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  • Camellia Liu, Brenda Lopez, Sara Sandri, and Karishma Shah

Masking the Unmasked

Last week, I drove to perhaps the best place on earth: Costco. The goal of my trip was to discover whether or not they had vegan cheese, but I ended up discovering a rather disappointing fact—people truly do not know how to wear masks properly. As I wandered the dairy and cheese aisle, I couldn’t help but notice the countless number of people who would wear masks in a way which basically defeats their entire purpose. Some were below the nose, some were above the mouth, and some weren’t even on at all. I noticed masks hanging by people's ears and my personal favorite of the day: a mask nearly covering one man’s eyes, leaving his nose and mouth area completely exposed. The worst part? He was a staff member! Though this initially humored me, the risks associated with such tendencies are serious.

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus and can live in nasal and respiratory passageways. When a person with COVID-19 sneezes, coughs, or breathes, COVID-19 particles are released. Someone nearby can inhale these particles and become infected. There are many ways that people can be infected with the virus. That’s why we want to make sure that not only are we protected, but others are as well! When we wear masks below our nose, we increase our own risk of getting the virus. And when we wear masks above or below our mouths, we increase the chance that others around us could get infected. Thus, it is extremely important for your safety to wear your mask in such a way that it covers your nose and mouth since these are the two openings by which COVID-19 can enter your body. For the sake of others around us, we need to make sure that when we’re wearing masks, they fit snugly without any gaps.

Masks are able to produce a barrier that prevents your respiratory droplets from reaching others while also protecting you—though the degree of effectiveness varies depending on the material of your mask. To decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission, you should wear a mask consisting of multiple layers of fabric to create a barrier between your nose and mouth and the air in the environment. Different types of masks are available and it is important to wear an effective mask for your safety and the safety of others. The CDC recommends medical procedure masks, cotton masks, masks with inner filter pockets, and masks with two to three layers.

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