Masks on Mouths for Healthy Lives

Written By: Shrivatsa Kulkarni and Akshat Maheshwari

More than 14.4 million people around the world have been infected with COVID-19, with approximately 600,000 deaths. The United States has been struck the hardest: according to the CDC, there are currently 3.70 million cases and counting. Healthcare professionals, first responders, politicians, and ordinary citizens are desperate to contain the spread of the virus. It has disrupted their entire lifestyle, both socially and financially. As the necessity to social distance from others grew in relevance, daily activities that seemed mundane and common became invaluable and treasured, resulting in major concerns for the general public. According to the Pew Research Center, 9 in 10 adults feel uncomfortable attending a crowded party, 3 in 4 adults would not want to eat at a restaurant, and in the midst of an election year, 2 in 3 are not comfortable going to a polling center. 

Like many other states in the country, the number of positive COVID cases in Georgia are still dramatically increasing, with Atlanta being the epicenter of the pandemic. Currently, Georgia has the second-highest increase on the east coast, right behind Florida. Furthermore, there was a cluster of cases in many facilities for senior citizens and rehab patients. In the Atlanta region, a few of the facilities that were struck hard were PruittHealth Marietta, PruitHealth Austell, Ross Memorial Health Care Center, and Roselane Health and Rehabilitation Center. Discovering the crisis through the Marietta Daily Journal and her personal background in medicine, Suprabha Satya, an active member of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, decided to alleviate the situation by initiating an effort to help one facility. 

Suprabha Satya explains her decision to first help Roselane Health and Rehabilitation Center: “Back in 2012, I had previously worked at this particular facility [Roselane Health and Rehabilitation Center], so I knew the managers, employees, and the structure of the facility very well; it was an easy and convenient location for me to donate to.”

In May, the Roselane Health and Rehabilitation Center, located in Marietta, a northwest suburb of Atlanta, had 81 of 87 residents test positive for the virus, with 7 of the residents and 23 employees of the facility succumbing to it. Although the circumstances were dire, not all hope was lost. 

On Saturday, May 16th, she contacted Sewa International and shared the Marietta Daily Journal with them to request if they would be able to support her in this benevolent endeavor by donating the necessary equipment. She states, “I explained to the SEWA coordinators how I used to work there [Roselane Health and Rehabilitation Center] and how they were in dire need of PPE (personal protective equipment).” 

 After receiving the confirmation of support from Sewa International, Sewa coordinators immediately emailed the manager at Roselane to figure out their needs and establish safety regulations and policies. However, the manager was skeptical of receiving Sewa’s help, as she did not know the background of the organization and did not reply to the email. Suprabha Ji, discovering what had happened, contacted the rehab manager and affirmed Sewa International’s reputation and previous accomplishments, thereby easing the rehab manager’s worries. A few days later, the manager responded by relaying that the local church had donated cotton masks. Although these masks did not meet PPE standards, they were willing to accept any type of mask. However, the facility was greatly in need of proper PPE equipment for the residents and staff.

Using logistics and the information provided by the manager, Sewa International estimated that the facility requires 400 surgical masks, 30 K-95 masks, and 25 N-95 masks in total. On May 21st, Sewa coordinators dropped off the masks to an HSS volunteer living in Marietta. The next day, Suprabha Ji, along with other HSS volunteers, went to the facility early in the morning to distribute the masks. 

“It was extremely important that we arrived early to minimize the interaction between volunteers and staff members, to further ensure that COVID-19 was not being spread in the process. We put all of the donations in a wheelchair outside of the facility, which was then sent to the employees inside. The entire procedure was contactless.” 

A few weeks later, Suprabha Ji followed up with the manager of the rehabilitation center to see the progress of the patients that had tested positive. In an email, she replied that even though they had not recovered fully, most of them were asymptomatic. Additionally, the spread of COVID slowed down; there were no new cases. 

Her selfless actions did not end at the Roselane Health and Rehabilitation Center. She proceeded to donate masks to numerous other hospitals and rehab centers in the Atlanta region with the assistance of Sewa International. They served/assisted Wellstar Hospital, Dunwoody Health, and Rehabilitation Center, Sandy Springs Health and Rehabilitation Center, and Piedmont Hospital. 

“In my son’s karate class, one of the parents worked in the emergency department of Piedmont Hospital. She explained that their department desperately required N-95 and surgical masks. Naturally again, I contacted Sewa International and helped donate 20 N-95 masks to the emergency department in the hospital.” 

Additionally, Piedmont Hospital required special, custom made masks that were much bigger than the standard masks. With the help from 40 sevikas in the Hindu community, they handmade 3-layer cotton masks and began donating to Piedmont Hospital; then they gradually donated to other hospitals in the area. 

Having helped many people, Suprabha Ji explains why community service is so important to her: “Being a speech therapist or, in fact, any healthcare professional, there is simply no concept of working from home. We have to go to work and help our patients. There are pregnant nurses who are willing to go work in this pandemic, taking the necessary precautions. The least we can do is donate our time and effort to help others.” Altruistic people such as these are truly able to sacrifice so much for the greater good. As fellow members of society, we must not sit idly by. The kind acts of such heroes shall always serve as a reminder to others that anyone can make a great impact on this world if they desire to do so.

Many may have heard of K-95, N-95, and surgical masks, but might not know what the purpose/characteristics of each mask are. The standard for respirators in the US has led to the creation of N-95 masks, while the standard for respirators in China has led to the existence of K-95 masks. The most prevalent feature of the masks is the percentage of particles they can capture. Considering the fact that both are at or above 95% for this statistic, there aren’t any prominent drawbacks of using either type of mask. The primary difference lies in the fact that there is a slightly larger amount of resistance during inhalation and exhalation of K-95 masks in relation to N-95 masks. The N-95 and K-95 masks are usually reserved for those working in the healthcare field, seeing how they are almost in contact with their patients. It is recommended that the general public make use of cloth masks and social distance. In times when we are faced with a deadly virus aiming for our respiratory systems, these advanced masks are powerful enough to act as shields. Down below is a table juxtaposing the traits of each type of mask.

*source for chart: 3M

Perhaps after learning / reinforcing ideas regarding the importance of masks/respirators in a world plagued by an airborne disease [COVID-19], the general public can grasp just how invaluable an act such as donating highly efficient respirators can be. With that being said, this fight against COVID can not be won by any one individual/ organization. We must learn from Suprabha ji’s initiative of distributing respirators and understand that wearing masks and social distancing can reduce the strain on medical/emergency personnel who risk their lives to keep everyone safe. 

Works Cited

CDC. (2020, July 25). Cases in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html

Most Americans Say Coronavirus Outbreak Has Impacted Their Lives. (2020, March 30). Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project; Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/03/30/most-americans-say-coronavirus-outbreak-has-impacted-their-lives/

Shannon Ballew [email protected] (2020, May 16). Marietta nursing home reports a large majority of residents have tested positive for COVID-19. MDJOnline.Com. https://www.mdjonline.com/news/marietta-nursing-home-reports-large-majority-of-residents-have-tested-positive-for-covid-19/article_764ae718-978e-11ea-9aab-4b37161c8c54.html 

Talhelm, T. (2020, April 20). What’s The Difference Between N95 and KN95 Masks? – Smart Air. Smart Air. https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/whats-the-difference-between-n95-and-kn95-masks/ 

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