SALT LAKE CITY — Respirator masks are required under Salt Lake County’s new mask mandate, but the demand is making it difficult for Utahns to find them.
“They’re really hard to find in the community and some of them — especially online — are pretty expensive,” said Sara Neal, a spokeswoman for Salt Lake County Libraries.
According to the Salt Lake County Health Department, a respirator is “a high quality mask—such as a KN95, KN90, or KF94—that is certified to filter a minimum amount of airborne particles. Surgical N95 respirators should be reserved for healthcare workers.”
Under the mandate, respirators are required to be worn “in public spaces while indoors or queueing outdoors.”
But the surge in COVID-19 cases is also surging the price. On Amazon, KN95 respirators can cost around $2 per mask.
“I’m on a very tight income, so I really can’t afford them,” said John Case.
Utahns report difficulty tracking them down in local stores. At some Walgreens and CVS pharmacies in West Valley City and Taylorsville, shelves where medical-grade masks were supposed to be were empty.
Senior centers and Salt Lake County Libraries are handing out respirators for free. All you have to do is stop by a local branch and ask. There is no sign-up process or any fees.
“We’re giving out two or three at a time. They are reusable and you can wear them, depending on how much you’re getting out and about, they could last you a couple weeks,” Neal said.
Neal said the library locations started handing out masks Saturday. She said the demand really picked up on Monday.
“I think a couple of [branches] have gotten a little bit low, but the health department’s been really good at getting us re-stocked this afternoon and evening,” she said.
Dr. Todd Vento with Intermountain Healthcare said if the mandate is followed correctly, the order could really help right now.
“I would expect that to make a big difference in our respiratory virus epidemiology. Especially as we’re right in the thick of our winter flu season,” he said.
If you can’t find or afford a respirator, the health order does allow you to substitute a cloth mask and still be in compliance.
The county libraries and senior centers do not have child-sized respirators, but the county is distributing them through school districts.