Coronavirus Masks – Surgical – N95 – Explained- Prepping 101

Paul Helinski
Coronavirus Masks - Surgical - N95 - Explained- Prepping 101

If you are a follower of this column, you know that I have always said, ten years to early is better than one day late. In the case of masks for the coronavirus right now, it may be one day late. I seem to have found the last good deal on them, and it emptied out just as I started the livestream, above.

Where most people get confused about masks is in understanding the difference in filtration levels for relative threats.

A virus is roughly 100-300 nanometers accross, which is .1 – .3 micrometers, or microns.

A surgical mask filters at about 5 microns. So that is not even in the ballpark, but hang in there so I can explain the whole thing. As you have seen, half of China right now is wearing surgical masks, and it’s for a reason.

An N95 mask filters at .3 microns, 95% of the time. So that’s in the ballpark at least, but still not any guarantee that the filtration of an N95 mask is smaller than the size of whatever virus you are trying to avoid.

A gas mask is a whole other thing. The media in the filters attract particulate, so it isn’t just filtration. Even a regular Russian GP-5 NBC filter will filter viruses, and even gasses. The Mira filters, which are now called CBRN, I have included in this week’s SHOT Digest, and they even remove carbon monoxide at this point.

Now, with all of that in mind, you have to apply common sense. I know this is the internet where common sense is almost forbidden, so bear with me.

Filtration levels are not relevant when what you need to protect against is someone sneezing on you.

It isn’t like there is a cloud of virus in the air. A globule of phlegm, or even a fine spray of it, is always going to be larger than 5 microns. The CDC has even suggested that a T-shirt mask is effective against the spread of a virus.

The important thing is to try not to be breathing in if someone sneezes on you. You can’t always control this of course, which is why a good fitting N95 mask never hurts, , but even if you breath in, the chances of a globule of spit coming through even a tshirt, never mind a surgical mask, are small.

Viruses need a host to live. Even in a ball of phlegm, they won’t last more than a short while, often minutes, and certainly no more than a couple of hours. So you generally need not worry about viruses just hanging out in the air.

When does particulate size matter the most? When there is a cloud of fine dust. When there has been an aerial dispersal of something like anthrax. When you need to drink water out of a river, and there might be a harmful contagion in the water.

And of course, if you have to travel outside after a nuclear accident or bomb, the beta radiation that will be falling certainly should be filtered. This is the biggest reason why gas masks are not a waste of money, or something strictly for halloween costumes, Comicon, and weed bongs.

Otherwise, just use common sense, and completely ignore the armchair internetards who will tell you over and over again that an N95 mask is worse than wearing nothing if it is not fitted properly. Do you know what fitted properly is? Pinch the nose!

Without a genuine seal, as in a butyl rubber gas mask, or a positive pressure system like a fireman’s mask, no mask is going to completely protect you from a cloud of anything, especially once you start exhaling and it gets wet. That’s why they make gas masks.

As you can tell from the video, I was hoping to find you guys a score of N95 masks. I caught 10 boxes of 10 masks on Ebay for about $2 a mask right before I made the livestream. Someone cleaned them out shortly after, probably for resale. Now they seem to be $20 each at least.

There are however, as I write this, some neoprene masks on Amazon that come with activated carbon filters. Even though they are about what you will pay for an N95 right now, they are probably more durable, and are somewhat washable even. In China they call these PM 2.5 (meaning that they filter pollution down to 2.5 microns) filters, and here they call them N99.9, meaning that they filter 99.9% of “dust,” whatever that means.

Again, we are talking about a virus that is going to be trapped in a glob of phlegm, or spray, all of which can be seen with the naked eye. Even 10 microns, the size of pollen allergens, can’t be seen with the human eye. Just get something to reliably cover your breathing ports, and try not to breath in if someone is sneezing or coughing near you. Common sense! It’s still allowed sometimes in the 21st century, even online.

On editing this article for Thursday, the 5th, nothing I said above has any exceptions for a viral outbreak. There is no way, without a specialized bioweapon, to aeriolize 100 to 200 nanometer virus by themselves. A virus cannot live without some kind of host, that will be larger than 5 microns.

