I have asthma. And, yet, we joke a little in our house about masking up – even as we know it is deadly serious – because we don’t enjoy wearing them. However, we do wear them because we believe in public health. I want to protect you and I do hope you will protect me. If we all mask up my immune-compromised son and 90-year old mother who are part of my family pod may be protected as well. Plus, I really don’t want to get the virus myself, I am a woman in her mid-60’s, with asthma.
“Be Mask-u-line,” I say to the men in my life. As I produce yet another version of a 3-layer cotton mask, with adjustable straps (the 7th iteration in design as I try to make a safe mask that someone can comfortably wear all day), I say, “Let me mask-u-late you.”
The fact that wearing a mask has become politicized is not new. We have been here before. Folks refused to wear masks during the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed upwards of 50 million people. The idea that personal freedoms are infringed was argued with the introduction of seat belts and numerous industrial safety modifications.
I am amazed: how can it be that, in our country, thinking about the safety of the collective has, for some, become a personal affront? Some politicians would have us think that caring about the collective smacks of “socialism” or, even worse, “communism,” rather than the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It does not make sense to me.
Luckily at MNFC, mask compliance is at 99.9%. I thank you for wearing a mask, distancing, and looking out for others as well as yourself.
As a member of the MNFC Board of Directors, let me say that I am particularly grateful for your protection of our hard-working staff who are on the line as essential workers. They see hundreds of people a day as they clean, stock the shelves, help and serve you. Thank you for caring both about them and about yourself.
Here are some reminders about wearing a mask.
- Everyone can wear a mask safely, regardless of age. Some folks do have underlying medical respiratory conditions that make it a little harder to breathe, but for most people wearing a mask will not impair oxygenation or ventilation. Check with your health care provider about your oxygen capacity, if need be. MNFC provides both masks and transparent face shields for our customers.
- The COVID-19 virus itself is so very small and does not travel through the air alone. It hitches a ride on tiny droplets of saliva and water that are exhaled when folks cough, sneeze, sing, and yell. An N-95 mask has multiple layers of fibers that carry an electrostatic charge that helps trap the tiny particles. But N-95 masks are needed in hospitals and are not readily available. Still, there are studies that demonstrate there are several kinds of masks that effectively trap exhaled air and respiratory droplets, thus protecting people surrounding a mask wearer.
- Three-layered cotton masks work. Knitted masks do not. Buffs and bandannas do not offer much protection but are better than nothing. Check out this Washington Post article on a study for more information. When masks are worn, there is a demonstrated decrease in viral transmission.
- Finally, keep the Three W’s in mind to take care of yourself and others:
- Wear a mask
- Wash your hands
- Watch your distance
We can stop the transmission of the virus if we all follow the Three W’s together!
Thank you for caring.
Kate Gridley is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member