N95 mask fit testing

Had my mask fit testing today, after having messed up the prior one months ago due to a scraggly goatee. Cut that sucker off few weeks ago and tried again. It fits neatly inside the mask edges now.

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Side note: if your doctor or nurse still has a beard and wears an N95 mask, they:

A) Really desperately love their beard and hate the way they look without it.

B) Don’t really understand how masks or asymptomatic Covid spread works.

C) Don’t really care too too much about the risk they pose to their patients’ health.

(N95s need to make an airtight, skin-tight seal with the face. They simply cannot do that if there’s facial hair.)

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My fit test today, however, didn’t work as planned. My mask leaked. The tester made me bend the metal nose-clip a bit tighter across my nose.

“Lean over and then stand up, ten times, Turn your head, ten times, Read a story for a minute.” Voila, you’re done. Your mask fits.

Still not sure about the benefit of this versus the cost. (See yesterday’s post on the high-ish real-world efficacy rates for N95s that aren’t fit tested.)

If you’re smaller though (females and Asian supposedly have the toughest time) fit testing becomes much more important. Smaller folks often end up wearing the harder, less comfortable cup-like green N95. If you’re really tiny and fine-featured, you may have to wear a bulky plastic mask, like a painter’s respirator, to get an adequate fit.

Either way, perhaps more important than fit testing is doffing. Many (perhaps most) people have a tendency to contaminate themselves taking off dirty PPE. Sanitising hands between every step, keeping elastic bands from snapping, and not touching the dirty outside of the mask to your face are all tougher than they sound with a tight-fitting mask that’s moulded over the last 10 hours to become part of your face.

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Another thing: why no mirrors? Seems like hospitals want patients to avoid mirrors as much a possible. Maybe so patients don’t see how sick they actually look. But in the Covid era, having a makeup mirror outside each room makes a great deal of sense: you can see when your mask isn’t on straight, and when the edge is just a little bit folded over itself–rendering the seal broken and the mask much less protective. They tell us to check each other, but how likely is that to happen 20 times a day?

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There’s a point at which the inconvenience of something balances out against its effectiveness.

With N95s and Covid, we’re not there yet. At least I’m not there yet. Still happily willing to wear it, despite the humidity, the rubbery feeling, and always having to talk louder. On the plus side, no smells of rectal bleeding, farts, or smoker’s breath to contend with.

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I’m sure I’ll appreciate this whole mask thing a whole lot more when I finally get told: “You know that patient you saw yesterday? They came back positive for Covid.”

I’m expecting that any day now.