The pandemic has altered so many things about our lives.  Every decision we make about education, work, and socializing has to be thought out and weighed against the risk of catching COVID. With no clear end in sight to the pandemic, many people are seeking out products that can help reinstill some semblance of normalcy. We’ve assessed some of these products to determine how useful they are and which brands provide the best value and service.

Masks

While not a cure-all, the effectiveness of masks has been well established.  One US study examined the effects of state government mandates for mask use in April and May. Researchers estimated that mask-wearing reduced the growth of COVID-19 cases by up to 2 percentage points per day, suggesting that masks may have prevented as many as 450,000 cases of COVID.

Masks work by blocking droplets that come out of your mouth or nose when you talk, sneeze or cough. Not only do they reduce transmission and contraction of the disease, but some studies also suggest that they may even help lower the severity of infection if people do contract COVID. Masks work best when the majority of the population wears them.

Science Alert offers a simple trick for testing the effectiveness of your mask: Try blowing out a candle while wearing it. A good mask should prevent you from extinguishing the flame. They recommend using a hybrid mask with high thread count fabrics woven as tightly as possible.  Additionally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests using fabric masks with three layers: an inner layer that absorbs, a middle layer that filters, and an outer layer made from a nonabsorbent material like polyester.

Snaptotes offers fabric face masks with three layers of protection. The masks include a filter pocket and five replacement HEPA filters.

Plexiglass Barriers

Offices, stores, and restaurants across the country are using plexiglass barriers to help workers and customers feel safer. Plexiglass is also used for faceshields, either instead of or in conjunction with masks.  Even the Vice Presidential debate used plexiglass to help separate the candidates.  In fact, plexiglass products are in such high demand, that stores are struggling to keep them in stock.  But, how effective is plexiglass in preventing COVID transmission?

Despite noting the absence of peer-reviewed studies, Michael Fischman, MD, a consulting doctor in occupational and environmental medicine and toxicology in Walnut Creek, CA, and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco says, “intuitively, it makes sense that the barrier would capture large droplets and that might reduce the risk of transmission.”

However, it is important to note that face shields are not nearly as effective as masks in preventing COVID. That’s because face masks absorb droplets when we sneeze or cough, but face shields don’t. Also, research has found that COVID lives longer on plastic than on porous materials like cloth, paper, or cardboard.

Nevertheless, plexiglass can likely provide some basic protection.

Preferred Projects 3-Sided Sneeze Guard offers a versatile three-sided sneeze guard for desktops, service counters, and lecterns. Panels range from 18 by 24 inches to 30 by 36 inches with an optional 6-by-12-inch passthrough. The sides are mounted at a 120 degree angle, allowing for plenty of space to work.

Fever Detectors

Because fever is one of the most common symptoms of COVID, many businesses and schools have begun using Infrared Thermal Detection Systems before allowing people to enter the building. Unfortunately, there are limits as to how effective these devices are. The two major problems are that people are typically contagious two to three days before showing symptoms and not all people with COVID have a fever. While using a fever detection system will not make a building safe from COVID, it may provide some measure of protection.

The two most common methods of testing for fevers are thermal cameras and medical-grade thermometers. Thermal cameras by themselves cannot detect fevers, they can only determine if a person’s skin temperature is unusually high. If the camera does notice an elevated skin temperature, then a medical grade thermometer (either oral or no-contact) is used.

Some key questions to ask before purchasing a thermal camera are:

  • How easy is it to operate?
  • How accurate is it?
  • How many people can it scan, and how fast?

Hikvision, a trusted name in security cameras, offers both handheld and stationary fever detection cameras. Handheld devices can operate from three to six feet away, while stationary cameras can prescreen individuals from up to 23 feet away.

Oximeters

A pulse oximeter is a small device that clips onto your finger and measures the oxygen in your blood. A normal oxygen level measured by a pulse oximeter is around 97% and anything below 80% is in the danger zone.

Because COVID often results in a dip in blood oxygen level, oximeters can sometimes be an indicator of the disease. In fact, one ER doctor wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times, recommending that people purchase oximeters to help them decide when to seek medical care.

While oximeters can be helpful, it’s important to understand that it’s possible to get false alarms. Anything from device malfunction to dark nail polish can taint the results. Overall, it’s best to track the trend in your levels, not to react to a single reading.

The Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is an affordable pulse oximeter which not only shows blood oxygen saturation levels but also provides heart rate and pulse strength data.

Humidifiers

The COVID virus thrives in dry air.  Increasing humidity can be an important part of decreasing transmission, especially as cooler weather forces more people indoors.

In fact, a new, peer-reviewed study by researchers from the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Fudan University School of Public Health in Shanghai estimated that for every 1 percent decrease in relative humidity, COVID-19 cases can increase by 7 percent to 8 percent. A 10 percent drop in relative humidity could double COVID-19 infections.

The reason for higher transmission rates in dryer air is that airborne particles are smaller and can remain in the air longer in low humidity. Increasing the humidity makes the infectious particles heavier, causing them to drop from the air and land on surfaces.

Stephanie Taylor, infection control consultant at Harvard Medical School, has conducted multiple studies showing that an indoor humidity level of between 40% to 60% has the potential to drastically reduce infection rates.

Honeywell HCM-350 Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier is a quiet, durable humidifier that is exceptionally easy to fill and clean.

Air Purifiers

Recently, the CDC joined the WHO in confirming that not only is COVID passed by large droplets, but also through airborne aerosols… strongly increasing the need for monitoring indoor air.

Because of their ability to eliminate viruses from indoor air, air purifiers with True HEPA filters may be the most important tool in reducing indoor infection rates.  Air purifiers are so effective that the CDC recommends that hospitals use HEPA filtration systems when dealing with patients with coronavirus.

aeris uses cutting edge technology to create air purifiers that are able to eliminate pollutants down to .1 microns, without making a sound.  This means that not only do they get rid of COVID, but also dust, mold, smoke, and a variety of other allergens, all of which may make you more susceptible to complications from COVID. aeris purifiers come in a range of different sizes to ensure the best possible fit for your home or office.