This COVID Essential Is Disappearing From Shelves, Doctors Warn
You'll want to get your hands on it before it's sold out completely.
Many people have put their guards back up as the highly transmissible Delta variant has made its way around the U.S., increasing case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths. Some people have resorted back to wearing masks wherever they go, while others are stocking back up on pandemic necessities. Stores like Costco have already had to reenact temporary purchasing limits as people revert back to hoarding toilet paper and bottled water. And now, another COVID essential is quickly selling out, prompting a warning from doctors. Read on to find out what product you may want to get your hands on now because it's sold out completely.
Doctors say the most effective children's masks are selling out right now.
Children's masks are in high demand as schools open back up, according to The Wall Street Journal. Happy Masks, a popular mask company that sells a five-layer children's mask with a polyester outer layer and three filters, told the news outlet that all 22 of its designs are currently sold out. Customers now have to join a wait list to potentially get their hands on one of these masks, even though the company restocks them twice a week.
According to the founders, who went to the MIT Sloan School of Management and Harvard Business School, the masks provide 99.9 percent bacterial and viral filtration. Happy Masks have gained an almost fanatical following and have been recommended by doctors coast to coast, including by Nupur Kumar, DO, Los Angeles-based family medicine doctor. "I always recommend this mask," she says on the company's site, per the Los Angeles Times. "I'm talking as a mom and it's about protecting your family."
The manufacturers behind Flo Mask, a children's mask that's made partly of liquid silicone rubber and claims to filter out over 99.8 percent of viruses, say their masks are currently out of stock as well, with new shipments not expected until later this month.
COVID cases in children have risen significantly in the past few months.
At the beginning of the pandemic, children were not a large concern as they were not getting infected with the virus at the same rate or seriousness as adults were. But things have certainly changed. According to data published Sept. 13 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there were more than 243,000 new COVID cases among kids over the past week, which is a nearly 240-percent increase from early July, when children accounted for just around 70,000 cases.
"After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially with nearly 500,000 cases in the past two weeks," the AAP stated.
COVID vaccines are not yet approved for children under the age of 12 in the U.S. and current projections don't anticipate vaccination approval for younger age groups before the end of October, which is why many parents are eagerly hunting for highly effective masks.
Research has shown that regular cloth masks aren't as effective against the Delta variant.
According to the WSJ, highly effective children's masks are selling out more now as parents worry about school-related outbreaks due to the Delta variant and because regular cloth masks have been deemed less effective amid this highly transmissible iteration of COVID. A study being peer-viewed for publication in the journal Science and pre-printed on Aug. 31 looked at the effectiveness of different masks against the spread of COVID among 340,000 adults in 600 villages in rural Bangladesh. According to the study, cloth masks offered a filtration efficiency of just 37 percent, compared to the 95 percent provided by surgical masks made with three layers of 100 percent non-woven polypropylene.
"Cloth masks may be 10 or 20 percent effective, [which is] not great against the Delta variant," Ashish Jha, MD, the dean of Brown's School of Public Health, said during a Sept. 5 appearance on Fox News Sunday. "Given the Delta variant that's out there, you probably need to upgrade your mask."
Michael Osterholm, PhD, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told STAT News said he'd specifically have children wear an N95 to school, noting that cloth face masks don't protect against a variant as contagious as Delta. During an interview with CNN in early August, Osterholm said many of the face masks that are widely used aren't up to the challenge of preventing the spread of Delta, saying it was time for people to upgrade from cloth masks. "We need to talk about better masking," he argued. "We need to talk about N95 respirators, which would do a lot for both people who are not yet vaccinated or are not previously infected. Protecting them as well as keeping others who might become infected having been vaccinated from breathing out the virus."
But many say any mask is better than no mask for your children.
Despite new research clocking the effectiveness of cloth masks, it may be your best choice if other children's masks are out of stock. Any mask is better than no mask, Megan Ranney, MD, an emergency care doctor and associate team of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the WSJ.
"The best mask is the best quality mask your child will tolerate," Ranney added. A child's mask should seal against the face without gaps that allow air to escape, as well as have a metal nose bridge that can contour to your child's nose, scientists told the WSJ.
John Volckens, PhD, a professor and aerosol scientist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, also told the news outlet that if you do have to use a cloth mask for your child, whether due to availability or comfort, you can make it more effective by adding a filter layer or surgical mask if your child can tolerate a double masking.