Masks

Authorities have been discussing for a while whether or not wearing cloth and other masks would stem the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, but yesterday it became official. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends that everyone wear a mask outside their home.

Up until now, many scientists — longtime director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci among them — have argued against masks, in part because people tend to touch their faces more while wearing them. Additionally, the N95 and surgical masks have to go first and foremost to the healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients. But evidently camp against them has lost the argument.

The CDC recommendation is only that — a recommendation. But I can see some logic to it. First of all, it does appear that there is a fair amount of transmission going on due to the number of people who have the virus and unknowingly are transmitting it to others without have any symptoms themselves. Wearing a mask to a degree will help stem that transmission. Additionally, others have argued that any face covering is better than nothing, even if it’s just a scarf.

So I’ve started complying.

First of all, I do worry it’s possible I could be a carrier. At present and for the past several weeks, I have been suffering, as I do every year about this time, with seasonal allergies. Despite my diligence in taking my allergy medicines, I cough. I sneeze. I sniffle. In the past couple of days my sinuses have become a bit congested. But I’m not running a fever. This I check, morning and night. So it makes sense that I should probably cover my face when I go out to shop for groceries and other necessities.

Additionally, my daughter and I have started wearing a face covering when we’re in the apartment building, but outside our own apartments — especially when we’re in the elevators.

Research evidently has shown that the virus can linger suspended in the air for a period of time, put there when a carrier simply exhales, without a sneeze or cough. Possible but probably unlikely. Nonetheless, we live in a 45-unit apartment building. Wearing a mask might offer us some additional protection.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. Last week I decided I needed to wear a headband when I go to the store, because my bangs are getting long and a headband would make it less necessary to push them back from my face with my hands. And I found I had a headband that I’d bought at Walmart a few years ago made from a stretchy tube of fabric. When I put it on, I realized this might also fit the bill as a face mask. So I went to Walmart and bought quite a few more.

This is me wearing three headbands, one on my head and two around my neck.

I wear this new ensemble in sets of three, one around my head — for the hair — and the remaining two around my neck, like a collar.

When I go inside a store or out into halls and elevators of my building, I pull the neck collar up over my nose.

Here I am with one headband holding my hair out of my face while two more form a double layer to snugly fit over my mouth and nose. It can get a bit warm, but it works.

Another positive aspect to this strategy is that I can hand-wash the whole set, hang them in my bathroom, and they dry easily over night. I actually have three sets.

My daughter also has several headbands of her own to cover her face. Because she has very limited use of one hand and relies almost entirely on the other, these are easy for her to put on and pull up and down without any help. We’ve decided to keep her out of the stores completely for the foreseeable future, but she does have to navigate our apartment building.

Speaking of stores, here’s a morbidly amusing story. I went to Meijer’s near us on Friday morning to pick up some things we needed that day. I made a point of getting there before the store open, believing my best bet was shopping in a store that had been freshly cleaned overnight. Or at least lingering viruses might have become nonviable overnight. A number of people were lined up outside the store, patiently standing at least ten feet apart. About a dozen more of us sat in our cars waiting in comfort. Eventually a man came out to open the doors — presumably the manager. He held the door open with his back as those who had been waiting in line passed within a foot or two of him to get inside.

We who had been waiting in our cars got out and stood around as the others entered. He waved for us to come in, and no one moved. “You can come in now,” he called out to us. Finally, I yelled back, “You have to move. We’re socially distancing out here. Or at least are trying to.” I heard some chuckles.

The poor fellow, embarrassed, retreated, and we all entered and got our carts. I was out of the store within fifteen minutes.

I would say at least 60 to 70 percent of us who entered that store at its opening were wearing some type of face covering — a mask, a scarf, or a makeshift substitute like mine. We looked like a motley congregation of bandits, yet there we all were, getting used to the unimaginable as if it were just another day.

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