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Walmart responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by mandating all associates must wear a face mask. The company started distributing face masks to employees for free. Walmart’s masks were cloth masks and not respirator masks. While associates were allowed to bring their own home-made masks to the job, they had to abide by certain guidelines. Walmart is also making efforts to make customers wear face masks while shopping at their stores in order to minimize exposure for their employees.

Walmart initiated its Covid-19 response plan early on, and started making major changes to its stores early in March 2020 when the pandemic took hold in the US. The first measure implemented by the company was to close down all their stores overnight for emergency cleaning. Walmart proceeded to install sneeze guards/Plexiglas at all checkouts including their pharmacies.

Each store implemented social distancing stickers and regulations to separate customers – including an emergency leave policy. Walmart prioritized areas with elevated cases, such as New Orleans and New York, for emergency Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and sent a higher amount of protection to those areas. All associates had to have their temperature taken before they were allowed to go to work. Those were the early measurements the company took until the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) provided additional guidelines.

  • Walmart encouraged all customers to wear face masks while they’re shopping at their stores.

Recently, most Walmart stores updated their policy on face masks, from voluntary to obligatory, as a result of CDC guidelines. The chief spokesman for CDC recommended wearing face masks in a public setting, which wasn’t their previous official stance. Even though state and municipal governments throughout the United States didn’t require face masks in a public setting, the CDC recommended masks due to the fact that individuals without any symptoms could still transmit the virus. The CDC determined that it’s in everyone’s best interest to wear face masks in order to stop the spread of the disease, and Walmart revised their guidelines accordingly.

Walmart implemented new social distancing regulations afterward. Walmart stores not only recommended face masks, but they started limiting the number of people allowed in the stores. Walmart stores operated at 20% capacity on average, and didn’t allow more than 5 customers per 1000 square feet at any given time. Walmart also initiated special shopping times for high-risk people, such as seniors, healthcare workers, first responders, and customers with medical conditions/disabilities.

Walmart’s spokesman stated: “We hope the new measures are going to continue to enhance customer safety across our facilities while retaining a degree of comfort. However, we should not forget that face masks are merely a health precaution and not a guarantee against the spread of the virus. Face masks do not replace other important steps we must take such as to keep a distance from others and, regularly wash our hands for more than 20 seconds and stay home if we have a temperature of over 100”. Walmart will continue mandating all associates wear face masks and gloves and measure their temperature to reduce the safety risk on other associates and customers.

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Business owners are implementing strategies to protect workers and clients from the Covid-19 pandemic. While most of the world’s population is currently wearing face masks to protect themselves from the virus, there are different masks that offer different degrees of protection. Certain masks are better at preventing the spread of the virus – this guide will break down the top 3 face mask types for essential workers.

 All healthcare, food production, law enforcement, and other essential workers can protect themselves using the masks below. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), there are only 3 effective mask types that workers should wear. There are major differences between the materials and the protection levels each mask offers.

Top 3 Mask Types: Respirators, Surgical & Home-Made

The following is a ranking of the 3 types based on effectiveness:

1) Respirator Masks. Respirators are the most effective masks for preventing the spread of a virus or any harmful particle – they’re also used for protection against air pollution. Respirator masks filter air and prevent people from inhaling dangerous substances. That’s because, when the air flows in, the filtration system of the mask traps harmful particles – allowing wearers to breathe in clean air.

This is why the masks are called “respirators”. Masks such as N95 and DittoMask are respirator masks, and they can be used by regular citizens and healthcare workers. OHSA standards mandate respirator masks for all healthcare professionals, and recommend it for the highest degree of protection.

2) Surgical Masks. Surgical masks, the most common masks people associate with PPE, are the most wide-spread popular masks. They provide basic protection against harmful particles by containing virus particles from leaking outside when an infected person coughs. These masks can also trap the virus particles on the surface of the mask which protects the wearer.

The downside is that they’re only single-use (as the virus can remain on the surface of the cloth) and they don’t seal the person’s mouth/nose as close as respirator masks do. Surgical masks are suitable for medium-risk professions. There is also a third category of masks which is surging in popularity currently as masks become part of everyday life for citizens.

3) Home-Made/Creative Masks. DYI/home masks are a whole category that provides varying degrees of protection. They tend to be the least effective as they’re made from regular cloth or improvised materials at home. Even a scarf could qualify as a mask and it’s generally less effective than a surgical mask.

There are some improvised masks such as “anti-dust” masks that provide a slightly higher degree of prevention than surgical masks, because they offer a better fit around the face and they’re comfortable for longer wear. However, these masks will almost never be used in a professional healthcare setting, unlike respirators and surgical masks.

Conclusion

There are certain rules and regulations imposed by OSHA for respirators that do not apply to improvised home masks. Knowing about the mask type you’re purchasing for your employees can help you make a better decision and have a serious impact on the health of your workplace.

While OSHA tightened regulations for respirators at the start of the pandemic, they have since been relaxed, and many new respirator masks are making their way into the industry. For instance, certain masks provide similar performance to the staple N95 respirator mask but come in a more stylish package. One such example is DittoMask – the ultimate among respirators for the workplace.

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The price of protective masks has surged over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. What is the average price for cloth masks and respirator masks currently? This post will analyze the way the price surged and at the current price for masks in the US. 

The widespread use of masks is a symbol of a global pandemic. As many countries around the world struggle to flatten the curve, social media is flooded with pictures of people casually wearing masks as they go about their lives – making streets and workplaces look like hospitals. 

  • Mask shortages have affected almost every country in the world, and the prices have gone up as much as 20x on certain online retailers such as Amazon. The company was forced to start banning vendors for price-gauging on the website.

