Op - Ed, Opinion

Rapid tests and N95 masks for every Vermonter

By Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)

As you read this, the number of Covid cases in Vermont are reaching levels far greater than at any point in the crisis. Today, I am writing to you with some news that should be of help as we fight this terrible pandemic.

The scientific community has been very clear that wearing masks helps prevent the spread of the Covid virus. It protects both the individual who wears the mask and those who are nearby.

But, what research has also been very clear about is that not all masks are created equal.

The research tells us that N95 masks are far more effective than cloth masks in preventing the spread of Covid. In fact, a non-medical N95 mask provides 2 hours of additional protection, as compared with a cloth or surgical mask, in preventing the spread of the virus.

As a result of that reality, the Biden Administration today announced that it will make 400 million N95 masks available for free around the country, including at community health centers and pharmacies in Vermont.

This is a good first step, but more must be done. That is why last week I introduced legislation to have the Administration utilize the Defense Production Act to produce the large quantity of N95 masks that we need and distribute them to every household in the country through the Postal Service. If this bill becomes law, every Vermonter would receive a package of three N95 masks for free.

Secondly, we also know that getting tested frequently is key to ending this pandemic.  Starting this week, Vermonters can order free, at-home, rapid Covid tests online from the federal government which will be delivered directly through the U.S. Postal Service. To make your order, just go to Covidtests.gov.

Finally, without question, vaccination – including booster shots – remains the best way to protect yourself and others against Covid.

The good news is that our state is leading the country when it comes to getting shots in arms. But if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please schedule your shot today.

If you are vaccinated but know someone who isn’t, please make a call and encourage them to make an appointment. It’s easy, it can save your life or keep you out of the hospital.

There is no question that Covid has disrupted all our lives. If you are tired and frustrated with it, trust me, you’re not alone. But, as we go through this pandemic, let’s continue to do everything we can to stay safe and healthy and to protect our families, friends and co-workers.

Together, we will get through these very difficult times.

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