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Where to Buy Nonmedical Cloth Face Masks in the UK

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As of 24th July, it will be compulsory to to wear face masks in shops and supermarkets in England. This is in addition to the mandate announced by the UK government on 4 June making it mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport, including buses, trains, aircrafts, ferries, and when driving with Uber or Addison Lee. These precautions were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus by those who are infected with it and are asymptomatic.

For many before the pandemic, face masks were not a part of their at-home collection. Luckily, a selection of retailers have now made protective face coverings available for purchase. For those who do not have masks already or prefer not to make a face mask, buying one is an easy alternative.

In order to properly wear a face mask, it must fit closely against the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include more than one layer of fabric, allow for breathing, and be able to be washed without getting damaged. It’s worth noting that while these cloth face coverings are not medical-grade masks like the N95 respirators and surgical masks, which are being reserved for healthcare workers, they are still useful to put on when out in public. Wearing a cloth mask will not ensure protection against ingesting droplets, but it’s a precautionary safety measure worth taking.

Ahead is a curated list of face masks that are available to buy in-store and online in the UK, including options from our favourite retailers like Boots, Superdrug, and Marks & Spencer, as well as companies and brands that are doing their part by donating proceeds and masks to charities and hospitals to help those working against the virus. If you don’t already have a mask or need another one for yourself or a loved one, shop these picks now and help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Additional reporting by Kara Kia and Ange Law



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HEALTH

Reusable Face Masks With Filter Pockets Available in the UK

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As of 24th July, it will be compulsory to to wear face masks in shops and supermarkets in England. This is in addition to the mandate announced by the UK government on 4th June making it mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport, including buses, trains, aircrafts, ferries, and when driving with Uber or Addison Lee. These precautions were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus by those who are infected with it and are asymptomatic, and it’s sent us on a search for comfortable, affordable, and reusable face coverings for ourselves and our families.

At the moment, we’re interested in face masks that have a filter pocket. They’re reusable, which is awesome, and as long as you replace the filter every time you use it, you’ll be good to go. These are cloth face masks, not N95 styles, but they’re still great options for going outside.

From sleek black masks to colourful patterns, these 9 masks are optimal if you have reusable filters. Just keep reading to shop our top picks.

Additional reporting by Sophia Panych



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HEALTH

Does Wearing a Face Mask Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

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Doctors, leaders, celebrities, and even the timeless Bill Nye are all banging the drum, encourageing people to wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because, based on current information, wearing a face mask is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus, especially as parts of the United Kingdom attempt to reopen and ease up on lockdown restrictions. The UK government first made wearing cloth face masks mandatory on public transport in England back in April. Starting on 24 July, it will be compulsory to wear face coverings in shops as well.

Yet amidst all the recommendations and PSAs, sometimes we can forget the actual rationale behind face masks. It’s important to remember why we wear them, both so we can educate each others and stay motivated to strap them on ourselves.

Why Do Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus Spread?

The thing to remember is that when you wear a face mask, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe from the virus — but it’s a very effective way to protect the people around you. As Stanford Health Care immunologist and infectious disease doctor Anne Liu, MD, phrased it, “Wearing a mask protects other people, and other people wearing masks protects you.”

Here’s why:

  • Face masks catch respiratory droplets, which can transmit the virus. On the microscopic level, face masks act as a barrier against the respiratory droplets leaving your nose and mouth as you exhale, cough, or sneeze. These droplets are the main means of coronavirus transmission, studies suggest, and they essentially “get caught in the fibres of the mask,” said Dr. Liu. “So, the more layers there are, the better; the tighter the weave, the better.” Non-medical grade masks tend to be more porous, she noted, so some of the smaller droplets will slip through or out the sides, but they do a good job of catching larger droplets. As a recent study showed, an uncovered sneeze or cough can spray droplets an average of eight feet away (about 2.4 metres); when wearing a cloth face mask, it’s 2.5 inches (approximately 6.4 centimetres). Growing evidence shows that the coronavirus is airborne, making masks even more important.
  • Many people transmit the virus without experiencing symptoms. The statistics vary, but Dr. Liu estimated that around half of viral transmissions come from people who show no symptoms at the time of transmission; a new mathematical model agrees. That’s different than past coronavirus outbreaks (such as SARS 1 and MERS), which “primarily spread from people who had symptoms,” Dr. Liu explained. It’s one reason why face mask recommendations are being made now that weren’t in the past, and why COVID-19 has proved so difficult to contain in comparison: people have the virus without knowing it, and are unwittingly spreading it to others. It’s in these cases that wearing a face mask is crucially important, because it greatly reduces the chances that an asymptomatic person will pass on the virus when they’re out and about.
  • Masks are our best chance at ending social distancing. Given the estimates of asymptomatic cases, we have no foolproof way of knowing who has coronavirus and who doesn’t. Even if we had the capability of universal testing, there’s often a lag time between picking up the virus and testing positive, Dr. Liu said, in which the individual is able to infect others. Since we can’t identify every person with coronavirus based on symptoms or testing, the solution is to slow the spread by other means. Social distancing may be the most difficult one. “The alternative to wearing masks is that everybody physically distances until this is gone,” Dr. Liu said — and at this point, on multiple levels, another year of social distancing seems unlikely to succeed.

