The driver of a single-car crash in Lincoln Park, New Jersey, is "believed" to have passed out behind the wheel after wearing an N-95 mask for too long, police said.
Lincoln Park Police Department responded to an accident on Thursday where a vehicle careened, front bumper first, into a wooden pole. After the officers cleared the scene where the driver was the only occupant of the car, they posted photographs of the crash on their Facebook page with a caption that created an "overwhelming response."
"The crash is believed to have resulted from the driver wearing an N95 mask for several hours and subsequently passing out behind the wheel due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake," the post read in part.
After the police published the post, several commenters questioned the legitimacy of the images and the information provided from the accident report.
"Considering the overwhelming response this post has received, the following should be said," the updated caption began. "As it relates to this specific incident, we reiterate that police officers are not physicians and do not know the medical history of every person we encounter... It was stated in the original post that we 'believed' the excessive wearing of an N95 mask was a contributing factor to this accident. While we don't know this with 100% certainty, we do know that the driver had been wearing an N95 mask inside the vehicle for several hours and ultimately passed out while operating the vehicle."
The police continued the post by confirming that the driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and enforced that New Jersey residents should continue to following Governor Phil Murphy's directive to wearing face coverings.
As a measure of precaution to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, health experts have recommended wearing a "cloth face covering" while in a public setting like the grocery store where maintaining social distancing of 6 feet may be difficult.
"All this being said, It is certainly possible that some other medical reason could've contributed to the driver passing out. We are not trying to cause public alarm or suggest wearing an N95 mask is unsafe. The original point of the post was to state that in most cases, the wearing of this type of mask while operating a vehicle with no other occupants is unnecessary," the police wrote.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend wearing face coverings while driving, especially, if you're alone in the car. The CDC also does not recommend wearing surgical masks or N-95 respirators as "those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders."
The Lincoln Park Police Department reiterated those CDC guidelines in their original posts as well, along with the hashtags "#besafe #PSA #motorvehiclecrash #covid19 #lppd."
The CDC also does not specify a time frame for wearing a face mask or N-95 respirators, but does give recommendations for first responders wearing N-95 respirators around multiple infected patients.