There were reports of people selling packs of 10-15 N95 respirator masks for as much as $1000, while each mask used to only cost about $10 pre-pandemic. At the height of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortage, Amazon had to cancel many retailers who were not compliant with their pricing policies. The company either deleted their listings or canceled their accounts as a result.

The topic of price gouging during the pandemic was one of the most debated topics of the year. Amazon’s spokesmen claimed that the company was disappointed that people were trying to artificially raise the price of basic needs during a global health crisis. Currently, the price of PPE is still relatively high compared to pre-pandemic times, but it is still affordable. Here’s what we found based on our research:

  • Surgical masks can be purchased for $20/50 pieces.
  • Anti-dust masks can be found for $15-20/piece.
  • Respirator masks with filtration systems are available for $40-50/piece.

Price gauging during the pandemic has affected many countries world-over. Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries during the pandemic, had to open an investigation into the surge of prices on online stores regarding medical supplies and other essentials. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned employers to start buying PPE for workers, and requiring all employees to wear protective equipment while at work. The CDC also recommended mask-wearing for regular citizens in order to stop the spread of the disease.

Pre-Pandemic Vs Current Prices

If you analyze the prices for Amazon’s “Top Sellers” in the PPE category, you can notice packs of 50-100 disposable masks go for $15-20 on average. This still represents a massive surge from pre-COVID-19 times, when the average price for 50 disposable masks used to be as low as $5. However, it is still a decrease compared to the first few weeks of the pandemic, when PPE shortages were rampant.

The price for other medical supplies, such as respirator masks, has surged as well. Respirator masks have a filtration capacity that captures harmful chemicals, such as viruses, from entering the mouth/nose, and only allow clear air particles. The staple of respirator masks is the N95 mask – while it only used to cost $10/mask before the pandemic, the average price of such a mask is now $20-30.

Amazon’s ‘Fair Pricing’ Policy

Amazon implemented automatic regulation, which prohibits new sellers from selling items in a certain category at a higher price than the “recent prices offered” on the website. Amazon calls this the “Fair Pricing Policy”, and aims to stop price gouging by vendors. Amazon has effectively clamped down on thousands of vendor accounts and removed thousands of listings from the website.

E-commerce websites have frequently implemented anti-price-gauging mechanisms during Holiday seasons, such as the Christmas,  when vendors would increase the price of items such as toys. Currently, if Amazon vendors start charging excessive amounts for essentials, moderators are likely to intervene and take action immediately.

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Business owners, who are trying to minimize their employees’ exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, should implement a set of protocols that everyone must abide by. This guide will help you implement basic measures at your workplace in order to keep your workers and clients safe. First off, the goal is to put in place effective measures that minimize the risk – and if that’s impossible, to minimize the exposure of your workers to the virus.

We’re going to suggest a set of measures that you can implement gradually, or at once, that involve wearing personal equipment and re-assigning the workforce based on priority. The measures below are general-purpose measures that can be applied to all workplaces that have multiple employees:

  • Only perform essential work. Businesses should postpone non-essential work until the pandemic is over or its risk  minimized. For non-essential work, try to implement remote measures, such as meeting with clients over the internet (video conferences), and do the same with worker meetings.
  • Only hire essential workers. Make sure that the most essential personnel are present at the job site, and request that other personnel work remotely for the time being. The fewer people you have at the office, the less the risk of exposure for your employees.
  • Minimize physical contact between workers. This doesn’t only apply when they’re working, but it should also apply during lunch breaks and company meetings. If workers can carry out the tasks independently, try to separate them by least 6 feet, which is the minimal guidance recommended for social distancing. Ideally, you should isolate workers in their own rooms. If it’s impossible, due to lack of office space, try to convert other rooms into offices, such as staff rooms, warehouses, meeting rooms, or any other room in the building.
  • Ask workers to work for home. This should be an automatic directive for all workers who are sensitive to virus – i.e. workers with respiratory conditions, heart problems, diabetes, cancer treatment, pregnant workers, working seniors and aged staff members. Certain workers with family members who are at high risk, such as workers married to medical personnel, should also be sent home.
  • Establish social distancing rules in the workplace. For instance, mark 6 feet distance between customers in a queue. Limit all physical interaction between your employees and customers. Instead of selling directly at the store, start taking phone orders and delivering personally.
  • Apply caution with your delivery services. When your delivery personnel are at work, instruct them to deliver outside the premises. Always make sure the delivery personnel have good hygiene and provide them with disposable gloves that they can discard after each delivery.
  • Create barriers in the workplace. There should be physical barriers in the workplace if the employees are working within less than 6 feet from each other. These barriers can be made using DYI methods such as plastic sheeting or similar. If it’s impossible to lift barriers, rearrange the furniture you have available, such as placing 2 desks between employees.
  • Reduce physical contact time. For instance, if you run a medical service and can’t avoid close contact with patients, you can limit each session to 10 minutes. If the business has multiple departments, reduce the contact between each department at the end of shifts. Apply the same for worker interaction. If the workers go to lunch at the same time in the same cafeteria, design special lunchtimes to separate them. 
  • Make sure the bathrooms and changing rooms are used by one worker at a time. Place signs at doors to indicate that employees should check whether one person is using the room.
  • Supply PPE and sanitary equipment. To protect your employees, purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) packs, such as surgical masks, which you can hand out to each employee for the duration of their workday. If you want to invest in better  safety protection, purchase respirator masks that filter out the air while they’re working – for example  DittoMask. Make sure there is abundant soap and hand sanitizer available at the office, cafeteria/lunchroom, and bathrooms.