Until this year, I had never really given face masks a second thought. It was just something that my dentist, hygenist, doctor, or nurse wore sometimes when I was in their office. Occasionally, I might see someone wearing a face mask at the airport or shopping mall. Also they’re commonly seen at places where people get their nails done in a salon. That’s about it in my little world.
These days, you can’t watch the news or read news stories without running across one of the hottest debates of our time – wearing a face mask while in public. Just this morning, I heard of a gentleman who ripped into a strip of profanities when he was refused service at the local hardware store even though it’s required by our local health unit. (with some few exemptions)
At least now.
We’re all old enough to remember the recommendation at the beginning of this outbreak that wearing a mask was not necessary. The advice was to leave the mask wearing to the medical profession. That made sense. It was about this time that I learned the difference between an N95 mask and a medial mask. We all listened to the reports of the shortage of these things so definitely the health care profession had a higher priority than me. And, after all, I was at home not treating people who were ill.
I also remember, during the shortage, that our Premier indicated that there would be a company in the province making N96 masks. Supposedly, a big step up.
I also learned that wearing a mask for a full-time hospital/medical shift was difficult. An awesome Ontario educator, Heather Durnin, had taken home the school’s 3D printer and was printing/donating a piece that made wearing them more comfortable. I had the chance to interview Heather about this and you can read or re-read the interview here. She was good enough to provide lots of pictures.
As dealing with the situation continued, masks became more and more prevalent until they’re now everywhere and required indoors in Essex County. Throughout all this, I learning something new. Wearing the mask doesn’t protect you; it protects others. It’s the ultimate action of generosity and kindness. If you want to protect yourself, stay at home or ensure that you’re distanced 2 metres from others.
I remember my first doctor visit after all this started and the instructions were to wear a mask or scarf and call the office from the parking lot. I opted for the mask; my only scarf is made from wool and that just seemed silly.
It became highly recommended that face masks be worn at the local supermarket so it was time to make the leap. But, shouldn’t those medical masks be left for the medical profession? As it turns out that sewing machine I had bought as a gift years and years ago became our personal mask tool. My wife, proficient with it, had found a design online and actually measured and fitted me for a mask. She was proud of the design; it was double material and you put a piece of paper towel in between as a filter.
It really was heavy and difficult to breathe. One day, she happened to be in a store that had cloth masks for sale. They were very light and seemed to fit nicely. We also ended up buying a pair of shoes from the Running Factory and they sweetened the deal with one of those masks that you wear over your neck. My collection of masks…
If you look closely at the hand made one, you’ll see my name on my personally custom fitted mask!
There was something about all this process that seemed missing. Most things that you buy have a stamp of approval from the CSA or UL to indicate that it’s tested for a specific purpose. Now, I’ve never owned an N95 mask but I’m pretty sure I can make out an approval when you see them offered online. And, you don’t necessarily wear them off the rack. Two of my family members are personally fitted for theirs.
Masks seem to be the common way to protect but there are those who have difficulty breathing through one. (put a paper towel over your nose and mouth and welcome yourself to my life!) For those people, there is an alternative and that’s a plastic shield that covers the entire face from forehead to the bottom of your chin. Until now, quite honestly, the only time I’d see these in use was at the Blood Donor clinic when they were testing my blood via finger prick. The nurse was really good at it and the prick made my blood spurt straight up! I understand why she needed it. There are those who are doubly careful and will also wear a mask under the face shield.
This is a great deal to digest as I try to document it. Without a standard for the cloth masks, the open market has taken over. Will these become the next fashion statement?
In our community, there are a couple of people who will make you your own from scratch and leave it in a bag on their doorstep for a donation of $5.
Did I know this before March of this year?
Absolutely not. I’m also not naive enough to think that I know all the ins and outs of this and am open to correction. If protecting others is as simple as wearing a face mask or shield, I have no compassion at all for those who refuse to do their share.
Then, there’s schools – Should students and teachers be required to wear masks at Ontario schools this fall?
More on this, for sure, in the future.