Nurse in Texas develops masks with better filtration than N95

Tommye Austin, chief executive nurse at University Health System in San Antonio, Texas, University Health System

Nurse in Texas develops masks with better filtration than N95

The chief executive nurse at University Health System has developed a mask that has better filtration than N95 masks.

Nurse Tommye Austin used AC filter material she purchased at Lowe’s to create 600 masks as reserves as San Antonio, Texas, prepares for a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations that is expected in May, according to reports by KSAT.

“In the event that we get a surge of COVID-19 patients in San Antonio, which is predicted to happen in May, we are making sure we have adequate and sufficient equipment for employees,” Austin told KSAT. “Once we learned that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] had given us the ability to create masks, rather than using a bandanna or a handkerchief, we decided to look at creating our own N95.”

Austin said the masks fit and resemble an N95 mask, but research and testing done by the Southwest Research Institute says the new prototype actually has better filtration than the original masks.

“The mask has a filtration rate of 99.5 percent with one material and has a 97.8 percent filtration efficiency with another material we are using,” Austin said. “So if the N95 masks have a 95 percent filtration efficiency, that means it can eliminate at least 95 percent of the virus or bacteria trying to get through the mask.”

Austin said she hopes to produce and stockpile at least 6,500 more masks that can each be used twice if they are cleaned with correct sanitation equipment and protocols similar to what would be used on N95 masks.

“We have been working with the Southwest Research Institute in making sure that we just not develop something we think is a good product but something that we know is a good product by using science,” Austin said. “It doesn’t have what we call carbon dioxide buildup, which could make you dizzy or (give you) a headache. It is comfortable and you can wear it for long periods of time.”

Austin said her hospital is sharing their design with other facilities in the region in hopes it can be of use to health care workers who are struggling to meet the demands of a growing pandemic.

“Hearing the stories from the nurses in New York and other hot spots, it was just heartbreaking. As a nurse, we are to be advocates for people, so my primary goal was not to make money off this mask or anything. The main purpose of this mask was to keep people safe.”


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