A lot of people across the U.S. are currently under some kind of order to wear a facemask or face covering in public. I am not going to go into any personal opinions about the orders, our freedoms, or anything like that. Instead, I want to focus on facts such as: how to correctly wear the damn things. This is something important to me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I have family in heavily impacted areas and people I care about that are part of the “high-risk” group. So, it is time for a very brief lesson on how to properly wear a facemask and some of the problematic behaviors. This may seem like a silly topic to waste time writing. After all, it’s so simple an idiot can do it, but as George Carlin put it: “Think of how stupid the average person is and realize half of them are stupider than that.”
First and foremost, a face covering, facemask, respirator, etc. are all different items. I won’t delve into that, as I covered it in a previous blog HERE. But the purpose of them is three-fold. First, it keeps whatever someone else has from easily and unimpededly entering your nose and mouth. Two, it keeps whatever you have from easily and unimpededly entering someone else’s nose and mouth. In both cases, the key is that they are helping protect both the nose and mouth of the wearer. Ergo, you need to wear the mask covering both your nose and your mouth! Third, is it is a reminder to keep your hands off of your face.
You should clean your hands before putting on the mask (aka donning) and taking off the mask (aka doffing). I call these two words out because you will most likely see them in the instructions of manufactured masks. You need to clean your hands because while your face is covered, many of our hands aren’t while we are all touching the same things, door handles, shopping carts, the number pads of checkouts, etc. Washing your hands, or sanitizing them, before and after removing the mask further reduces the likelihood that you will introduce a virus into your breathing area.
Depending on the type of masks, you should either be disposing of it as recommended by the manufacturer (if it’s a disposable style) or washing it regularly. Some will tell you to wash it daily, weekly, or every “X” number of hours. The key is that you wash it and wash it properly according to directions. Where available you should hang the mask to dry outside in the sun. The suns UV rays can kill a lot of germs. DO NOT microwave your masks. That’s a farce that isn’t based in any actual science and can cause more harm than good. Some masks put thin metal in the masks to allow them to keep a certain shape. Microwaves and metal don’t mix! Trust me, I’ve bought a lot of microwaves over the years.
Some of the behavioral issues that cause me concern, besides understanding how to wear the mask, include taking the mask down in public to sample the grapes, talk to someone, or scratch your nose. This completely defeats the purpose of the mask! Putting the mask on after you enter a building or before you leave is pointless. Modifying the mask, like cutting a hole in it, snipping straps off, or cutting it down the center also defeats the purpose of the mask—so don’t do it. All of these are intended to make it easier for someone to breathe, but again eliminates any protection. Put the mask on before you get out of the car and do not take it off until you get back in the car.
I want things to go back to normal, the way they used to be, not this “new normal” but we aren’t there yet. Whether you agree or disagree with wearing a mask, or the quarantine orders, etc., it has been shown to limit the spread of illnesses and is based in science. If me wearing a mask to get donuts makes someone’s grandparents feel safe to leave their house, my slight inconvenience is worth it. Even if the benefit is only psychosomatic for those people at higher risk of infection, I’m fine to wear it so that they can still be out enjoying our beautiful country.