KEY POINTS

  • A Texas nurse developed masks that reportedly have better filtration than an N95 mask
  • She used materials that she was able to secure from Lowe's
  • The masks will be used as a reserve in case of a surge in coronavirus cases in Texas

Nurse Tommye Austin, the chief executive nurse at University Health System, said she used materials bought from Lowe’s to create the masks. She said her goal is to make 600 masks that will be utilized as reserves in case of a surge in COVID-19 cases in San Antonio, Texas. Health experts had predicted that coronavirus hospitalizations could surge in May, a KSAT report said.

A Better Alternative

The chief executive nurse revealed that she is using an AC filter material in making the masks. You can buy the material at Lowe’s or similar stores. Nurse Austin told KSAT that in case they would experience higher numbers of COVID-19 patients in San Antonio, they are just sure that they would have enough supplies for their own employees. She also mentioned that they expect this surge in cases in May. 

Ms. Austin said the masks she made fit and looked like an N95 mask. Research and testing conducted by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), however, said that the filtration on Nurse Austin’s masks is better compared to N95 masks. She further explained that when they learned that the CDC gave them the ability to make their own masks instead of using a handkerchief or a bandanna, they decided to look at creating their own N95 masks.

More Masks Needed

Austin said she experimented with two types of materials in making the masks. She said that according to the SwRI, the filtration rate on the mask using one type of material is at 97.8%. The rate of filtration on the other, which uses another type of material, is even better at 99.5%, the SwRI told Ms. Austin. “So if the N95 masks have a 95 percent filtration efficiency, that means it can eliminate at least 95 percent of the virus or bacteria trying to get through the mask,” Nurse Austin said.

The Texas nurse has revealed, in an interview with KSAT, she is hoping to produce and store at least 6,500 more masks. Each can be used for up to two times when cleaned with proper sanitation equipment, as well as protocols like those used for N95 masks.

A Product With Science In Mind

Nurse Austin said that she, along with her team, have been developing the masks with SwRI to ensure they develop a truly good and scientific product. She clarified that they had been working with Southwest Research Institute to ensure that they don't just develop something, which they think is good but importantly, that it is made using science.

The masks that they developed do not have the "carbon dioxide buildup," which is the one that gives the user headache or makes you feel dizzy. She stated that it is comfortable and could be worn for long periods.

The chief executive nurse also revealed that her hospital, University Health System, has shared their design with other medical facilities in the state. They hope it will provide necessary protection to health care workers who, even at this very moment, are struggling to deal with the challenges of the vicious pandemic. 

“Hearing the stories from the nurses in New York and other hot spots, it was just heartbreaking," said Nurse Austin. She further said that as nurses who are considered as advocates for people, their goal is to keep people safe and not to make money off the mask.