Illinois Gov. J.B. “Jelly Belly” Pritzker last week came up with a face mask mandate. Come May 1, people must cover their faces in public places where they probably will wind up close to others.
I’ll be using mine on trips to the bathroom. That’s a different story.
According to Pritzker’s edict, you need to don a face mask in spots where folks can’t maintain a social distance of six feet or more. The rule applies to all those over the age of 2 “who are able to medically tolerate a face-covering or a mask.”
It’s another measure Pritzker and those he consults feel will help curb the spread of COVID-19. If the courts allow.
Been to a grocery or big box store or even on a walk during this crisis? You know a good number of people still don’t quite grasp what it means to be six feet away from others. That turns shopping into a real-life video game. Dodge the carts! Look out for the zombie staring at the frozen kale dish! Run from the kid touching every cereal box with her grubby little hands!
Face coverings also are about preventing wearers from spreading the virus and preventing wearers from touching their faces. So, the decree earns those points for being put in place.
Still, along with concerns about how these rules will be enforced, there are other matters to consider.
DISPOSABLE FACE MASKS – NOT RECYCLABLE AND AN ENVIRONMENTAL RISK
At the top of the list have been reports that slobs the world over are dumping used gloves and face masks wherever they feel like. Store parking lot pavement. Streets. Shopping carts. On my windshield. OK. I made up the last one. But some jerks are otherwise littering with these potentially hazardous items.
Many people are choosing to use disposable face masks. If you do, remember, THEY ARE NOT RECYCLABLE! And their misuse is bad for the environment. (But hey. Too many folks don’t know what to do with disposable diapers, either. My guess is these two subsets intersect in a Venn Diagram of stupid.)
Used disposable masks should be put in with your regular garbage, in a sealed bag. This link offers suggestions for how to properly dispose of face masks, gloves, wipes, paper towels and other household items being used in the battle against COVID-19.
Disposable masks are made out of a mix of materials, which disallows them from being recycled.
If someone does put face masks in the recycling bin, it most likely will nullify the other items in the bin from being recycled. It also potentially exposes workers who sift through recycling to remove undesirable items to COVID-19 or other viruses or germs. What a thankless job that must be, anyway!
There are reports of how disposable face masks can be reused. Incidentally, the prior link also contains an overview of the various types of face coverings available. It’s like a Denny’s menu with pictures.
Disposable face masks are not that easy to find in the real world or online right now. Drugstore chains Walgreens and CVS usually carry the masks, but now are quite frequently out of stock. The same holds true for big box retailers Walmart and Target.
A preliminary check of Amazon revealed the online retailer to be in short supply of disposable face masks. Hardware stores that carry masks designed to use when sanding, painting or on other home projects are often out of those items, too.
That’s not to mention big shortages, fraud and price gouging for medical grade PPE (personal protection equipment) healthcare professionals desperately need as they treat COVID-19 patients. Most of this necessary equipment is for single use. The scarcity led Yale researchers and the Allegheny Health Network, among others, to come up with ways to sterilize, reuse and recycle some items, including N95 respirator-type masks.
KN95 is the Chinese version of the N95 masks. China produces a lot of this stuff. Don’t get all batty about this, though.
THE CLOTH FACE MASK ALTERNATIVE
Anyway, with the CDC now recommends people don cloth masks, bandanas or scarves over their faces in tight public spaces. The CDC also provides instructions for making your own face masks. Some are hand-sewn. Others made from t-shirts or bandanas without sewing.
According to a Newsweek report, some researchers claim that a combination of cotton and natural silk or chiffon is the best choice of fabric for such face masks. Do they carry chiffon and silk at Joann Fabrics?
NPR reported that scientists at Northeastern University in Boston “found that adding an outer layer made from nylon stockings to a homemade face covering can boost its ability to filter out small particles in the air by creating a tighter seal between the mask and the wearer’s face.”
The nylon might prevent respiratory droplets from others’ coughing or sneezing from getting inside a mask-wearer’s body. That’s on top of a mask helping to prevent a wearer from spreading the disease to others.
Do they make nylons is my size? Do I know anyone who wears nylons? Would items from Lover’s Lane work?
For those who are crafty, along with the aforementioned CDC instructions, other sites, including the AARP’s have directions for making masks, too. Or you can be like Best Fest Buddy Tom, who improvised. He sewed together masks for his grandchildren.
Tom lives a Little House on the Prairie lifestyle. But with a pit bull. And wine. Irish whiskey. A riding lawnmower. A hot tub. An SUV. And Netflix.
Me, I tried to make a face mask with a pillow case and duct tape. But I assure you I don’t like a kidnapping lifestyle. Besides, you should have seen me at the local Jewel-Osco.
They, like other stores, strongly suggest customers wear face garb when shopping. They make staff do it. Jewel-Osco doesn’t have bouncers, so good luck with enforcing that per grumpy suburbanites.
I, being filled with Catholic guilt, put three $1.99 bandanas in my cart to follow the rules. I tied one on, so to speak, then shopped. Jewel-Osco marked the aisles so that every other one was a different one way only. That made looking for Sun Chips and lemon juice concentrate as irritating as trying to find parking in Wrigleyville.
At checkout, the face mask-wearing Jewel- Osco checkout clerk told me my bald, bulky Billy the Kid look scared her. Who knows how bad how reaction would have been if she saw my mug?
Back to the false facials. You can find all sorts of masks for sale online, provided sellers aren’t sold out. You might also check social media. Ask around if anyone knows anyone locally who is making face masks – but not leather ones. So be wary of anyone who sells handcuffs and chains along with their masks. Or lotion, Or wells.
Past that, you have to figure out how to wear your face mask for maximum effect. For health, not robbing banks. If you wear glasses with your mask, you need to learn how to keep the glasses from getting fogged.
After a day’s use, please wash your mask in hot water. Dry it in a dryer. Thus, it’s a good idea to have a few cloth face masks and/or other face coverings handy.
Just don’t start a quarantine pile on your bedroom floor. Also, for the love of God, you don’t need to wear your face mask while driving.
On top of all that, don’t forget to wash your hands a lot, now and after the pandemic subsides. That’s just basic hygiene.
For now, keep a social distance when outside your shelter-in-place. Always, cough and sneeze in your shirtsleeve. Stay as healthy as you can, given these trying circumstances. Eat your vegetables, dammit! Do your homework!
Try to be nice to each other during these strange days. Even while wearing masks.
Besides, think of your mask or face covering an exciting new look. For me, I get to be Mort from Bazooka Joe. A festive bank robber. The Phantom of the Opera. Batman nemesis Bane. A turtle without much of a shell.
Which reminds. I’m still miffed Tom gave away his Darth Vader mask to Goodwill a couple years ago!
Let’s be safe out there.