NEWS RELEASE                                                                                     March 2020

Webinar on Coronavirus Masks and Filters

McIlvaine will hold a webinar next week to discuss and debate the issues which will shape the market for masks and filter relative to the coronavirus epidemic. Participation will be limited to 45 people, but the session will be recorded, and all registrants will receive the recording.  Selection will be based on a first come first served basis. The session will take place at 10:AM CDT on Thursday March 26.  To register

There is extraordinary confusion about the basic issues which will shape the market. This applies to fundamental questions such as does a medical mask provide protection for the wearer? Will the virus travel through the air and ductwork? How long will the virus remain viable? 

There is no consensus relative to supply needs in the future. China has reportedly ramped up medical mask production fivefold to 100 million per day and N95 masks to 1.2 million per day from just 200,000.  So, it makes sense that they will have excess supply.  Not necessarily. China is very worried about outbreaks in provinces visited by Europeans and other foreigners who the Chinese view as the future risk.

(1) Does a medical mask protect you?

Let’s start with the frequent advice that a medical mask will not help you escape the virus. So, don’t use them and save them for the medical professionals. David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studied the 2002 to 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) extensively, says it’s “common sense” that wearing a mask would protect against infectious diseases like COVID-19.

“If you are standing in front of someone who is sick, the mask will give some protection,” Hui says. “The mask provides a barrier from respiratory droplets, which is predominantly how the virus spreads.”

He also says that the role of a face mask may be especially important in the epidemic due to the nature of the virus. Patients with COVID-19 often have mild or even no symptoms, and some researchers believe it can also be transmitted when patients are asymptomatic—meaning patients can be contagious and don’t know they’re sick.

Hui adds that the lack of solid evidence supporting the effectiveness of masks against the virus is no reason to dismiss its use, because there may never be definitive scientific proof. A properly controlled study would be impossible to conduct ethically, he explains. “You can’t randomize people to not wear a mask, and some to wear a mask, and then expose them all to the virus,” he says.

One Chinese study speculated that as many as 533 million Chinese could be medical mask buyers.  If that becomes the case, then the 100 million mask per day production rate will not be enough.

Bottom Line: If an asymptomatic friend coughs in your face and you are wearing a medical mask it will reduce infection potential. If he is six feet away it probably won’t provide protection from aerosols. So, the market will greatly depend on the perception of risks. If most people worry about an afflicted stranger coughing in their face, then the market could be huge. It is not unlikely that some governments would require that people wear medical masks when in public places.

(2) Will the virus travel through air and ductwork.

In previous updates we quoted the CDC saying the virus would not have spread through the HVAC system on the Diamond Princess while an expert from Purdue was positive that it would have done so. An article referencing ongoing  studies from Princeton and elsewhere concludes that “The  novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can survive in the air for several hours in fine particles known as aerosols”

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes “When the virus becomes suspended in droplets smaller than five micrometers — known as aerosols — it can stay suspended for about 30 minutes, before drifting down and settling on surfaces where it can linger for hours, the researchers said. The finding is inconsistent with the World Health Organization’s position that the virus is not transported by air.”

The participants in this webinar are suppliers of media and filters who are very familiar with aerosols. The suppliers of HEPA filters such as Pall say that they have very high virus capture because the viruses attach to particles.  The readers well know that sub-micron particles can float in the air for long times and distances. The two modes of transport would be as particle attachments or in liquid aerosols.

Bottom Line:  Would people in an apartment building with the same low-quality HVAC filter system employed on the Diamond Princess be at risk for HVAC based infections? If so then suppliers of HEPA filters and room air purifiers are going to be busy.

(3) How long will the virus remain viable?

It can remain viable and infectious in droplets in the air for hours and on surfaces up to days, according to a new study released on March 17. Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health found in tests  that when the virus is carried by the droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, it remains viable, or able to still infect people, in aerosols for at least three hours.

“The coronavirus can live for three days on some surfaces, like plastic and steel — though the amount of viable virus decreases sharply over this time — suggests a new study, published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We know that the half life is a function of whether it is in humid or dry air if airborne or if it is on a surface is it plastic, metal, or fabric.  One also must talk in terms of quantities. A cough may generate thousands of times more virus than random floating aerosols.  Assumedly the risks are proportionate to the quantities.  However, there is a flip side of this argument. One study shows that virus in fine aerosols has deeper lung penetration and is much more of a threat.

Bottom Line: If the virus is a hardy long-distance traveler then the challenge for the filter, mask, and media industry is considerably greater than otherwise.

McIlvaine is providing extensive continuing analysis of these issues and the impact on the market in

Air Filtration and Purification World Markets

Masks and Respirators World Markets

If you have questions or would like to present data during the webinar contact Bob McIlvaine at 847 226 2391 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.