April 04, 2020
I haven't posted here in my website blog regularly just because it gets very little traffic, so a long time ago I started posting any new work and updates on my Instagram, but for this I wanted to post here. Yesterday the CDC just recommended we wear cloth face masks, and I wanted to share how to make them (it's very easy) and also some of my thoughts as someone who has worn personal protective equipment almost daily. For some perspective, this is what I wear, sometimes for hours every day.
If you click on the image I linked it to where you can purchase them, except you can't. 3M isn't making a lot of things right now in order to focus on medical supplies. Here are the filters, also out of stock. In theory this mask and these filters would filter out viruses, but they do a lot more than that (they block certain chemicals, and a lot of gases like metal fumes.) They also are made for people like me who might need to work in them all day. This mask, although it looks restrictive, allows for easier breathing. The silicone isn't too hard on your skin, provides a good seal, and can be adjusted to fit exactly. And that is so important. This is a disposable N95 mask that I found in my tool closet. It had obviously been used, by who knows who. I gave these out when I had help installing insulation and drywall for my house.
You've probably seen paper masks on health care workers, but without this black part in the center. So what's that? That helps you breathe out without filling the mask with water vapor from your breath, and makes the mask last longer. Once the mask gets wet, it's no longer going to let air through. So you'll slowly suffocate wearing it. Let that sink in for a minute. How many healthcare workers have you seen running with critical patients on stretchers in masks without this important feature? You can't wear these all day, even if they have it. They get saturated with water from your breath and sweat and maybe last 2 hours tops. They're not called disposable masks for nothing. You can dry one out and wear it the next day. But you'll need to wear several to work all day long. The one I wear is what's made to be worn all day. The other issue is fit. The disposable masks that workers took off when we were building my house almost always had insulation, sawdust or drywall dust inside. Think that through. Sawdust = deadly virus. If they don't fit perfectly, they don't work. They also leave painful red marks on your face. They ITCH like crazy. That's what our healthcare workers are wearing. Something that's pretty ineffective unless it's fit perfectly, and even if it is, it's really uncomfortable to wear and breathe in.
So you have this CDC recommendation to wear a cloth mask. What does that do? Well, what it does is stop your breath and spit from radiating out from your face and potentially infecting other people. We know that everyone who has the virus has at least a few days where they can spread it before they know they have it. We know that it spreads from your breath and spit. Every time you say certain letters like a T, you spit, and that can go pretty far. Your breath can go even farther, and they now think just your breath can be infectious. So this cloth covering isn't for you. It's for everyone around you. And, if everyone around you is wearing one, you are also protected. Unlike the disposable masks, cloth masks are comfortable, and pretty easy to breath in. If you're around people who aren't wearing them think about wearing some eye protection like glasses or goggles to keep their spit out of your eyes. That's easy enough.
So from what I've said about paper masks and how they are meant for a single short time use because they get saturated with water from your breath, you probably are realizing that you can only wear this cloth mask for a couple hours tops. What if you're out running essential errands and it gets all saturated by your breath and you can't breathe? Hand san or wash hands (very important) take it off (by the elastic bands, don't touch the front) and you always keep a couple of backup masks. Change it in your car, or somewhere away from people. Dirty ones go in a plastic bag then right in the wash.
But PLEASE DO WEAR ONE. With the recent information about how easily the virus spreads from people just breathing or talking in the same area, and seeing the numbers of deaths in my state (NY) go up by 400 then 600 a day I'm telling you it's essential. Don't be deterred by things like "I'll look silly" or "I'll look like I'm scared." If you absolutely have to go out today, be the person who goes out wearing one today, and be an example for others. People need to see people out wearing them. People do what other people are doing. Being the first one to do it is a potentially life saving act.
Everyone has a bandana, an old sheet, a cloth napkin, an old tshirt. Be a trendsetter, make it your own, but please just do it. Remember that other people wearing them is what protects you. The cloth mask you're wearing may protect you a little, but it's very effective at stopping your spit and breath from infecting others by catching that stuff in the fabric. Wearing one is a signal to others that this is the right thing to do, and that's what will save lives once everyone adopts the practice.
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