Hospitals and medical workers across the country are issuing desperate pleas for donations of respirators, to protect the doctors and nurses who are exposed to the coronavirus as they fight to save lives. The country faces an alarming shortage of the protective equipment.
The respirators — known as N95 masks — aren't just found in hospitals. And they don't look like the surgical masks that are commonly associated with medical procedures.
In ordinary times, woodworkers, nail technicians and other workers use the masks as protection.
Officials are asking everyone to check their business storerooms — and even basements and attics — to see if they have any masks they can donate to help keep front-line medical workers safe.
Here's a partial list of businesses that might have N95 masks on hand. They may have been purchased to act as dust masks, but they could save lives if they're sent to hospitals instead:
- Construction businesses and contractors
- Woodworking shops
- Manufacturing plants and factories
- Auto shops/body shops
- Painters: The masks do not protect against paint fumes, but are used as dust masks during sanding.
- Nail salons: The masks do not protect against chemical vapors, but protect against acrylic powder or dust from filing artificial nails.
- Companies in wildfire zones: The masks can filter out smoke from fires, and some companies have purchased them en masse to prepare for wildfire season. Facebook stockpiled 720,000 masks for that reason, which it has now donated to hospitals.
- Hardware stores and tool retailers: Harbor Freight is donating its entire supply of personal protective equipment.
- Mold remediation companies
- Cleaning companies: However, many cleaning companies are facing intense demand for sanitation services because of the coronavirus crisis and may need their masks to protect their own vulnerable workers.