Medical experts have been predicting for months that December, January and February will be the worst period for the coronavirus.
Sure enough, the number of infections around the country is rising. Assuming this trend continues through the winter, it would be wise for people who take the disease seriously to make decisions that will reduce the chance of spreading it — and maybe reduce the chance of getting infected in the first place.
One such decision involves masks. This is not a lecture to wear one, even though the health benefits seem obvious.
A reader phoned the newspaper Monday to tell of a helpful report on television recently. It said one way to tell whether your mask is any good is to hold a match or a candle a few inches away from your mouth and try to blow out the flame.
If you can put it out, it means your mask is too thin, and it will be of less help in preventing the spread of the virus. Reminder: If you try this, don’t hold the flame too close to your mask.
A quick internet search turned up another idea to check the strength of your mask. A North Carolina anesthesiologist who has studied which materials are best for homemade masks says you can test your mask by holding it up to a bright light or the sun.
If you can see light between the fibers of the mask, it’s too thin and its usefulness is limited.
For those using homemade masks or making them, the physician recommended using tightly woven fabrics like quilters’ cotton, which makes pretty strong masks.
Some mask makers, according to one report, have built a “pocket” into their products so that users can insert an extra layer of protection if they wish. One report said people are using everything from coffee filters to paper towels in this manner. It’s a good idea.
The WebMD website confirmed that cotton masks do a pretty good job of containing the small droplets that a person expels when talking. Bandanas and neck fleeces, it added, do a poor job of blocking these droplets.
Most health experts say that if everyone wore a mask in public, the rate of infection would come down noticeably, even during the colder winter months when people spend more of their time inside.
This makes sense. And while there is a significant percentage of the population who refuses to wear a mask because they see it as depriving them of liberty, the larger problem with masks is the discomfort of wearing one all the time and the weariness of doing it for all these months. Plus, if you take your mask off for a few minutes, it’s easy to “forget” to put it back on again. There’s a bit of selfishness in all this, but sometimes it’s hard to be vigilant.
The elected officials in many states who have lectured the public about the importance of masks and social distancing while violating the rules themselves are not alone in saying one thing while doing another. It may take a winter’s worth of cases before everyone pays attention.