I’m sure by now you’ve heard that the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends wearing cloth face masks in public settings, especially where social distancing can be tricky like the grocery store where isles aren’t necessarily distancing-friendly. But why the change?
It’s worth noting that the World Health Organization and the Direcão Geral da Saude haven’t updated their recommendations to include mask-wearing (yet) but according to Wired‘s recent article, contaminated cough droplets fall out of the air faster than the water in them evaporates, and research has shown that they can travel up to 7.9 meters before hitting a surface. If the drops land on your face or on a surface you touched with your hand and then you touch your face, there’s a good chance of you getting infected.
It’s no wonder that since people can still spread the virus even without showing symptoms, the CDC went back on their initial advisory. Thinking of stocking up on medical-grade N-95 masks? Please don’t. These masks should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. Don’t be a dick.
For everyone else, fabric masks, bandanas, and scarves can act as a physical barrier to keep droplets off your face and/or keep an infected person’s virus-carrying cough droplets to themselves. Wearing an N-95 to go grocery shopping would be like grilling a steak on a volcano. It’s just not necessary. A 2013 British public health experiment showed that a cotton T-shirt filtered about 50 percent of viral particles from the air and a tea towel filtered 72 percent compared to a surgical mask’s 89 percent filtration rate.
According to Popular Science, the hydrophobic rate of polypropylene shopping bags is similar to that of the material used in N-95 masks — that is, they don’t absorb moisture like a T-shirt would, so their rating (as far as household items go) is as good as you can get. I thought I’d take Popular Science’s simple pattern and make it look, well…like something an adult would wear. Here’s how it’s done.
Here’s what you need:
1 non-woven polypropylene shopping bag
42cm of pliable wire (or two pipe cleaners)
90cm of ribbon (or 60cm of elastic)
needle and thread
Optional: pins, binder clips, bedazzler, and patience
And here’s how you make it: