing whether they should be tested. Experts believe that these programs are even more important as vaccinations begin and cases eventually decrease again. They see the app as one more layer of protection. And, considering that most Americans will not gain access to a Covid-19 vaccine until at least the spring, prevention still should be top of mind and in our conversations with others.

Do you know how effective your facemask is?

N95 face masks are the gold standard, but what protections do surgical and procedure masks offer against particles that could carry viruses? University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers, in collaboration with the EPA, researched the protectiveness of various kinds of consumer-grade and medical masks, with the assumption that the mask wearer was exposed to the virus, like when interacting with an unmasked infected person.

Here’s how each medical mask and its modification scored on filtration efficiency: 

  • 3M 9210 NIOSH-approved N95 Respirator: 98%
  • Surgical mask with ties: 71.4%
  • Procedure mask with ear loops: 38.5%
  • Procedure mask with ear loops + “loops tied and corners tucked in”: 60.3%
  • Procedure mask with ear loops + “Ear Guard”: 61.7%
  • Procedure mask with ear loops + “23mm claw hair clip”: 64.8%
  • Procedure mask with ear loops + “Fix-the Mask (3 rubber bands)”: 78.2%
  • Procedure mask with ear loops + “nylon hosiery sleeve”: 80.2%

See photos of these modifications, learn more about the study, and how consumer-grade face masks fared, here.

What to say when a patient says that a face mask does more harm than good…

It depends on the mask. New research published in Physics of Fluids examines how a three-layer surgical mask alters airflow and affects the inhalation and depositing of virus particles in the upper airways.

Using a computational model that simulated a person wearing a surgical mask with pleats, researchers were able to track how particles travel through the mask, onto the face, into the airway, and eventually, where the aerosols land in the nose, pharynx, or deep lung. They found that the mask does change airflow around the face. 

Instead of flowing through the nose and mouth via specific paths, air enters the nose and mouth through the entire mask surface. Once in the space between the mask and the face, the air moves more slowly than if there was no mask. It is this slower speed that aids the inhalation of aerosols into the nose. So even though masks filter out a certain number of particles, there is a chance that the particles that make it through can enter the respiratory tract.

And here is where the type of mask matters. Filtration efficiency can make much of this moot; researchers found that once a mask only filters less than 30% of particles, it might be better to not wear a mask. So, as one would expect, the higher the filtration efficiency the better whenever possible.



The percentage of Americans who say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine for Covid-19 if it was determined to be safe by scientists and available for free, according to this month’s Kaiser Family Foundation Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor survey. This has increased seven points since September, signaling a more acceptance of the vaccine by the public.


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