COMMUNITY OPINION: Face masks—compassion and solidarity

Patty Anne writes that wearing a face mask in public is a considerate gesture towards others, lessening the spread of any germs.

This community opinion was contributed by San Benito County resident Patty Anne. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

Note: this was submitted before the health department recommendation to wear facial coverings in public.

I am proposing a new campaign, Face Mask Compassion and Solidarity, that asks people to wear a face mask in public to show their compassion for those who have the COVID-19 virus or have compromised health issues and are at risk should they get the virus. I would like it to also be a sign of solidarity to put political philosophies aside, showing we all are kind people who desire to work together for our country and world’s recovery. Let it also be a way of saying thank you to our first responders and medical personnel.

Many people are uncomfortable or feel shy about wearing a mask in public. Let’s face it, most of us (including me) make judgments when they see someone wearing a mask. We wonder if the person is just paranoid or if the person is sick (and if so, what kind of sick?) Knowing we ourselves think that way, it brings about a stigma of public mask wearing. However, we all know someone who is considered a health risk, they may be elderly, they may have an autoimmune disease, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, undergoing chemotherapy. Wearing a mask shows our concern for this community of at-risk people. The more of us willing to wear a mask, the more we become used to seeing this in public and it becomes less of a stigma and more of a thoughtful gesture towards others.

I know I am “old-school” when it comes to a cough or sneeze. My immediate reaction is to put my hand over my mouth. Often, too late, I remember, “wrong!” My body is just not trained to push my elbow up to my face. When I wear my mask in public, I am doing a better job than my elbow could ever do. (We’ve all seen those disgusting slo-mo videos of an uncovered cough or sneeze, so why not cover-up more efficiently?)

We hear masks are in short supply and a whole chain of crafters are busy making them to donate to hospitals and various charities. Here are my suggestions for the public on how to obtain their own reusable, eco-friendly, washable face mask:

If you know how to sew, you can go online. There are numerous videos and styles you can make with a minimum of material. You can even make them out of clean old shirting, using cloth ties instead of elastic.

I saw one man in the store wearing a bandana “bandit” style and thought it’d probably reign in his coughs and sneezes quite nicely. A friend sent me a humorous video she made showing how to use her fashionable scarf as an emergency face mask. So, please tie on your best bandana or wrap around your fashionable scarf (cover both nose and mouth).

Like online shopping? There are numerous ones at various prices, styles, sizes and fabrics at Etsy. (Friendly tip, look at where shop is located, I noticed several were from other countries at very cheap prices…good luck getting them anytime soon.) Look for shops located closer to home and you will be supporting a local crafts person, often a stay-at-home mom or retiree, and it will probably arrive very quickly.

Please spread this idea of face mask compassion and solidarity, by masking your face in public and spreading the word to your family and friends. As you see it take off, take pride in knowing it started right here in San Benito County, a place filled with compassionate people!

P.S. Yes, I have read numerous articles about the “proper” type of face mask (N-95) needed to protect ourselves from this virus. This is just addressing how to protect others by keeping more of our germs to ourselves when in public places. (It is reported that fabric face masks are only 5% better protection from the virus than nothing, but at least you’re getting that bump if you wear one.) There are numerous articles and DIY patterns on making face masks with pockets for antiviral inserts. Please review those if you feel you need this type of self-protection.


Patty Anne