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Made to fit: Aspirus initiates program to help protect police

Photo courtesy of Aspirus Houghton Clinic Officer Alan Jurmu, of the city of Houghton Police Department, is fit-tested to an N-95 respirator mask by Clinic Supervisor Tanya Bastian. The properly fitted masks will help to protect law enforcement personnel from the risks of COVID-19 while in the field.

HOUGHTON — In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that is not willing to slow, Aspirus has offered local area law enforcement an added measure of protection with a program that has officers fit-tested for masks to wear in the field.

Aspirus Houghton Clinic Supervisor Tanya Bastian, LPN, said the purpose of fit-testing is to create a seal between the respirator’s face piece and the person’s skin to ensure no contaminants can find their way through the mask.

“What we’re doing for the local law enforcement,” said Bastian, “is we are going to be fit-testing them to N-95 masks, just to ensure that they have the proper fit, and that they are properly protected when they’re out in the community.”

The fit-testing comprises a number of procedures that, taken together, require about 20 minutes.

The procedures include having the officers turn their heads from side to side, along with them to read a passage aloud that requires them to use different facial muscles, as well as running in place for one minute. The procedures are to ensure that the mask is properly fitted and will not leak.

“If you were to get a leak,” said Bastian, “we would know.”

Bastian said that the police are here to protect the public, and if they are needed “to protect us, we need to protect them.”

“I think one of the things that we really want to get across is that we’re here,” she said. “We’re here for everybody during this pandemic, and if we’re going to make it through — which we are — we have to keep everybody healthy and safe.”

The agencies scheduled for fit-testing include the Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office, the police departments of Lake Linden, Laurium, Houghton, and the Michigan State Police Calumet Post.

Bastian said the fit-test program is a small way to show appreciation for law enforcement.

“The local police have done a lot for us,” she explained. “Between doing the active shooter drills and those types of things, I should feel that we should do this.”

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