It’s not a shield behind which anyone can safely hide from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And yet, there’s some sense in the advisory from Mayor Kirk Caldwell that the general public welfare would benefit from widespread wearing of masks when venturing into public spaces.
Public policy has been evolving on the use of masks by anyone other than the medical professionals attending to COVID-19 patients.
In fact, the dire shortage of such protective gear and garments for medics and first responders has been one reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had adamantly counseled the general public against their use, except for anyone who is out while having any kind of sickness themselves, or for those caring for someone infected by the virus.
Now the CDC has reversed, recommending a non-medical-grade, cloth mask or face covering to be worn.
Now that the infection rate has surged nationally along with the anxiety levels, an impulse to supply homemade masks and do-it-yourself kits to those who need and want them has fueled several DIY groups and cottage industries here. There are sources all over the internet.
Some crafters are networking through a public Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/Masks4Hawaii), where requests can be submitted. There is the East Honolulu Clothing Company Face Mask Project (that has posted a pattern download and tutorial (www.doublepawswear.com/fabric-face-mask-project-tutorial). Kaiser Permanente has posted an instructional video, too (youtu.be/4aMCFnK5bHk).
The main guidance is that cotton fabric, preferably washed and dried three times to shrink it tightly, is best. Some types have pockets in which extra filtration material can be inserted.
But here are the main facts to take away. The coronavirus is microscopic and can easily fit through the weave of fabric. So a mask is a barrier, but only a partial one. If the wearer sneezes or coughs, it can minimize the spray in the air.
It can help protect others from the wearer who unknowingly expels air containing droplets with the virus, which otherwise could land on a surface and contaminate that.
Just the act of putting one on serves to remind everyone: Don’t touch your face, be conscious of touching anything and wash afterwards.
Collectively, a community that wears masks protects each other. But it’s social distancing and good hygiene, still, that are the best defenses.