Post 980: The French ban the worst masks.

Posted on January 27, 2021

European policy regarding masks seems to remain months ahead of the U.S. 

In prior posts, I documented that Germany has been distributing FFP2 (N95-equivalent) masks to high-risk populations since 12/15/2020.  The obvious analogy for U.S. heath care policy would be for the Biden administration to offer N95s to the elderly via Medicare. 

And both the country of Austria and the state of Bavaria are requiring high-filtration masks in public places.

All of that is largely in response to the new, more infectious U.K. strain of COVID.  As the infectiousness of that goes up, these countries are acting to supply or mandate masks that will reduce the viral load that the population is exposed to.

It’s not like we’ve dodged that bullet.  I was tracking the spread across states in a series of posts, but I see that the U.S. CDC is now doing that, with a day or two lag.  If you want to see the status of the UK COVID variant in the U.S.,  refer to this CDC web page.)

Today my wife sent me an article about France, where they are attacking this problem from the other side of the mask spectrum.  Instead of encouraging or mandating use of the best masks, they are now banning use of the worst masks, in public places.  You can read that short article in The Guardian.

The upshot is that homemade masks and the lowest-filtration commercial masks will no longer be allowable.  (No longer be acceptable for complying with mask mandates). And they are considering making FFP2 masks mandatory, as other countries have done.

And again, the reason?

“The coronavirus mutations and variants have completely changed the game over the last three weeks.”

So, they get it.  You wonder how long it’ll take for that understanding to enter  U.S. policy.

One final thing I got out of that article is that the French actually appear to have a national, uniform rating system (categorization) for masks.

Officials admit it is not always easy to know the filter properties of masks. The category is not marked on most masks, though it is supposed to be clearly printed on the packaging or accompanying customer notice.

So, they’re already ahead of the game, relative to the U.S., where we have no idea what we’re buying when we buy a cloth mask.  And only a hope as to what we’re buying, when we buy “medical-grade” masks.

And so, on top of a system that allows consumers to know what they are buying they are upping their game further by removing the lowest-filtration masks (their Category 1 masks) from circulation.

We need to get on the ball, here.  We’ve got a few weeks left before the U.K. strain starts to become the dominant strain in the U.S.  I haven’t yet heard of even one policy initiative from the Federal government aimed at dealing with that.  Other than vaccination, which I’ve already shown is going to be too little, too late, to address this issue (Post #976).  (And that didn’t even factor in the six week lag between initial vaccination and full development of antibodies.)

The Europeans see this coming, and they’re being proactive.  We face the same problem, and we’re sitting on our hands.  It’s time for the Federal government to propose something faster than vaccination for dealing with this.

And the only plausible candidate for that is better masks.  Which we can now say that the Germans, Austrians, and French have all figured out and begun to implement.  Long before that has even been publicly discussed by our Federal government.