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What are the new findings?
Due to the severe shortage of N95 respirator masks during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organisations resorted to less conventional avenues of sourcing personal protective equipment.
There is concern that N95 masks purchased from international markets may have undergone less stringent certification.
Facing an impending shortage of N95 masks, our hospital located in New York City developed a novel device to serve as an affordable and fast screening tool for N95 masks acquired through alternative sources.
How might it impact on healthcare in the future?
We found that N95 masks from certain distributors did not efficiently filter particles and likely did not meet the standards of an N95 designation.
This device design may be implemented at other institutions that are currently unable to ensure the quality of their N95 masks.
In early December 2019, the first COVID-19 pneumonia cases were identified in Wuhan, China.1 The virus quickly spread throughout the world and New York City became one of the major epicentres.2 For healthcare providers, one of the most effective modes of protection against infection is personal protective equipment (PPE).3–5 However many hospital systems did not initially possess sufficient PPE reserves, particularly N95 masks.6 7 Due to the severe shortage of respirator masks, healthcare organisations resorted to less conventional avenues of sourcing PPE.3 8–10 However, there was concern that N95 masks purchased from international markets may have undergone less stringent certification.11 12 During a time of low supply and high demand, these masks were the only available option for many healthcare workers. Unfortunately, the process of certifying the efficacy of respirator masks is lengthy and would delay distribution of masks to the frontlines by several weeks. Facing the impending shortage, our hospital located in New York City developed a novel device to serve as an affordable and fast screening tool for N95 …
Contributors All authors contributed in a significant manner to this manuscript. MH, DR, PN, DL, EF, JI and LG were all critical in designing and performing the study. DC and DR wrote the manuscript, and DC submitted the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.