As Omicron Rises, Sanders Says Congress Must Ensure Mass Distribution of N95 Masks


Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday demanded that Congress act urgently to ensure the widespread distribution of N95 masks to American households as the highly contagious variant of Omicron continues to spread across the country, overwhelming already tense hospitals across the country.

“As we face the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, we must remember that not all face masks are created equal,” Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wrote on Twitter. “Congress must demand the mass production and distribution of N-95 masks, the most effective way to stop the spread of the Covid virus. “

“Ideally, a set of masks would be mailed to every American household each month. “

Sanders’ call comes as experts vocally emphasize the importance of high-quality masks in stemming transmission of Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa last month and has since become the dominant variant. in the United States and other countries.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Omicron now accounts for nearly 75% of new cases of Covid-19 in the United States, which has recorded the most coronavirus deaths in the world. Dr Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, warned On Sunday, Omicron cases “will likely go much higher” in the coming days.

“While we are pleased with the evidence from several countries that it appears there is a lesser degree of seriousness, we must be careful not to become complacent about it,” Fauci said during an appearance on ABC. “It could still lead to many hospitalizations in the United States.”

With Omicron infections on the rise, public health experts have pointed out that medical-grade N95 masks are easily preferred over cloth masks, which—according to Trish Greenhalgh, professor at the University of Oxford, are often mere “fashion accessories” that do not offer adequate protection.

Linsey Marr, virus researcher at Virginia Tech, also argued in a interview with NPR last week that “cloth masks are not going to cut it with Omicron”.

“I have a lot of confidence in the vaccines, if you’re boosted, to protect you from serious consequences, and I have a lot of confidence in an N95 and similar types of respirators,” Marr said. “And I think with those two things, you can still go about a lot of your normal activities.”

Last week, after initially scoffing at the idea, the Biden administration announced a plan to distribute 500 million rapid home coronavirus tests to U.S. households who request them. But the federal government has yet to pursue a similar strategy with masks despite months of advocacy from Health workers, experts and legislators.

“Ideally, a set of masks would be sent to every American household every month – the costs of doing so are paltry compared to the pandemic’s toll on lives and the economy,” Doctors Abraar Karan and Ranu Dhillon and lawyer of patients Devabhaktuni Srikrishna wrote in a January editorial for STAT.

“The use of such masks, in combination with other risk reduction strategies, create safer workspaces for essential workers, supported the trio.

In July 2020, Sanders introduced legislation that would have required the federal government to manufacture and deliver high-quality masks to every person in the country. The law project collected dozens of co-sponsors in the House and Senate, as well as support from a number of advocacy organizations, but did not advance in either chamber.

While the United States is not anymore In the face of the types of severe N95 shortages that have hampered the country’s rapid response to the pandemic, quality face coverings may still be difficult to find due to the proliferation of counterfeits on Amazon and other e-commerce sites. Nonprofit groups such as Project N95 tried to help people navigate the quagmire of fakes and locate genuinely high quality masks.

In recent days, public health experts have criticized the CDC for explicitly advising against N95 masks for the general public in its official statement. advice, who argues that such masks “should be a priority for health workers.”

Dr Leana Wen, Emergency Physician and Visiting Professor of Health Policy and Management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, Recount CNN last week that it has been several months since the supply of N95 [has been] a problem.”

“If we go so far as to say that masks are mandatory – when we don’t come from a culture of wearing masks and people don’t like wearing masks – at least recommend wearing the most effective mask,” “Wen said.