No one’s saying it’s fun to strap on a face mask every time you leave the house, particularly if you’re an essential worker who’s wearing one every day on the job. But right now, it can make a huge difference in terms of saving lives and getting the world back on track. “People should think of it as, ‘I’m wearing a mask to show that I care about the people around me,” said Dr. Liu, adding, “The only way we are going to be able to reduce physical distancing again is by using masks.”

If you can’t find any in stores, buy a cloth face mask online (here are 60-plus options) or make your own with this DIY hack.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the NHS, and GOV.UK.



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Coronavirus: Face Masks Compulsory in UK Shops From 24 July

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A shopper with a protective face mask walking down Oxford Street as people in London, UK on July 11, 2020  prepare for the possibility of Face coverings becoming mandatory in shops and other public places across the UK.  (Photo by Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As of 24 July, face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England, and shoppers caught not wearing one could face a fine of up to £100. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt from wearing a face covering — though health advisers encourage everyone to wear one if they can.

“There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus,” said a Number 10 spokesperson. “The Prime Minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops, and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”

The decision follows days of conflicting advice from various MPs, including Michael Gove, who said that he doesn’t think masks should be mandatory as he believes people in England will display “basic good manners” after encouragement to wear one. However, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has advocated the wearing of face masks since the beginning of the pandemic and brought in compulsory face coverings rules on public transport on 15 June.

Despite the announcement, which many members of the public are in favour of, the government has been criticised by various health advisers on the decision to give 11 days notice prior to the rules being enforced. When asked to explain, Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that the delay “gives people time to prepare”.

Where possible, people are encouraged to wear reusable face masks and wash them after every use, in order to reduce single-use waste. There are now plenty of places to buy reusable face masks, including comfortable fabric face coverings available on various websites, masks created for Boots by famous British designers, and also masks with filter pockets for extra protection, which can be found on Etsy. If you aren’t able to get yourself a mask, there are also plenty of ways to make a face covering at home using a t-shirt.

As for other parts of the UK, face coverings became mandatory in Scotland for public transport and shopping from 10 July. However, those living in Wales and Northern Ireland are not required to wear one, though it’s expected this will be under review following Boris Johnson’s announcement for England.

So, repeat after us before leaving the house: “phone, keys, wallet, mask“. Oh, and just a reminder, you can wear a face covering from today, you don’t need to wait until the 24th.



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NEWS

HCA nurses say they face layoffs if they don’t give up negotiated pay increases

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HCA nurses protest outside of Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. Photo credit: Javier Sansores

Nurses at 15 HCA hospitals represented by National Nurses United protested last week, saying the for-profit hospital chain threatened layoffs.  Nurses took to the sidewalks outside of their hospitals with signs, after they said they were told to expect cuts to benefits and staff if they didn’t give up negotiated wage increases.

In an emailed statement, HCA said it had no plans for layoffs.

A letter obtained by MedCity News threatened the possibility of reductions if the nurses did not accept HCA’s proposal. 

The letter stated:

“The facts are that non-represented colleagues across the HCA Healthcare enterprise are taking pay reductions and non-represented colleagues are giving up wage increases this year. HCA Healthcare has made these tough decisions in order to preserve jobs. To be equitable to all of our colleagues across the enterprise, we recently reached out to unions, with the hope that during this time of crisis, they would support the same measures for our unionized employees to minimize the impact on your compensation and employment status. …  If the (National Nurses Organizing Committee) and/or (Service Employees International Union) reject our proposal, colleagues represented by these unions will no longer be eligible for continued pandemic pay, may be subject to layoffs and may face other benefit changes.”

Nurses interviewed by MedCity News said they were asked to give up other benefits.

Zoe Schmidt, a registered nurse who works at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, said they were also asked to forego their 401(k) matching for the year and shift differential pay, or increased compensation for nurses that work night and weekend shifts.

“We’ve been fighting back against that. At my hospital, it does seem like they’ve backed down on wage freezes and 401(k) matching (changes),” she said.

Though Schmidt hasn’t seen any evidence of impending layoffs, she said she was worried about staffing changes that could push the number of patients past four or five per nurse for the medical surgical unit where she works.

