To wear or Not to wear a mask

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Be cool. Wear a mask.

Today my husband read a Washington Post editorial that encouraged all to start wearing masks.

Half of those testing positive for COVID-19 are non-symptomatic (Iceland study). And it’s hayfever season north of the equator, so folks will be coughing and sneezing into hands or onto others, thinking it isn’t serious (since they know they aren’t “sick”).

The Washington Post article shares a Hong Kong website for creating a disposable mask from paper toweling and a page protector. It’s worth noting that Hong Kong has one of the lowest rates of infection in the world.

Those of us with camp bandanas can make like a bandit. Or make something with used clothes (t-shirts) and hot glue. For these fabric masks, you’ll need to wash them between uses.

For those of us with random fabric squares and a sewing machine, here are a couple of videos for how to sew a mask.

Simplest is this DIY mask from Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Company. At the least, this mask keeps you from touching your own face. Though not as good as a N95 mask, it still has some value in reducing likelihood that you’ll either inhale or exhale COVID-19 nastiness. This pattern is simple enough that it’s nothing to whip out several so you always can have a clean one on hand for each family member.

Next is a mask from Joanne L. at Craft Passion. She created this design in 2013 to protect her kids from smoke/haze from agricultural burning, and has pdfs for several sizes. This design lets you add additional disposable filtration between the inner and outer layers and lets you add wire to get a better fit on the bridge of your nose. For those wearing glasses, this keeps your glasses from fogging up from breath escaping from the top of a mask – useful for that reason alone (plus further reduces chances of viral nastiness getting in or out). More effort than Jenny Doan’s mask, but worth it for those possessed of both sewing skills and anxiety for health-compromised family members.

If you’re good at sewing and looking for something useful to do, various hospital and medical personnel are short on N95 masks, often having to go the entire day with a single mask (or go without). Wearing simple fabric masks over the N95 masks allows these medical personnel to use a freshly-sanitized mask for each person. Deaconess has a website listing organizations in the United States looking for donations of sewn masks. There are also various Facebook groups popping up to address this medical need.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

6 thoughts on “To wear or Not to wear a mask

  1. Many people who once wore glasses have had lasik surgery or the equivalent and usually no longer feel the need to wear glasses. However if you watch videos of hospital personnel they are wearing glasses or eye protection ranging from full out acrylic shields to regular glasses with many wearing protective glasses like I wear when I cut glass or lumber. I have seen several videos addressing the vector of infection for Covid-19. It gets into the eyes, nose or mouth, usually from transfer from the hands but sometimes from exhalation or coughing by those infected. A mask and eye protection work to prevent most of this kind of transfer. Combined with hand washing or sanitizing and keeping at least a six foot distance from others can be very effective. It is insanely difficult to keep from touching your face. If you must scratch an itch, sanitize or wash your hand before yielding to the impulse. One of my daughters who has worked both as a physician and as a lab scientists says she has trained herself to avoid touching her face while in a lab situation but finds it difficult to keep the same standard at home. Experiments with various materials rate vacuum cleaner bag material at 97% the effectiveness of a N-95 mask, but it is not very breathable. They rate fabric from cotton t-shirts and pillow cases highest because of the breathability combined with filtering effect. Cute character masks will be worn by children and are really effective in keeping them from touching their mouth and nose.

  2. The title of this op is interesting and would have made no sense at all to most readers three months ago. Just sayin’.

    I am not sure that masks will really work that well. My wife, an ICU RN, notes that homemade masks do not keep people from touching their faces. They actually need continual adjustment which means that like slipping eyeglasses, they end up promoting more touching than we want.

    What Americans do need is the Asian/Confucian tendency to obey rules and abhor selfishness. That would flatten the curve better than anything. I find it sad that we Americans will likely see more deaths because of our fierce questioning of authority and refusal to adhere to newly established protocols.

  3. I made a paper towel/tissue/masking tape mask for my husband to use as he drove someone without car to get meds.

    A nice side benefit of wearing a mask is everyone figures you’re contagious, so they ensure they keep their distance. Which was brilliant.

  4. Someone suggested the graph is “entirely useless.” I don’t know that “entirely useless” is correct.

    It isn’t representative of God’s truth regarding who is infected. But it’s based on data collected by Johns Hopkins.

    However, since the entity claiming the graph is useless isn’t using a verifiable e-mail address, and the nature of the comments made me check whether the e-mail address(es) were fake, I’ve deleted those comments.

  5. I updated the chart from reported cases, which is a statistic that is highly reliant on testing (which isn’t widespread), to reported deaths. As the New York Times put it today:

    “The number of deaths from the illness known as Covid-19 provides one of the more reliable measurements of the pandemic’s impact around the world. Testing rates for the virus differ so much that the number of positive results in a given country is not a precise barometer of how many people are afflicted. But deaths also lag infections substantially; evidence from China suggests that most patients who died from Covid-19 were infected for a month before their death.”

    If you are not familiar with interpreting log charts, the US and UK are roughly tied for the highest percentage increase in the number of new deaths, which is doubling about every three days. If the one month statistic is extensible to the US, we should start seeing a drop in the percentage of increase in deaths in the US around mid-April, a month after the initial COVID-related mitigations were put into place in the US.

  6. So now that masks are a thing (and mandatory in some settings), here’s more info:

    For materials, T-shirts and pillowcases are recommended, due to combination of filtration (meh-ish) with breathe-ability (great).

    There is a DIY pattern that passes the respirator fit test (a href=“”>video, instructions).

    It turns out that doubling the fabric doesn’t double the protection.

    Also, some results suggest that wearing a mask, even a leaky mask, can be more effective than you’d expect just based on the size of particles that can get through the material or through gapping sides. The hypothesis is that the primary vector isn’t air-borne particles, but face-touching with contaminated hands. A crappy mask can prevent/mitigate people touching their face.

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