Note that the video is from 2020, when there was a shortage of N95s and other masks. There are several producers of everyday-use NIOSH-approved N95s in the US that sell directly online and can deliver within days, such as Aidway, which I use, and have found reasonably comfortable. The CDC has a long list of distributors.

This is an open thread.

31 Replies to “Weekend open thread: The physics of N95 masks”

  1. Has anyone heard if/when Trailhead Direct might be back this year? Given how successful last year was, I hope Metro can find the staff to operate the same routes even if they can’t expand.

  2. A comfortable N95 mask that’s widely available is the 3M Aura 9205 mask. It’s available at most Home Depots, so easy to get without having to wait for delivery.

    1. I can second this recommendion- it’s a very comfortable mask.

      I got mine online from Target, though they also often show availability in some of their brick and mortar stores. The Bartells on the Ave had also been giving them away several weeks ago as part of the federal government’s N95 mask distribution program, but I don’t know if they still have any available.

    2. N95s also block wildfire smoke. They are good to have, even if you don’t care about COVID.

    3. My roommate gave me two N85 masks and they’ve been sitting in my drawer waiting for a sufficent reason to use them. I’m rarely in thick crowds, spend only a few minutes at a time in a checkout line or on a bus, and many of the buses I ride aren’t that full because I travel off-peak and in less-common directions. I have specialty-manufactured cloth masks and surgical masks, and I double-masked during delta and omicron. But N95s — you can’t carry them in your pocket without them being crushed, and you can’t wash them. Maybe I will wear them when wildfire smoke comes, or when I’m in the office all day, or when I go to a concert. But they’re not as practical when you only need one for a few minutes at a time here and there.

      1. The hard N95s are the ones designed more for construction work. The N95s I got are just fabric, and fold just fine. The NIOSH N95 rating is what they do, not what they are made of.

      2. I carry kn95’s in my pocket and reuse them for about a week or two before discarding them. They seem to work just fine. At least (to my knowledge) I haven’t gotten COVID yet.

    1. This is close enough to downtown and the East Main Link station that I don’t believe a car is necessary. But I wish it wouldn’t be right next to the highway. That is some terrible air quality right there. Seems like we’re trying to shove poor people into the least desirable locations, again.

      1. It’s not really all that close to anything. The walkshed is essentially zero, except for a deserted park and ride with no bus service and a bus stop served only the 240. East Main St. Station would be about a mile away, downtown Bellevue about 1.5 miles away. The walk to either is ugly, alongside either the freeway or a big stroad with adjacent train tracks.

        The good news is that the area does actually have some bike routes, including a couple of trails nearby. You can take 114th to downtown Bellevue, a trail to 116th to Trader Joes, Lake Hills Connector to Eastgate (bike lanes one direction, a sidewalk that nobody ever walks on the other direction). You can also take 118th south to the I-90 trail, or further south to the I-405 trail to Renton.

        So, I think a person could get by at this location without a car. But if you don’t have a car, you absolutely need a bike, and be prepared to use the bike for a lot of trips.

        Bottom line: it’s not a great location, but has no residents or businesses nearby to object (which is probably why that site was chosen), and at the end of the day, beggers cannot be choosers. Even if the location is not ideal, simply being offered any kind of a home at several hundred dollars per month below market rent is already a very sweet deal.

      2. The photo shows what it’s like: a no man’s land around a 405 interchange and entrance lanes. Going west you walk around all that and pass two office parks and get to 112th and what my dad might call “beautiful downtown Surrey Downs”. East Main Station is still eight blocks north. If you instead go north the shortest way to the station, most if it is along 118th next to the freeway. It goes around the Red Lion lot, which will be redeveloped. If you go east, you’ll cross 405 and run into the Lake Hills Connector, which is a greenbelt so there’s nothing there.

        If you go south, you’ll pass 1970s tower-in-the-park isolated office buildings, and then the one amenity in the area: an entrance to the Bellefields wooded trail to South Bellevue station, with a creek and little waterfall and the blueberry farm.

        The only time I’ve walked in that area was to go to the trail, and the 1970s isolated office parks were so depressing I wanted to cry. The only other times I’ve been through it were on my bike in high school, since 118th heads to Coal Creek Parkway and Newport Way.

        It’s a bad place to live but it could be made better with walkable development. And we need as much affordable housing as we can. Being on the outer fringe of a Link station is better than being a mile or two from anything other than houses.

