One of the questions I've had during the first month of this pandemic is pretty straightforward: Why is the public not wearing masks when they're outside? And the answer always seems to relate to the current medical personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage.
Only, I'm not interested in using their equipment. I just want to wear a mask outside that will protect me and protect others. Look at South Korea, Japan, or any other Asian country and you see EVERYONE in a mask.
There are dozens of patterns online, I have the fabric and a sewing machine. The best patterns I've found allow for an insert, which can be as simple as a paper towel or even a piece of a HEPA vacuum cleaner bag.
Still, there is a lot of confusion about them, which prompted Wolf Blitzer to ask Dr. Sanjay Gupta about them.
After acknowledging that the guidelines are fluid and changing, Gupta explained why the idea is getting traction.
"Two big things I think that are worth pointing out, one is that I think what is really driving this is this idea that there is, you know, significant community spread of this virus," Gupta explained. "That's important, because we know there are a lot of people who are asymptomatic, you know, don't really have symptoms, that can still spread the virus."
"So the way to think about this mask issue is it's not really still for people who are not infected," he continued.This is more for people who might be infected and don't know it and to try and lower the likelihood that they would spread this to somebody else."
So yes, that's certainly part of it. But the other part of it is simply that there is protection -- maybe not N95 level protection, but there IS, in fact some measure of protection for the wearer of the mask as well as the people that person might encounter.
Gupta then went on to make perfectly clear that the masks for everyday folks aren't the same as the masks doctors need. They are not N95 masks, but just cloth masks.
"First advice for anybody is to stay home," he cautioned. "But if somebody does need to go out, and look, anybody might be infected and not know it, we all have to behave like we have the virus, I think that is what's driving the idea that if you have to go out for something essential, that wearing a mask may not be a bad idea."
He also said Dr. Fauci was in favor of it too, saying that there was no harm done, before concluding that the benefits outweighed any risk.
So let's get busy making masks, if you have the ability. I'm planning to make them for my family and then neighbors and we'll see what happens from there.
Here's a good tutorial, too:
These masks aren't magic. If you wear one outside, boil it in water for at least 5 minutes and hang to dry. But they will offer some protection for you, and for the people you encounter. For that reason alone, they're worth it.
Here is Jeremy Howard's video on #Masks4All, explaining why we need to make masks: