Masking up has become a major fact of life now — no longer a choice — not even an amusing fashion statement of solidarity (like it was a mere 2 months ago). It has gone from being healthfully conscious if you do, to becoming mortally fatal if you don’t. And yet there are still those that believe masks are meaningless (unless performing surgery) and can cause you more breathing problems than prevention. After all, if you don’t take them off perfectly (an origami procedure of folding the inside to the outside), if you don’t have the right filters or if you don’t dispose of them immediately you can infect yourself. Pick your method of mask madness.
At least we all agree to wash your hands no matter what you do with your face.
I am reminded of lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”:
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
I live in Arizona where we are fighting two major fires and Covid at the same time. For me George Floyd’s now famous plea “I can’t breathe” is now the slogan of 2020. It is already been made into a matching mask and t-shirt set.
Make no mistake — no one likes masks! They stand for disease. They are terrible looking; everyone feels dizzy and nauseated wearing them and frankly no one can breathe right in any of them. It takes practice. Masks will never become a chic accessory no matter how hard Hermes and Chanel or Saint Laurent try. And they are producing them at $80-$125 a pop. They are not a fun gift to give or receive. I understand why so many designers and good-hearted amateur tailors felt the need to make them to fill the empty anxiety-ridden time in lockdown. I have friends who have a giant wardrobe of every kind you can imagine. They are all awful.
So, to find the best masks that really do the job, let’s look at a society who has been masking up for a while — Beijing. In Asia they are not wearing designer PPE. Here’s the breakdown and remember “droplets and particles” rule:
• N95 (and Asia’s version, KN95) — the Lexus/Cadillac of face covering. Hard to find and expensive.
• Cloth Masks — you must use quilters cotton — a high thread count and tight weave. It must be double layered with simple cotton and flannel liner.
• Ultra-Mask — organic cotton and it does have natural antibacterial properties. Better than most, but only 75% effective.
• Paper disposable — last resort but wear two for real protection; and make sure you cover your nose.
• Plastic face shield — need to be worn with masks, but a favorite for the elderly who need oxygen tubes and can’t do masks at all.
Most homemade masks are ineffective, and don’t fall for a lot of the tv ads for copperized t-shirt styles with valves for breathing or sipping martinis.
The whole point of a mask is it should FIT your nose, mouth and chin. Tightly! You must press the nose bridge or wear your glasses on top of it to anchor it securely. Masks should reduce the amount of talking you can do — and that’s the sad point. For cloth masks a filter is a must and a paper towel is “okay.”
Mask construction and etiquette is changing daily. Frankly it is the one and only barrier we have for now. Recent smartphone updates included a “Covid-19 Exposure Logging” feature. There are no available tracking apps yet, but this feature may be able to notify you in the future if you have been potentially exposed to Covid-19 (when enabled).
For now though, we have gone past making masks all about politics, and way past it being a platform to promote your favorite NFL team or cannabis dispensary. It is not a billboard, but rather a condom for your lungs.
Personally, I was semi-masked-up for the last two months but got “scared straight” when our state’s case numbers exploded. And the numbers proved it wasn’t just an increase in testing; it was a surge in the community spread of infections.
It was amusing seeing a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger dumping out of his beloved Gold’s Gym in Santa Monica because no one was wearing a mask in the iron pumping area. The Terminator stated clearly upon his exit: “stop making masks a political issue. You are simply a moron if you don’t wear one.”
As for Governor Cuomo, he’s been a big believer in the mask movement especially now with New York’s phase 2 big re-opening. But why does he sport such a heavy tan (not quite Trump orange … yet) without telltale mask lines on his face? At this time, it is more important than the nipple ring discussion.
Whether you want to go with goggles, shield, and full helmet will eventually be up to you. In the meantime, the secret to making masks a part of your life is to try a few different ones and find the one you are most comfortable (??) with. It’s kind of like finding the right bra or non-wedging underpants. And forget anything saying CDC authorized — none of them really are.
Unfortunately, my state opened too soon. We went from phase one to phase three in two days. It made a lot of us turn radical mask wearers overnight. Also, we never had the chance to “level off” for 14 days before we opened. We just kept skyrocketing day after day. And this isn’t even post-protest scores. We are still paying for one Memorial Day mask-less bar-hopping weekend.
As one frustrated Phoenix doctor described our situation:
Literally, more people are getting sick and dying.
Figuratively, Arizona is “burning” (not just fires).
Pathetically, our Governor Ducey is telling the world “We have plenty of fire engines — don’t worry.”
In the end it is up to us!
In the meantime, let’s all get educated about the right masks. Would you believe Target has a mask “try on” rack? Who wants to touch that contaminated sample wall? Obviously, none of this is about Prada or Gucci styling. It’s simple:
Beeker: You look like The Penguin from Batman, but it fits tight and is the best shape.
Kotex Pad: Too rectangle but disposable and at least it’s something even though the chin is left open.
Thong Underwear: Thin t-shirt material, full face and comfy but not protective at all unless you wear three filters and hold your breath in elevators.
Remember, ear straps are critical so get the adjustable ones and unless you really drive a Harley forget the “gator” style of neck to eyes (deluxe turtleneck). It is simply too much and too hot (all masks are) in any climate.
As we see the caseloads mount in the next month in every locale, we can no longer assume this is coming in phases. It is one continuous big wave, and no one is really exempt from any of this. In fact, I think cultural “entitlement” is one of the reasons Covid-19 arrived with a bang. It is a hard lesson to learn that you are not above wearing a mask.
A design editor friend of mine did come up with a unifying mask solution: “Our government should issue a well-designed, scientifically perfected mask so we are all protected equally. And they should distribute it to everyone. They could call it “The Freedom Mask.” And say it is your patriotic duty to wear it. In that way, none of this hysteria and policies of masking wouldn’t exist!”