Amidst the mirage of a maskless life returning, in Summer 2021 we listed four reasons why you shouldn’t ditch your mask. Number two on the list spoke of foresight; a knowingness that COVID-19 can mutate rapidly and new variants would inevitably come forward.
The latest variant making headlines is just a few months, only being reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24, 2021. If there’s one thing we know about the coronavirus and its mutations, it’s the speed at which the virus can spread. At time of this writing, the Omicron variant has already been reported in 18 states across America - a number that will surely continue to grow.
Omicron is still being rigorously studied, though it's known to be more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. The CDC asserts that individuals who are vaccinated and not showing symptoms are still able to contract and spread Omicron.
While we’re still learning more about Omicron every day, we urge everyone to continue prioritizing safe face masking as the new variant gains ground (or more accurately, gains air). Masking can take many forms, but there are few face masks that offer real protection against COVID-19 and its many variants.
Unfortunately, many folks are still swept up with the illusion that surgical masks, fabric masks, bandanas, face shields and other styles of inadequate protection are good enough. Candidly, they are not.
Now, as recently reported by The New York Times, those wishing to acquire N95 masks are being mislead into purchasing flawed KN95s from China. These counterfeit masks are mainly purchased on e-commerce sites like Amazon, and most consumers do not realize they are fake or poorly made. The FDA declared all KN95s from China unfit for use in healthcare settings, but the online sales of these low-quality face coverings are still fair game for general consumers. In November 2021 alone, a jarring $34 million was generated from the sales of problematic masks.
Amazon states that it puts all filtration masks through a rigorous review process, but a recent analysis highlighted by the aforementioned New York Times article showed that only a few of the 50 best-selling KN95s on Amazon are somewhat safe for use. Knockoff masks from fraudulent overseas vendors are bolstered by a litany of fake reviews, providing a false sense of security for American consumers who are actually being swindled.
Immovable corporations like Amazon will continue to sell fake masks as our slow-paced legislature struggles to create meaningful guidelines and restrictions for safe masking. There is little that can be done to protect Americans from counterfeit masks. As Omicron spreads and future variants emerge, our best hope is to continue educating one another while investing in high-quality and sustainable masks from trusted manufacturers.