“We’re not overstaffed by any means,” she said.

Juan Anchondo, who has worked as an RN for 16 years at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, said nurses were told to expect 10% layoffs.

“The way they word it, it sounds like layoffs are imminent,” he said. “They wouldn’t be specific to which departments or which hospital.”

In the last two weeks, as the hospital started to reopen, he said his medical-surgical unit quickly expanded from 20 beds to 26 beds.

“We were barely keeping up with what we could with 20 beds available,” he said. “All of a sudden, when we had four nurses scheduled on the floor, all of a sudden four nurses, is that enough to cover 26 beds?”

Like other hospital systems, HCA has seen reduced volumes during the Covid-19 pandemic, with canceled elective procedures and patients nervous to come into the hospital.

The health system’s revenue was up during the first quarter to $12.86 billion, but its profits were down nearly 45% from the same period in 2019, for a total of $581 million.

For employees affected by low patient volumes, HCA said it had been offering them pandemic pay, giving them 70% of their base pay for hours not worked.

To offset its losses, the company cut salaries for 11,000 of its corporate staff, suspended stock buybacks and its dividend, and delayed certain capital projects.

During the company’s first quarter earnings call, CFO Bill Rutherford said the company had received $700 million in CARES Act payments, as well as roughly $4 billion in accelerated Medicare payments and $75 million per month in deferred social security payroll taxes.

In an emailed statement, HCA said the negotiations with unions had solely been about their wage increases and the health system’s pandemic pay program.

“At a time when hundreds of hospitals across the country are laying off and furloughing employees, HCA Healthcare has not laid off or furloughed a single caregiver due to the pandemic and we hope to avoid doing so in the future,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Throughout the pandemic, our goal has been to protect our colleagues’ jobs and to continue the pandemic pay program for all, including those represented by labor unions. But the unions’ rigid position on wage increases means we will likely have to make other adjustments that will affect the colleagues they represent.”

National Nurses United represents 10,000 HCA nurses across six states.

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Johnson & Johnson’s new antidepressant could face structural barriers to uptake

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Sad face depression

A drug approved five months ago for treating major depressive disorder could face roadblocks due to the way it’s administered and current practice patterns by psychiatrists and other clinicians who might prescribe it, according to a new medical journal article.

The article, published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, pointed out several structural barriers inherent in psychiatric practice that could stand in the way of widespread adoption of the drug, Spravato (esketamine), for which Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen division win Food and Drug Administration approval in March for MDD that fails to respond to other treatments. The authors were Yale University psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Wilkinson, with Susan Busch and David Howard, respectively health policy and management researchers at Yale and Emory University.

Although it was hailed at the time of its approval as the first novel antidepressant in decades, the authors wrote that actually incorporating it into clinical practice would take considerable effort.

“For psychiatrists and other clinicians who treat patients with depression, adoption of [Spravato] may require fundamental changes to the organization and reimbursement of their medical practice,” the authors wrote.

Because of its significant side effect profile, Spravato’s label carries a black-box warning, and the drug is given under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS. The boxed warning states that because of the risk of sedative and dissociative side effects, patients must be monitored for two hours following administration, which takes place in a clinical setting. Patients are also advised not to operate machinery or drive until the next day, after a restful sleep.

Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, did not respond to a request for comment.

In the JAMA paper, the authors wrote that the requirements for administering the drug could exacerbate already existing disparities in patient access to treatment. But another factor that could be a hurdle to Spravato’s uptake is the way many psychiatrists practice.

Unlike physicians in many other specialties, psychiatrists have resisted the trend toward moving into large group practices and hospital settings, opting instead for solo practice and small group practices, the authors wrote. Those practices would have to invest in new infrastructure and staffing to provide additional space and monitoring for patients, as well as for storing a drug that is a Schedule III controlled substance and reporting REMS data to the FDA. As such, the drug could be cost-prohibitive for smaller practices and could be limited to large practices and clinics.

On the one hand, the drug’s relative high cost – $7,080-$10,620 for the initial two-month treatment episode, or $590-$885 per treatment visit – could make it an additional source of revenue for practices, which will mostly obtain it under the buy-and-bill model. That will be especially advantageous for hospitals and clinics that qualify for 340B program discounts, the authors wrote. However, psychiatric services are reimbursed at relatively low rates, and if the reimbursement for patient monitoring is too low, it will hinder uptake of Spravato.

Meanwhile, about one-third of psychiatrists do not accept commercial insurance, which presents another barrier, especially if few patients are willing to pay the drug’s high out-of-pocket price. That could force practitioners to have to decide whether to sign contracts with insurers or continue operating outside the third-party payer system.

Photo: phototechno, Getty Images

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