The Time Has Come for a Major National Effort on Mask Innovation

David Beier
6 min readJul 20, 2020

An Open Letter from more than 70 scientists and public health advocates

We the undersigned, scientists and public health advocates, urge public officials and leaders in communities and the private sector — corporate and nonprofit — to step up our efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We all know that masks, hand washing, physical distancing and targeted stay at home directions are sensible public health directives in the fight against this pandemic. We also urge rapid advances on safe and effective therapeutics and vaccines.

We write to say it is time for a national effort to focus on driving major innovations in masks that are comfortable to wear, protect the wearer and those around them — by demonstrating in FDA or NIOSH prescribed testing that they are 95% or more effective in filtering viruses. We need masks that can be mass produced for the 100 million US households and workers at reasonable cost. There is strong scientific evidence that some face coverings are more effective in preventing the outbound dispersal of droplets (e.g. greater than 2 microns) or aerosols (e.g. less than or equal to 2 microns) that could contain the virus or thwart its intake.

Health care professionals and some essential workers on the frontlines of defense obtain significant protection from COVID-19 by wearing N95 and surgical masks. These masks are currently in short supply and are not comfortable to wear for more than a limited amount of time and are unlikely to be suitable for everyday use by consumers.

The technology behind these masks is decades old. With the technology available in the US, the challenge must be to design masks with N95 level protection for the wearer and an equally high level of protection for those around the wearer. These masks should be comfortable (more breathable), protective, and be mass produced at a reasonable cost.

We call on academic and industry leaders to design, develop, and manufacture at scale, better, more effective, comfortable, reusable, and affordable masks. Current technology is available to take the filtration rate to 95% or more to filter the virus. Surveys of consumers indicate the number one reason people refuse to wear masks is the belief that masks are not effective. Examples suggest it is possible to engineer a more comfortable mask with greater protection. Securing greater comfort in mask usage with sufficient filtration is a dramatic…

David Beier

Managing Director, Bay City Capital, San Francisco, CA. Previously Chief Domestic Policy to Vice President Al Gore. Senior corporate officer DNA and Amgen