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For Next Time; CDC Rules on n95 Masks and Other Respirators

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Changes are being made to rules all the time. How we work and live is different from our parents and their parents and their parents. We have to learn and adapt if we want to continue living our best lives. As we learn more and more about Covid-19 and its existing and possible variants and differing strains, a question keeps rising up. What will happen next time? And there will be a next time, there is no doubt about that. Regardless of the source or permutation of the disease, another episode like the pandemic of Covid-19 cases will arise in the future, and for right now, we don’t have a solid, global plan for such an event. Whether it will be a bacterial infection or an easily spread virus isn’t the point, disease is becoming more and more of an issue because of the resilience of modern diseases. So what is the current plan for our government on the matters of diseases, Personal Protective Equipment, and other methods of stopping this phenomena before they overrun our restrictions, resolutions, and rules and another epidemic like coronavirus occurs. What should we do then is the big question.

One of the biggest concerns for the next crisis will be that when the time comes, there will not be enough PPE for everyone, forcing people to use the same tactics of reusing old masks or wearing t-shirts and other methods of protecting themselves that simply don’t work like clean, fresh masks and respirators do. So far, the CDC has put out a set of guidelines and rules meant mostly for nurses, doctors, state and federal officials, but that is no reason to not at least educate yourself on the matter at hand. There are three points of order under the CDC’s plan to acknowledge at what stage they are in, Conventional Capacity, when everything is running smoothly at normal. Contingency Capacity, when the appearance of a virus or other crisis forces the government to use their emergency stockpile to supplement the hospitals and emergency centers for the crisis. Finally, there is the Crisis Capacity, when the conventional and contingency strategies do not work, these plans and strategies will be implemented. Some have already been seen over the last year as we have had major mask shortages across the country. The conventional strategy is what is normally allowed by manufacturers, so no using masks when dirtied or beyond the expiration date. When contingency strategies must be employed, they include restricting face mask use for non-vital tasks, reusing face masks slightly beyond a certain point where they would be considered unable to meet federal requirements, and pulling masks from public spaces and facilities to save them for professional workers.

Finally, if the contingency strategies are not enough, crisis strategies will be employed. This involves cleaning and reusing masks beyond their shelf-life, prioritizing face masks further, only for medical personnel and other emergency workers, and the authorization of use for cloth face masks and other options. All this might sound a bit scary, but this is a well-thought out plan for the inevitable, because there will be another crisis like Covid-19, sooner than any of us would like, and we have to prepare for that. The best way to protect ourselves is to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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