Face Masks

Early March in Prague


I’m so old I can remember when Covid 19 (which recently was renamed Covid-19) was not such a big deal.

First we were told not to gather in groups of 500 or more, then in groups of 250, then 50 and then 10.  Finally, we were ordered to go home and stay there.

(Meanwhile, the amusingly named Centers for Disease Control was applying its not-invented-here mistrust of South Korea and major pharmaceutical companies and developing its very own Covid-19 test — which didn’t work and wasted weeks while the virus spread.  Great bunch, that CDC.)

Now our public health bureaucracy is in the middle of a similar evolution on the matter of face masks.

As we know, a month ago the word was:  Don’t get a face mask!  First responders need them more!  Don’t be selfish!

As long as we kept to ourselves, we were told, the biggest danger was touching surfaces that had been touched previously by infected persons, including ones who were not yet symptomatic.  The things to do were to stay in the house and wash our hands many, many times each day.

So I didn’t even try to get a face mask.

(I even read an article about a company that proposed to make a big batch of N95 masks, the kind that first responders need and that are still in very short supply.  The apparatchiks at the CDC or FDA responded thusly:  It will take us at least 45 days — and possibly 90 days — to evaluate and approve your design before you can start manufacturing masks.  I remember thinking:  Are these bureaucrats too busy to put a rush order on something that seems kinda important?  Do they want more masks, or do they want to shut down their work-from-home computers at 4:30 p.m. every single day?)

Even as a non-expert, I thought the no-masks-for-the-general-public drumbeat sounded off.  If Covid-19 afflicted the lungs, which it does, why not limit the degree to which people breathe on each other in public — just to be careful?

Among Asian immigrants, I had noticed a practice of wearing masks occasionally in public (not N95 masks, just basic paper ones.)  When I asked a friend why, she explained that masks were worn when people didn’t feel well and didn’t want to make other people sick.  Seemed like a nice idea.

While Americans were being told not to hog the face mask supply, people in the Czech Republic (or Czechia; hard to keep up) also were being told to stay home and, if they had to go out, to cover their mouths and noses.  The innovative Czechs donned masks and antifa-style gaiters and head scarves.  Shockingly, this seemed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

After a few weeks, Americans got wind of this strange new innovation.  The quilting community, particularly, began sewing masks by the hundreds.  If you want to make some yourself, YouTube has many patterns and ideas for how to go about it.

But then, as happened with toilet paper, the 1/4-inch elastic used to secure such masks behind the ears soon became scarce.  Perhaps it was because the stores that sell sewing accessories had been deemed non-essential and were closed for the duration.  Or perhaps some seamsters were hoarding.  I do not pretend to know.

Anyway.  Here is a perfectly satisfactory mask recipe  for those who own tee shirts, which I am pretty sure is just about all of us.   If you make one for yourself, I recommend wearing it with a hat, to cover the not entirely attractive top knot.  (OTOH, the top knot might accessorize nicely with a man bun; just saying.)

You’re welcome.

Another Covid-19 Evolution

In the early days of Covid, we were told not to hug or shake hands with other persons, and also not to get too close to them.  We were given a new name for this: social distance.

Initially, social distance was defined as one meter (a tad more than three feet for those still on the English system) between persons.  Then the perimeter was pushed out to five feet, then six feet.

All fine.  Those in my household obeyed when walking on the street and when waiting on stretched-out lines to buy groceries or prescriptions.  Around here, we pride ourselves on compliance.

Then, earlier this week, an egghead at MIT said that we were Doing It All Wrong.  The appropriate social distance, said the expert, was 27 feet.  This had something to do with the potential for explosive, possibly meteoric, nose explosions.

Then Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most trustworthy source we have at this moment, said no, there was no need to adopt the new guideline.  Turns out we do not need to limit our conversations to people who live in other counties.

Here is a helpful example of the kind of sneeze Dr. Fauci regards as not requiring wary vigilance.  It comes from the comic oeuvre and involves Tom employing a pepper shaker to get himself out of a tight spot.

Here is a helpful example of the kind of sneeze Dr. Fauci regards as not requiring wary vigilance.  It comes from the comic oeuvre and involves Tom employing a pepper shaker to get himself out of a tight spot.


Across the country, mayors and governors and important public health officials have begun saying, maybe we should begin requiring people to cover their noses and mouths when they go out.

As usual, these chuckleheads are late to the party.  I went to a farmers market last Sunday, and just about everyone in the place had covered his (or her) mouth and nose.

And, of course, when this new edict is announced it will include a stern warning for all us stupid people:  Don’t even THINK of wearing an N92 mask!

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