Ochsner Health donates 20,000 windowed masks to schools across Louisiana

7 Dec 2020

Ochsner Health kicked off the holiday season early this year by donating 20,000 windowed masks to schools and school systems across Louisiana.

An innovative addition to a traditional cloth face covering, Ochsner’s clear windowed masks feature a vinyl window in the middle of a cloth mask, enabling one to see an individual’s lips and facial expressions.

Ochsner’s clear windowed masks

Lacey Ellis, PhD, Program Director, Ochsner Hospital for Children’s Michael R. Boh Center for Child Development said recognizing and connecting with facial expressions – especially lips – is key for development in children as they learn to express themselves.

"The windowed masks enable the wearer to still maintain proper masking in accordance with CDC recommendations, while removing a potential communication barrier,” Ms Ellis said.

"Concepted and designed by the Ochsner iO team in collaboration with a local New Orleans designer in Spring 2020, the windowed masks were first field tested by speech pathologists in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Ochsner Baptist – Louisiana’s only level IV NICU with a level IV Labor and Delivery unit – to help Ochsner’s tiniest patients begin to recognize facial features, a critical developmental milestone." 

Following a successful trial period with the speech pathologists in the NICU, who still use the windowed masks today, the Ochsner team explored other avenues to leverage this new type of mask – both in healthcare and non-healthcare settings like schools.

Ms Elles said that just like healthcare workers seek to foster a connection with their patients, teachers rely on their facial expressions and lips when teaching critical skills such as phonics and foreign language or engaging with children with speech and language development challenges.

"With this donation, we hope to provide support for the impactful work teachers perform each and every day, ultimately contributing to a classroom environment in which every student, faculty and staff member can thrive and learn together.”

The donated windowed masks are being distributed by the schools and school systems to teachers and staff who rely on students seeing their lips to connect to the subject being taught, such as phonics for young children. These specialty areas include pre-kindergarten to second grade teachers, special education teachers and staff, school therapists and foreign language teachers.

Ochsner Hospital for Children's COVID-19 response efforts have included teaming up with the Louisiana Department of Education, local schools and school systems across the state to serve as a resource, providing evidence-based input and guidance on safety protocols and practices to foster a safe school environment. In accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Ochsner advises all individuals ages two and older wear a face masks when in public spaces – including a classroom setting.

The windowed mask donations to school systems and schools are the latest wave of mask donations from Ochsner Health, which launched a “Masks On” campaign over the summer to educate the public about the importance of wearing a face mask in public. To help patients slow the spread of COVID-19, Ochsner mailed 100,000 complimentary cloth masks to both pediatric and adult patients this summer.

For the latest updates from Ochsner Health, visit ochsner.org/safe. For COVID-19 resources for parents, visit ochsner.org/coronavirus/activities-for-kids. To learn more about Ochsner’s windowed masks visit ochsner.org/io/community-windowed-mask or email windowedmask.io@ochsner.org.