Though it remains voluntary, the White House – acting upon a CDC recommendation – now suggests that Americans should wear “face barriers” in public. The administration is avoiding the use of the word “mask” in its new guidelines as it does not wish to encourage the general public to use actual masks, which are so badly needed by first responders and health care workers. People are encouraged, therefore, to improvise coverings for the nose and mouth. The change has been inspired by new concerns that a larger number of people than previously thought could be asymptomatic; infected but unaware because they have no symptoms.
Call it what you will — a mask, barrier or covering — Americans have a decision to make. To mask or not to mask is a query that has no easy answers as we sit huddled in our homes, waiting for the COVID-19 curve to bend. Just how that vital graph will begin to show progress in the U.S. is unclear. Some say Americans can and should do more, and the viability of mask usage is a hot topic. It’s hot alright, but it may be more of a hot mess than an answer to what ails us. Mask issues may be the reason the White House guidelines call for face barriers. There are some issues that specifically pertain to an actual paper mask worth discussing.
Tackling this issue on three fronts, we have the following:
- Sterile mask production
- The efficacy of wearing a mask
- The proper use of masks
Issue #1: Wiping the Floor?
The mass production of paper masks in places like India and China has revealed some disturbing revelations. Videos making the Twitter rounds show masks being produced on floors in cramped, filthy environments. Sterile, they are not. Digging a little deeper in the Twitter-verse, one discovers a Chinese fellow wiping his shoes with the freshly produced facial covers. This is almost – but not quite – as stomach-turning as pictures taken at the Chinese “wet markets” where this whole Coronavirus thing allegedly began. If you haven’t eaten recently, take a moment to look at these two brief disconcerting videos.
This is how they make Corona face-masks in india…check out the source and the quality before you buy face-mask pic.twitter.com/K0amxm5M50
— محمد عمر (@Mo_Umar5) April 2, 2020
A hospital in Belgium has reportedly rejected 3,000 face masks from #China because the filters don’t work and the masks don't fit correctly. The Dutch have recalled 600,000 Chinese masks for the same reason. #ChinaLiedPeopleDied pic.twitter.com/yn03HgxQdc
— Neil Hamilton AC/AM (@NeilUKIP) March 30, 2020
Obviously, Americans would not do well with masks produced in such a manner. Former Medical Surgical RN Edrie K. Scisciani echoed this by saying, “Truly the behavior depicted in this video is criminal. Americans are being asked to use clean techniques, and then we see this kind of production, and it is nothing less than horrifying.”
It may be tricky – but essential – to determine the provenance of your mask before placing it on your face, and the federal government should be as transparent as possible about making this information available to an unwitting public.
Issue 2: Mask Efficacy
So, you’ve got your hand on a paper mask and determined that it wasn’t produced on a filthy Indian floor – now what? Just how much protection will you get from donning a paper face mask? If you listen to the WHO, you should only wear one if you have COVID-19 or are taking care of someone who does. However, in a time when we are attempting to mitigate the spread of this virulent disease, proper usage may provide some level of protection. Scisciani states, “Since coronavirus travels in droplet form, the masks can provide a barrier between the person and the virus. However, they must be applied properly with clean hands.”
Issue #3: Wear it Right
And that brings us to issue number three. The White House has released revised guidelines regarding the use of masks. Without a doubt, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Again, we turn to our registered nurse: “Number one – clean your hands or put on gloves. Number two – apply the mask by placing it on your face and putting the straps over your ears. Next, you will want to take your fingers and squeeze both sides at the bridge of your nose, so it conforms to your face.” She also advises that you put the bottom part of your mask under your chin. This will give you the best seal – virtually a barrier – that could inhibit Coronavirus-infected droplets from entering your mouth and nose. Once you apply the mask, remember to avoid placing your hands on it, or even a dirty phone. Everything, as outlined in this video, has a touch history.
Naturally, a scarf or bandana will not pose the same issues as paper masks. You will want to cover from the bridge of your nose to below your chin, keep your hands off it and make sure your initial tie is loose enough so you can breathe but tight enough so it doesn’t fall in public.
Since America is not a dictatorship, covering your face and mask-wearing thus far has been left up to the individual. Understanding the efficacy and mitigating factors of each method is crucial to making an educated decision regarding donning a face mask of any kind. Having the liberty to choose what we put on our bodies – and when – is something many Americans value. Thankfully the Trump Administration has not mandated these practices. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.
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