But video coming out of Wuhan seems to say that there may be more to it than your average virus. The picture below is from of a video, one of several, that show some kind of Chinese officials blowing some kind of decontaminate into empty storefronts. If this is DDT, or some kind of other delousing agent or something, we are now talking about bugs, or at least a parasite. It does not make sense, and you should do everything you can to make sure that you can stay in the house for at least a few weeks if this thing hits hard here. Nobody is rushing the stores right now. Just get going.

Coronavirus Masks - Surgical - N95 - Explained- Prepping 101


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  • Nachi Ward March 22, 2020, 8:35 pm

    My name is Nachi Ward, my brother Chaim met you at Shot Show in Las Vegas where he serves as a police officer. Both of us served in the IDF, and he introduced me to your work. Especially today when much of what you teach to prepare for is unfortunately actually happening. I’d like to know about food prepping and still keeping Kosher. I asked my Rav who said that there’s nothing wrong with buying rice and beans etc from the local Mormons even without a hashgacha. My question really is, what can I buy and from where that I wouldn’t need to worry about Kashrus? If you have a second my contact is 240-357-0267 I’d love to schmooze with you if that’s ok

  • Mike V February 7, 2020, 6:17 pm

    The local Home Depot stocks N95 masks in quantity in several departments.

    Gone a couple days ago.

    Haven’t restocked yet.

    That’s a lot of friggin masks, and we haven’t even come close to everybody having the same idea at the same time.

    I doubt the factory in China making these is going to be sending us anymore…

    The only thing available is N95 half mask respirators, also almost gone, zero spare filters for the remaining stock.

  • J. Lones February 6, 2020, 8:14 pm

    Practice JIC…Just In Case. Some of my close friends say I am paranoid…I hope that is true.
    We know very little what is really going on. The Chinese government knows…and they are not talking out of fear of losing control of their country.
    A two week infection period without symptoms? How do you stop that?
    50 million locked down? 1.5 Billion lock down next?
    The Chinese Dr. who first discovered it and caught it… just died.
    China’s only level 4 bio-weapon lab is in that city.
    The 1st week, China was requesting aids virus medicine…why?
    Last year a Chinese geneticist created Genetically Modied twin girls that were supposed to be immune to the aids virus…then the doctor disappeared. Is this thing engineered to survive on door knobs and vaccinate or infect victims with aids?
    Best case scenario, this ends in about two months with 10,000 dead Chinese…
    Worse case…there are 20 million or more Chinese dead. Nightmare…it mutates into something like Ebola.
    Spraying for a bio engineered virus that can survive for many hours or days…maybe they know something we don’t. Whistleblowers in China are executed.
    Don’t forget about your eyes? Some pathogens can enter through the eyes. One unexpected cough or sneeze in your direction…too late to close your eyes.
    Americans should pray for all the chinese people who don’t deserve this fate, and that their government gets it under control.

  • Lambros February 6, 2020, 8:14 am

    Guys, the hardware stores still have them, and masks with filters, I bought some yesterday and I am in San Antonio, oh yeah we will be hosting here people evacuated from China

  • Susan S Frye February 3, 2020, 10:16 pm

    So pull your tee shirt over your nose and mouth. Breathe thru it with mouth and pinch nose? Always do that in smelly toxic Houston while driving thru chemical alley! Since 1980… Never had a virus. Now moved out to cleaner Ozarks.

  • Jonn February 3, 2020, 8:39 pm

    Everyone be aware that dust mask/respirator, p95’s or p100 are for protecting workers from dust particulate not from viruses. That rating on those mask (P100) is base on a sample the material that the mask is made of in a machine that can seal the edges of the sample. Were as you can not seal the mask to your face completely. Air enter and leave the mask the easiest way. Read the manufacturing information pamphlet.

  • Scotty Gunn February 3, 2020, 8:27 pm

    They are all gone. Found some N95’s in my local hardware today. Snagged both boxes. Just sent a package overseas, and these will go next. Going to wife’s family.

  • Thomas Conroy February 3, 2020, 11:44 am

    I have been buying this mask and others ones for years . Try Home Depot , Lowe’s, hardware store, all paint stores carry they . I used to buy by the box Of 20 -$26

  • RC February 3, 2020, 6:31 am

    I can’t stand it someone making actual sense on the internet. Thank you! Only thing to add to this piece is please wash your hands frequently. Touching something contaminated and touching your face or eyes can still transmit virus particles. Be safe all!

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