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FDNY to switch from disposable to reusable masks

Firefighters and EMS providers will now use elastomeric respirators on every call instead of disposable N95 masks



Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The FDNY will be ditching its disposable protective coronavirus masks for reusable ones, officials said Tuesday.

New elastomeric respirator masks will be distributed to Emergency Medical Service members and firefighters in the weeks to come, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

“This is a substantial piece of equipment, but it will take us out of the supply chain for N95 masks that the whole world uses,” Nigro told the Daily News. “The N95 mask is a key piece of protection against the coronavirus, but these masks offer the same protection and there is a great benefit of it being reusable since we will be using them on every call.”

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics could sporting the new masks — which looks like something a member of a Hazmat team or an industrial painter would wear — by the end of the week, officials said. FDNY members will still have a supply of N95 masks available to them as a back up.

The Fire Department goes through more than 600 N95 masks a day, agency officials said.

The new masks were introduced to the department during a pilot program in June, where 100 firefighters and EMS members conducted emergency runs while wearing the heavy-duty face coverings.

Those members found the new masks easier to put on and take off than the N95 and, because of the three adjustable straps, fit better around the face.

“We did a pretty extensive pilot and overwhelmingly those that tried them found them to be more comfortable, although they might not look it,” Nigro explained. “Also, our members are pretty used to cleaning equipment, which they do at the end of every tour, so cleaning the masks every shift will be something they’re used to doing.”

The city’s latest average COVID infection rate is about 2.2% in the five boroughs — just above a key threshold the city had set. On Monday, the nation topped 10 million cases.

On any given day, roughly 120 EMS members and about 200 firefighters from the FDNY’s 15,000 member force are out on medical leave after being diagnosed with coronavirus or “presumed” to have contracted the illness although they haven’t shown symptoms. In the last few weeks, none of the FDNY members who have contracted the disease have been hospitalized.

“We’re seeing the same steady numbers each and every week,” Nigro said. “We have members that contract COVID and go out, but then we have people returning to duty.”


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