You've probably heard you should be wearing two masks. If you haven't, it's the latest recommendation in an ever-shifting public policy response to wearing masks in the pandemic. You may have seen articles such as "Why aren’t we wearing better masks?” that report on the mask-wearing landscape in the US and offer advice to navigate the options available. There’s a consensus that we need better masks, but that begs the question, what does “better mask” even mean?
Even though the recent federal mask mandates have renewed media coverage about mask-wearing, we still find public officials, even Fauci himself, scrambling to recommend anything better than a well-made fabric mask. Try wearing two of them? We can do better and here's why:
If masks are the lowest-hanging fruit of the public health measures, and experts agree on the properties of a better mask, then why is double-masking the best that government officials and the media can do right now? Double-masking is like wearing two light summer jackets in the middle of a snowstorm and hoping they will keep you warm! Wearing one mask with a proper seal and high-quality filters is a game-changer.
“The best hope for stopping the spread of Covid-19 and reviving the economy now is a mass-produced facial mask that meets five criteria. It would have to protect people nearly as effectively as N95 masks, must be made from widely available materials, must be comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time, would have to be reusable, and would have to be stylish”
We couldn’t agree more, and we’ve already solved that problem for thousands of Americans with the B2 Mask. We even made it into Time’s Best Inventions of 2020. But there’s a lot of work to do before our mask is the answer for every American. That HBR article rightly calls on more public-private partnerships, design challenges, and repurposing of industries halted by the pandemic. It takes time and resources to develop, validate, and scale a solution for a country of 328 million diverse people.
As a Public Benefit Corporation we strive to make high quality respiratory protection accessible to everyone. However as a very young company we want to openly share some of the challenges we face right now in making our better masks more widely available:
- Financial barriers to accessing economies of scale and speeding up R&D and regulatory certification.
- Lack of grants and subsidies for American businesses developing innovative essential products that are not already certified.
- Lack of a lightweight simple protection rating for consumers who don’t need N95s but who still deserve high-quality protection
- Time constraints of being a small team (though this also helps us stay focused and nimble)
- High levels of public misinformation about masks and respiratory protection
That last one really makes marketing our product based on its scientific merits a challenge when we can’t assume that most people understand the basic qualities to look for in a mask.
So there you have it. Why don’t we have better masks? At Breathe99 we do have better masks! We are working our hardest to let everyone know about them. And our suppliers and partners here in the States are working hard with us. We need a serious upgrade from double-masking, and a solution so that next time is different.