Some Western Slope residents have taken up making homemade masks to help fight against the Coronavirus. Are these masks at all effective?

Search Western Slope Classifieds and you'll find people listing homemade masks for sale, most in the $3 to $4 range. Obviously, at $3 a pop, people are not out to get rich or gouge the market. These are concerned people who've gone to the effort to make these available to residents, at what appears to be no more than the cost of the materials.

While this is very generous, I do have to wonder if these masks are at all effective. Even though this may seem like a simple question, the reality is responses are about as nebulous as it gets. It's hard to find any definitive responses from authorities in the medical or disease control fields.

According to Wirecutter.com, A New York Times Company:

If you’re confused about masks, you’re not alone. There’s been a ton of conflicting information published by federal agencies, major public health institutions, individual experts, and news outlets over the past few weeks. On top of that, the term “mask” has been used as a catch-all for vastly different things: surgical masks, NIOSH-approved N95 respirators, reusable cloth masks, and even ski masks, balaclavas, or DIY barriers. Reusable cloth options function similarly to surgical masks: They do not form an airtight seal and are of limited help to protect a healthy person from contracting a respiratory virus.

Do you see what I mean? So, what do we do? Wirecutter.com adds, "The World Health Organization represents 194 different countries from six different regions and offers the same guidelines for mask usage that CDC offers here in the US." The site lists those guidelines as:

  • Wear a mask if you are coughing and sneezing.
  • If you are healthy and not a member of the medical profession, you need to wear a mask only if you are caring for someone who is sick.
  • Masks are effective only when used with proper hand-cleaning.
  • Effective use of face masks requires the wearer to follow the proper use and disposal procedures.

Since these statements leave a ton of grey area, I thought it best to contact the Mesa County Health Department. As you can imagine, they are overwhelmed and were unable to provide a concise answer.

Of course, these are desperate times, and people are using things far more creative than household materials to fabricate an anti-Coronavirus mask.

Some hospitals, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit for example, have put out the call for supplies, even homemade masks. “If it’s a difference between having a mask and not having a mask, having a mask is better than not,” said Dr. Jordan Sall, chief of staff at Gerber Memorial Hospital in Fremont in West Michigan.

So, on that note, we're pretty much back where we started. I'll repeat the quote from above, “If it’s a difference between having a mask and not having a mask, having a mask is better than not." If you're in need, the price of $3 from a local craftsman seems reasonable. In any event, masks are available if you want them.

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