    2. where residents wish they had a car
      You mean the eastside? Google puts it at 0.2 miles to SE 8th where there’s a stop listing the 240/246 & 346. If there’s demand frequency can be increased (ditto for the P&R). But we’re talking about 50-100% of Belleuve median income. That’s 60-120k which means every household will have at least one car. There’s also Metro Van Pools.

      1. “That’s 60-120k which means every household will have at least one car.”

        But that’s what we’re trying to change. People have cars partly because transit service is so minimal.

        I didn’t catch that the minimum income is $60K, so it’s workforce housing rather than low-income housing. They’re more likely to have a car, but again, we shouldn’t be building neighborhoods in 2022 that depend on SOVs.

        The 240 can be increased. Will the Eastside restructure keep it there? There was talk at one point about moving it back to I-90 and the Bellevue Way exit. Metro earlier identified the 240 as a candidate for RapidRide, although it may not be in that area by then.

      2. This is from the linked article:

        “The two Bellevue projects announced today include:

        “991 West, with 135 units of one- and two-bedroom workforce apartments for residents earning 80 percent to 100 percent of AMI. The construction is slated to start this summer and conclude in late-2023; and

        “991 East, a half-constructed 150-unit hotel that would require new zoning to convert to multifamily use. This process would reconfigure the design to 100 one-, two-, and three-bedroom affordable apartments for lease to residents earning below 60 percent of AMI. This building could be completed in late-2024.”

        So only one building is permitted/zoned and it is reserved for those earning 80% to 100% of AMI, which for Bellevue is $127,000/year.

        I am not familiar with “100% AMI” affordable housing, and it sounds like an oxymoron, but I have posted before about 80% AMI “affordable housing” that is mostly a ruse for “affordable housing” set asides and the MFTE in new construction because 80% AMI tenants look a lot like the non-subsidized tenants, whereas 30% and 50% AMI tenants do not.

        And before anyone gets too enthusiastic about Microsoft its participation is a loan, no doubt secured by the value of the property. The only advantage of the loan from Microsoft is its speed.

        This area of Bellevue is essentially third-class properties, between 112th and 405. Of course, 100% AMI tenants in the one zoned building will have cars, just like the hotels and furniture store it will replace had huge surface parking lots. This location is nowhere when it comes to transit, unless you can catch the 554 to Bellevue Way. Under Bellevue’s zoning this building will have onsite parking. Whether the other building is rezoned — and my guess is the rezone is in exchange for something for the other building and site considering it is 4.5 acres — who knows.

        The problem with this area of Bellevue is why would someone live there? To work in downtown Seattle? Why not live in multi-family housing in downtown Seattle? It doesn’t have the benefits of real urban living along Bellevue Way, and it doesn’t have the benefits of suburbia, which usually means schools, SFH, kids, yard, dog, etc. Is someone in these buildings really going to walk to a light rail station to go to The Spring Dist. (why not just live in The Spring Dist.?), or to Mercer Island, to Microsoft, or Redmond?

        What this article should highlight is to be skeptical whenever you read a developer or corporation publish an article about affordable housing, especially on the eastside. Other than global warming I don’t think any issue has been coopted like affordable housing, and from what I read this won’t be affordable housing, and it won’t add ridership to transit, and neither profit a developer.

      3. “I am not familiar with “100% AMI” affordable housing, and it sounds like an oxymoron”

        It makes sense when you consider that housing prices have risen faster than income for twenty years, so the median income buys less housing than it used to, so higher-income people need subsidies.

        “why would someone live there?”

        Where else can they find a vacancy at that price? Would it be even further from jobs and daily errands?

        Median income is also skewed because affluent municipalities effectively exclude lower-income people. Bellevue’s median income increased because it displaced lower-income people to Renton and Issaquah. The right question is, what’s the median income of the entire metropolitan area? Or King County if you prefer. That’s what subsidizes should be set to, and Bellevue should have a proportional amount of housing at that level based on the city’s size.

      4. Median home price in Bellevue is $1.37M. Pretend you make an offer with 5% down. Your payment with PMI is $6,350 (@ 3% interest). Pretend you only pay 6% in property tax, that’s another $6,850/mo. 1/3 of a $120,000 household income is $40,000 so you can afford a payment of $3,350. You’re short 4X the amount needed to buy a median home. Realistically with a household income of $120k you can only afford a $300,000 home. If you’re really lucky you might get a 700sqft 1 bedroom condo for under $400,000. What this “affordable” housing might do is let someone save enough to have a decent down payment. But interest rate increases will make it harder to buy than the inflated values.

      5. “I am not familiar with “100% AMI” affordable housing, and it sounds like an oxymoron” It makes sense when you consider that housing prices have risen faster than income for twenty years, so the median income buys less housing than it used to, so higher-income people need subsidies. “why would someone live there?” Where else can they find a vacancy at that price?”

