Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Coronavirus deaths follow choir practice. A grassroots, homemade-masks-for-all movement gathers steam.
37-minute interview with South Korean infectious disease expert, Kim Woo-joo, who has 30 years of hands-on experience. The mask discussion begins at 15:00 minutes. He says he considers it ‘quite odd’ that the public is being discouraged from wearing masks by the World Health Organization and others.
On Tuesday March 10th – 22 days ago – approximately 55 people gathered for their weekly choir practice at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, an hour’s drive north of Seattle.
At that point in time, only 30 people had died of the coronavirus in the entire United States (compared to 4,000+ today). In a statement released since then, the Skagit Valley Chorale reminds us that, three weeks ago,
There were no closures of schools, restaurants, churches, bowling alleys, banks…or any other businesses. The advice from the State of Washington was to limit gatherings to 250 people.
The volunteer choir has 120 members, but everyone had been advised not to attend rehearsal if they were experiencing any symptoms of illness. According to a news story, the 60 people who showed up brought their own sheet music and refrained from shaking hands or hugging. A greeter provided hand sanitizer at the entrance, and everyone appeared to be healthy. When interviewed afterward, eight people in attendance agreed no one in the room was coughing or sneezing.
A few days later, however, numerous members began to feel feverish. The choir’s public statement explains:
By Monday, the 16th, twenty people had symptoms and we had the first positive test result. By Monday evening, 23 were ill, some of whom attended the rehearsal on March 10, some who had only attended on March 3, and some of whom did not attend either rehearsal…today [March 23rd] we know of at least 21 confirmed positives and 30 people (members and significant others) who are ill.
Two members of this choir have since died. Others have been hospitalized. In the words of Los Angeles Times journalist Richard Read, “The outbreak has stunned county health officials, who have concluded that the virus was almost certainly transmitted through the air from one or more people without symptoms.”
That’s the tricky thing about this virus. We can be carriers and not know it. Even if we wash our hands frequently, we may be infecting others far more easily than the experts have imagined possible.
As a result, a grassroots #Masks4ALL movement is gathering steam. Every time we open our mouths, micro droplets are released into the air. Some of these fall to the ground quickly. Others stay airborne for somewhat longer, and appear to travel farther than expected.
If we all start wearing homemade masks in public (sewn from new fabric, cut from old t-shirts, or improvised with bandanas and scarves), the volume of droplets in the air will decrease – which means fewer germs will be settling on, for example, the items currently lining grocery store shelves.
These masks won’t be equivalent to the N95 masks that keep medical staff safe. But remember that old saying: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Homemade masks will reduce the volume of germs now contaminating public spaces. If I protect you by wearing my mask, and you protect me by wearing yours, we’ll all improve our odds.
According to this video, the citizens of the Czech Republic began making and wearing masks of their own accord, in a grassroots movement that has swept the country.
Police officers who wear bulletproof vests can, of course, still be shot in the head. Homemade masks won’t guarantee our safety, but they provide significant protection.
There’s also the concept of viral load. Our bodies have a better chance of fighting off a smaller amount of virus compared to a higher concentration. A homemade mask may reduce the degree to which we become infected.
In many countries, the authorities have been understandably focused on reserving as many masks as possible for use by medical personnel. As a result, they appear to have blatantly lied to us about masks and the general population. If you don’t have time to watch all the videos embedded in this post, please consider the 3-and-a-half-minute one from the Czech Republic directly above.
There’s no reason to be passive. There’s no reason to wait for officials to come to their senses.
Each of us can make our own mask and start wearing it today.