It’s finally warm in Chicago. While I have no doubt that April still has some cold, gray weather in store for us today is a beautiful sunny day. I could finally walk outside without a coat or even a light jacket.
So of course we’ve reached the stage of pandemic life where we all need to wear a mask.
The actual wearing of a mask isn’t that big of a deal. I wore one the last time I went to the grocery store and while I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, it was totally fine for a few minutes. It’s an easy thing to do to make those few moments you need to be around other people a bit safer. However, I do think it’s worth remembering way all of this mask guidance changed over time.
Like many other elements of information pertaining to COVID-19 it feels like the general public just can’t get a straight answer on what we are supposed to do during the pandemic. Less than a month ago the guidance was literally do not wear masks if you’re not a health professional. This tweet from the Surgeon General isn’t exactly ambiguous:
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
There have been a lot of explanations for the changing mask guidelines. I found this piece from Vox particularly helpful on how the mask debate evolved over time:
Despite the evidence for more public use of masks, the CDC, along with the rest of the federal government, has historically avoided recommending the widespread use of masks. I asked the CDC why.
What followed was a frustrating exchange. Why shouldn’t the public use masks if they provide some protection? “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19,” CDC spokesperson Arleen Porcell responded. Okay, but why? “The science says that surgical masks won’t stop the wearer from inhaling small airborne particles, which can cause infection. Nor do these masks form a snug seal around the face.” Sure, masks don’t stop everything, but isn’t some protection better than none? I got no response after that.
I can’t explain the motives behind the CDC’s stance. But based on my conversations with other experts and officials, it seems many people are afraid of saying anything that could exacerbate the PPE shortage for health care workers or get members of the general public to think — incorrectly — that they could ease on social distancing if they just wear a mask.
Since that piece was written the CDC has updated its guidelines to suggest that people should:
CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
In fact, the Surgeon General is teaching people how to make their own masks now:
#DYK? @CDCgov's recommendation on wearing a cloth face covering may help protect the most vulnerable from #COVID19.— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) April 4, 2020
Here's how you can make one today, in just a few easy steps: pic.twitter.com/eFuE7Brw0J
It’s dizzying the ways we are all getting turned around on advice here, but people are adaptable. I have one friend who has already made more than 100 masks for her family and friends. Plus, check out these awesome masks from Cubs fans:
My friend at work, Beth Doud, was able to make a nice mask from a Cubs bandana give away,,,OUTSTANDING! pic.twitter.com/CIM57K36be— Bob Wozny (@chicagowoz) April 6, 2020
I got into the act as well with my favorite Cubs Bani Band:
How are you dealing with the new mask requirement? Show us your homemade masks in the comments!