        Well, if AMI for all of Bellevue (West Bellevue being much higher than East Bellevue) is $127,000/year, and the goal is to cap housing at 30% of income, that leaves $38,100/year for housing, or $3175/month. For one. Is there a huge lack of one-bedroom units for single persons at $3175 on the eastside? Not on Mercer Island.

        Incomes have risen too in this region, which is a big reason housing prices have risen. I think I read where Amazon’s average salary is going to $300,000.

        Bernie’s analogy on housing prices misses a few factors. First it is very rare that someone’s first house is a SFH on the eastside (without some kind of generational wealth), second the vast majority or purchasers are not single but are two income couples (otherwise why buy a SFH on the eastside), and third their down payment includes the sale of their starter house or condo, which has also risen in value. That is how we bought our first SFH on the eastside.

        If you want more affordable housing the best way to get it is to find a partner, spouse, or roommate. Living alone is always expensive, and not really very healthy for someone. Yes, many of the condo’s on MI are called “the bad daddy’s hotel”, but they are usually temporary housing.

        For around $3200/month under the prior interest rates you could afford a $675,000 mortgage (the same rent as the 100% AMI building). That is the AMI in Bellevue for one. Property taxes are a burden, but closer to $12,000/year for a $1.3 million house, and property taxes and mortgage interest are deductible.

        So if you apply a $300,000 down payment from the sale of your current condo/starter house, and have two incomes that are close to Bellevue’s AMI, you can purchase a house on the eastside for $1.3 million, and that is exactly what folks have been doing the last two years and why there has been a bidding frenzy, which will likely cool with rising interest rates.

        A 100% AMI building is not remotely “affordable”. My complaint was the coopting of the term “affordable”. Affordable is about the 30% and 50% AMI folks who work, play by the rules, don’t live on the street, often have kids, but need a place to live which at their income is closer to $952.50/month or $1587/month respectively. Let’s see how building number two that is unzoned and unpermitted but is “reserved” for 30% and 50% AMI tenants works out.

      6. If you want more affordable housing the best way to get it is to find a partner
        The $120k figure was household income. For individuals it’s only $60k. We’re talking first time home buyers because if there are no “starter homes” the schism between the haves and the have nots grows ever bigger. Buying a home is the key factor in creating generational wealth.
        So if you apply a $300,000 down payment
        If wishes were horses all beggars would ride. A young person or couple looking to buy a first home is more likely to have $100,000 in student loans than 50% down on a $600,000 property (half the median). But in the current market most sales in that price range are all cash with no contingencies. Who cares about inspections when the plan is to bulldoze and build a +$1.3M home.
        property taxes and mortgage interest are deductible
        And rent is not. Average rent in Bellevue is now $2,500. So people who have the equity and can afford to buy a $600k condo (there are no SF homes at this price in Bellevue, check Redfin) end up paying about the same out of pocket as the average renter. So the wealth gap just keeps getting bigger.

      7. Bernie, young first-time homebuyers, especially single income households, are not looking at a $1.3 million “starter home”. That was the case when my wife and I started looking at a house in 1990. Incomes were lower, and so were housing prices, especially SFH’s.

        “Buying a home is the key factor in creating generational wealth.” Yes and no. Housing prices declined precipitously from 2009 through 2013 and many homeowners lost everything. The value of the house we purchased in 2009 dropped $300,000, and we sold our old house at a steep discount in 2012. Had I invested my housing funds into Amazon when it went public in 1997 I would have done much better than wealth from housing.

        Median rent in Tacoma is $1295/month. In Eastgate it is $895/month. $1855 in Sammamish where my niece just moved to with her boyfriend that is still cheaper than her studio in Belltown.

        There are tax incentives and mortgage agencies to incentivize home ownership because it is considered an American dream, and owner occupied neighborhoods are generally considered better to live in. Plus they do tend to create wealth over long periods of time, unless the owners raid the equity.

        That doesn’t mean you get out of college and demand a $1.3 million SFH on the eastside, or a condo or apartment in downtown Bellevue. Houses are a VERY long term investment, and like most investments you work up the ladder, and a lot of areas in the U.S. have not seen great appreciation. John Bogle is correct: the best investment you can make is any kind of 401k match and placing the money in an index fund, which ironically is how many first time home buyers come up with their down payment. The great wealth divide you are discussing is really between young and old.

        Considering 1 in 5/7 SFH’s in the U.S. were purchased by large investors last year I suggest we begin to look there.

