There’s been a wealth of misinformation surrounding the spread of coronavirus, and until Friday, there hasn’t been a consensus among official sources on whether medical masks are effective in preventing contagion.
One thing we do know is that the best way to avoid contracting or spreading coronavirus is to stay home, but somehow the numbers keep rising in North Texas and the rest of the United States.
It’s possible that people are still contaminating one another in homes and private gatherings off the radar, but it’s also possible that our social practices in allowed central locations like supermarkets still leave more than a lot to be desired.
Those who have “essential” places to be — work or grocery shopping — should be wearing gloves and surgical masks, some doctors say. As the White House makes wearing cloth masks an official recommendation, many have been way ahead, hoarding medical masks for weeks, adding to the shortage at hospitals.
As some companies and individuals have begun offering to supply masks to the public for free, and as Dallas (and worldwide) designers begin to produce and donate their masked creations to hospitals, Jon Burroughs, a robotics engineers and political activist from Dallas, may get us out of a bind with his instructional videos.
Burroughs began making his own after learning of a shortage of the higher quality N95-style medical masks, and that medical professionals would be needing the bulk of the supply for themselves. Seeing a basic problem of supply and demand, he used his engineering and handyman prowess to design a series of improvised facial masks with home air filters.
Burroughs has posted several videos with precise how-to’s for those who need to leave the house but are still waiting for that $50 mask to arrive from Amazon, which they ordered months ago.
The DIY project also doubles as a practical arts and crafts activity to do with children while stuck at home. Burroughs’ masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) kits make for a purposeful way to pass the time. He recommends filling multiple Ziploc bags that contain gloves, a small grocery bag to dispose of used PPE gear and an improvised mask in your car at all times during this pandemic.
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"We don't all need to stay home ..." Burroughs wrote on a LinkedIn post. "And we need to resume work, or the economic damage will be a cure worse than the disease, and needlessly worse than it needs to be. Masks are the new sexy. And wash your hands."
Sexy or not, a 2003 study on MERS and SARS (in the same family of viruses as COVID-19) found that washing hands reduced contagion by 55%, wearing a facial barrier decreased contagion by 68% and wearing multiple forms of PPE and engaging in other practices — like social distancing — reduced contagion by 91%.
Want this all to be over with sooner rather than later? Wear a mask.