SARS-CoV-2 is the highly infectious virus that causes COVID-19, and through viral shedding, is released into the air and onto surfaces through aerosols in breath. Virus particles, when inhaled, infect respiratory tissues and can cause the severe complications of COVID-19. Widespread and consistent use of PPE is essential to preventing virus dispersal and curtailing the infection process.
PPE is a non-pharmaceutical, preventive intervention, controlling the spread of COVID-19 and reducing the severity of symptoms, all with little to no side effects. Universal mask-wearing and PPE usage have been strongly recommended to reduce the mortality and symptom prevalence of COVID-19, as demonstrated by the high rate of asymptomatic conditions during an outbreak on an Argentinian cruise ship. PPE is one of the most effective and reliable tools in controlling the COVID-19 outbreak and saving lives.
Masks are significant in preventing viral transmission and infection. Let’s say that one mask has an effectiveness of 75%: a wearer is 75% less likely to get infected if they interact with an infectious person, and if the wearer is infectious, they’re 75% less likely to infect someone else. This is how one mask in an interaction works. However, if two people are both wearing masks when they interact, the effect compounds. For example, if Alice and Bob meet up, then the chance of transmission is reduced by 87.5%. Multiplying the 25% chance that Alice transmits the virus to Bob with the 25% chance that Bob contracts the virus equals a 12.5% chance of transmission. Subtracting 12.5% from 100% results in an 87.5% less chance of transmission.
Traditional PPE relies on the production of plastic-based equipment, which has skyrocketed during the pandemic. A direct consequence of this has been an increase in medical waste, causing infrastructural and environmental damages that threaten wildlife and the ecosystem. A safe and efficient method of recycling PPE plastics has yet to be developed, and non-recycled plastics in disposable PPE can ultimately release hazardous pollutants into the environment, such as dioxins. Reusable PPE provides an environmentally sustainable alternative to disposable PPE, reducing waste and protecting the environment.
Reusable PPE provides an effective and economically efficient alternative to the convention of disposable PPE. With PPE shortages, and spikes in disposable PPE prices, adopting the use of reusable PPE is a practical and financially beneficial investment, also preventing future PPE shortages.
Compared to some divisions of pharmaceutical industries, the financial profit of the reusable PPE market does not justify the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) to build or maintain “special interest groups” to lobby decision-makers to advocate for reusable PPE. There is also a lack of “perception management” by public relations companies compared to that of the food and nutrition industry. The preventive, non-pharmaceutical intervention of PPE is essential to stopping the pandemic. An effort to distribute reusable PPE must be promoted and organized at a community level.
Reusable respirators can last for many years and have a production cost of 3-9 USD each. Providing people with reusable PPE could eventually help eliminate COVID-19 without significant side-effects. When used with other measures, reusable PPE will subsequently reduce healthcare costs and hospitalizations, as the number of cases of other infectious diseases such as influenza and the common cold could decrease.
We have witnessed people getting into an argument over someone not wearing a mask. These conflicts are less likely to happen if we focus on wearing the best masks ourselves and be less concerned with the behavior of a stranger.
Within many settings in industrial and agricultural sectors, PPE is worn and often required. This helps to ensure the wearer isn’t breathing in many harmful particles, such as dust. With the spread of COVID-19, it can help in a similar way by protecting the wearer against aerosols containing the coronavirus. Instead of protecting someone at a warehouse, plant, or grain terminal, it can now also be used for protection at the grocery store, the post office, or at a religious service. It is easy to do and will also help in protecting other members of the community.