      8. We bought our first home just a few years earlier (mid 80’s). We were looking in North Seattle, particularly Lake City. The bottom end was ~60k which we didn’t qualify for. We found an 910 sqft rambler in need of cosmetic work out in Woodinville for $48k. Keep in mind, interest rates in the mid teens put downward pressure on home values. Adjusted for inflation those numbers would be $127k and $160k or about 3X. Average wages have increased by roughly the same amount. But there’s no $160k homes in North Seattle. Those same homes, now 30+ years older, are listed at a minimum of $450k. It’s just gone bonkers and that’s largely because interest rates have been held so low for so long. The low payments are great but the steep down payment now required to get an offer accepted isn’t. As I said above, if people could get into a home their out of pocket expense would be about the same per month as renting and they’d build equity. But they can’t. So while the low interest rates have been free money for the wealthy people looking for a first home have been squeezed out.

        The high tech high salaries are part of the equation but the essentially zero effective interest rate lets them bid up the price way higher. Investors are a part of it but again the low interest lets them buy/build for free on about the only investment besides stocks that’s had a real rate of return (because of the low rates).

      9. “The $120k figure was household income. For individuals it’s only $60k.”

        I thought it was individual too, so that’s something to watch for. $60K is around where I’d put the threshold for Seattle (although I’d go up to $70K to be safe), so that makes it a more reasonable target in Bellevue. To be clear, I think everyone who makes less than this should have access to subsidized housing at a third of their income. Currently only a tiny fraction of this is available, and waiting lists are years long. What are people supposed to do while they’re waiting years for housing? Live in tents?

        “if people could get into a home their out of pocket expense would be about the same per month as renting and they’d build equity”

        They’d also have long-term debt. They’d have to guarantee the won’t get laid off or fired for thirty years and can always get another job at the same salary or the house will be foreclosed. Some of those things are outside people’s control, such as a recession or a bad employer or a major medical occurrence, and thirty years is a long time. And they’re paying tens of thousands of dollars in interest and fees to a bank for financing.

      10. aying tens of thousands of dollars in interest and fees to a bank for financing.
        Verses tens of thousands to a landlord which after 30 years you have nothing. With a fixed rate mortgage you have exactly that, a fixed monthly expense (except for rising property taxes). Do you think rents will be the same or maybe higher 30 years from now? You have to live somewhere so why not rent the money and own the home. If for some reason you can’t make the payments you sell the home, likely at a profit and then have a nest egg to live on vs renting where you’re thrown out on the street with nothing.

    3. The nearest neighborhood to South Park to the west is Arrowhead Gardens (senior housing midrises). You know why they could get away with upzoning to several stories, several blocks from SFHuburgatory West Seattle? Zero NIMBYshed.

      Sadly, it is transit-ruining development, requiring route 60 to loop off the street. But they made it worse than they had to. The bus stop could be moved over to the actual housing, instead of being a 50-yard walk into the middle of the parking sewer. There really is no reason not to have the bus stop next to the housing. But I digress.

      Heading west, there is a lot of 2- and 3-story townhouse new development. You know why that modest upzone was possible? It is just outside the city limits.

  3. Are there places in or around Seattle that you can recycle one time use N95 masks? Or maybe find someone that uses the garbage material for something else safely. If it is possible, I would love the link.


    As I noted in an earlier post, I think the public firing of Zimbabwe was to set up the replacement of Diaz. Harrell — and his supporters — couldn’t care less about transit. Although the mayor suggests Diaz apply for the job the chances he will get it are very slim, otherwise Harrell would not be going through this process.

    My guess is Harrell wants to signal to the downtown business community and his voters (and the progressives on the council) he is looking for a firebreather when it comes to crime, and wants someone who will be the bad cop while Harrell is the good cop. With Harrell’s commanding victory over Gonzales, the weakness in downtown Seattle and the loss of tax revenue, and a council on its heels, this is the chance for Harrell to bring in someone actually serious about crime, and is without a doubt the most important decision he will make over the next four years and will likely determine whether once again Seattle has a one term mayor.

    This is also a critical decision for transit as well, and WSBLE (depending on revenue). Unless downtown Seattle sees more vibrancy, workers, shoppers, tourists, visitors, eyes on the street, and revenue, and transit starts to see more ridership in this area, less transit and not more transit are the next logical steps. Crime trumps frequency when it comes to ridership. Urbanism and transit begin with vibrant retail and a commercial district, and those begin with safe and clean streets, especially with a juggernaut like Bellevue across the lake doing everything correctly.

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