"Everyone will be wearing them..."
Updated: Apr 10
I've been asked several times to do some type of Q&A, and I've hesitated in part because I am loathe to get into FB debates about "the exact right way" to do things (pro-tip: there's no exact right way right now -- we all just have to do our very best). That said, a particularly dear friend asked, so here we go:
Q: Should I wear a mask in public.
A: Yes. Next.
Q: Wait. What kind of mask?
A: The kind that keeps you from coughing, sneezing or spitting on other people. NOT one that covers your eyes, like Wesley from Princess Bride. Next.
Q: Dammit. WAIT! What about a bandana?
A: A mask is better than a bandana. A bandana is better than nothing. NEEEEXXXXT.
Q: Fine. (mutters under breath). If a mask is important, why didn't the CDC tell us to wear them right from the start in order to decrease the risk of community transmission?
A: You want the real answer or the one that will make you happy and feel like the CDC has been functioning at full capacity?
Q: Make me happy. Life is scary right now.
A: This is an evolving situation.
Q: Then wh...
A: I'm not done.
Also, they knew we were going to have an absolutely critical shortage of all kinds of PPE, even the little surgical masks that you now see people wearing while shopping, and they didn't want the American public buying them up in a frenzy before the health systems had a chance to stock up.
...I'm still not done, but we'll leave it at that for now.
Q: I don't like masks. It doesn't make the right fashion statement. Also, it highlights the fact that I've not had my brows threaded in months. And I hear that they make you touch your face more, and that's bad. Plus, I keep reading on The Internet that it won't prevent me from getting sick.
A: Stop consulting Dr. Google.
Q: that's it?
A: No. Stop consulting Dr. Google and wear a mask.
A: It's about prevention more than protection. The point is to prevent YOU from spreading the infection to other people you might come in contact with. YOU ARE THE THREAT.
Q: Wait. What? That is ridiculous. I feel fine.
A: Of course you do. Most people will feel fine, while being highly infectious, for 5.1 days before the onset of any symptoms. That is what makes #Coronavirus tricky -- you are walking time bomb! Wear a mask.
Q: Dammit Sarraf.
A: My mom once suggested she should have just named me that...
Q: Explain better, please.
A: Ok, here we go.
At this point in time, the very best thing would be for each of us to act as if we have been exposed to coronavirus, and then do our very, very best to treat every single person we encounter as though they are the person we love most in the world and would never, ever want to risk infecting.
Surgical masks provide pretty minimal protection FOR you, however they are quite handy at PREVENTING you from spreading your asymptomatic illness to those around you. (If you're symptomatic, for the love of all the cheese, please stay quarantined at home).
Here's the rub: you're probably going to screw up wearing a mask if you don't practice wearing a mask.
Q: I'm going to screw up wearing a mask?
Q: It seems pretty idiot-proof
A: you'd like to think that, wouldn't you.
Q: sigh. More explaining, fewer Princess Bride references...
A: As you wish...
Masks are only an improvement over baseline if you use them correctly. If you don’t, they can actually put you more at risk because 1) the temptation is to mess with them endlessly or 2) you gain a false sense of safety from wearing one.
Q: Fine. So how do I do this correctly?
A: I'm glad you asked:
Step one: wash your hands. If you're out in your car and getting ready to head into the store, disinfect your hands thoroughly with a disinfectant wipe or alcohol gel. Put the mask on and adjust it for comfort, (pro-tip: the firm part of the mask gets pinched over the TOP of the nose, and the mask must cover both nose AND mouth) then Do. NOT. Touch. It. Again. Don't play with it, move it, adjust it or mess with it until you're somewhere you can wash your hands and THEN take it off.
Then wash your hands again.
Step two: when you're in public wearing a mask, act as if you aren't wearing a mask. Remember, this is just an added layer of prevention against you infecting your beloved Nana. This is not an excuse to get closer to people, or to hang out in public spaces during this time when we are trying to #FlattentheCurve through #RadicalSocialDistancing.
Q: So. Are YOU wearing a mask?
A: yep. for weeks now.
Q: Really? Why?
A: Because I assume I'm high risk to others. I behave in public as if I've been exposed - it is the responsible way to be in the middle of a pandemic. I don't want to accidentally make your Nana sick, and I want to do every last thing I can to hammer this curve to the ground so we can emerge from this as quickly as possible.
Q: So, in summary: wash your hands, don the mask, don't touch it, act as if you're not wearing it, wash your hands again, take it off, wash your hands AGAIN.
A: exactly. Next question.
Q: Can I have a snack?
A: As you wish.