As we’re well into the crisis now, health experts are warning us to protect ourselves at all costs. But some people have taken the warning a little too literally. It turns out, there’s virtually nothing some of us wouldn’t do (or wear) in order to keep the virus at bay. As a result, DIY-at-home protective gear has now been spotted all around the aisle runways.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the coronapocalyptic look, which is both a fashion statement and a major faux pas. But the people sporting it couldn’t care less. Kitchen sponges, diving masks, and full-length tarpaulin suits—you name it, they wear it. Seemingly immune to strange looks, these shoppers are better safe than sorry. Except the safe part of the statement remains open to question.
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As bizarre as some of the DIY protection examples may look, the idea itself is not completely irrational. We now know that the world is running out of face masks for the front-line medical workers. And that’s why experts advise against buying them.
The surgeon general Jerome M. Adams has tweeted: “seriously people—stop buying face masks!” Jerome claims that they’re ineffective in preventing the general public from catching the virus. His point is still a subject of debate and experts tend to have opposing views. One is clear—when leaving the medical-grade masks to professionals only, we are no longer contributing to the shortage of supplies.
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In an interview with Bored Panda, Anna Davies, who’s a research microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, explained that without testing, it’s impossible to say which DIY protection works and which doesn’t. “Without it, we just don’t know.”
However, some home-made protection may be better than others. For example, Anna is worried about a plastic bag because of the risk of suffocation. But the snorkel mask is not such a bad idea after all. “I can imagine a snorkel mask providing good barrier protection, but it can’t be very comfortable.”
Anna told us that it’s possible to make a mask at home but it wouldn’t be as good as a commercial one. But wearing a mask only isn’t enough to protect yourself. “It certainly wouldn’t be a replacement to social distancing/isolation and hand hygiene.”
The debate over whether protective masks do help to protect wearers from the virus is still on. According to Davies, “Used properly, it may help to lower overall risk of transmission,” but she adds that “there’s very little evidence for that.” Masks are most appropriate for individuals who are symptomatic. “It may lower (but not remove) the risk of transmission."
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But in times of crisis, it’s better to be safe than sorry. For those of us who couldn’t get their hands on protective masks, the internet has a solution—make your own. Of course, they’re not even close to being as effective as surgical masks, this study run on an influenza pandemic showed.
The New York Times has made a step by step guide to sewing a face mask from common household materials. All you need is a needle, scissors, 100% cotton fabric, and 4 strips of the same fabric (or shoelaces). But remember that wearing it correctly is as important as the mask itself. Make sure that air can’t get through the sides. Don’t forget to remove it after it gets moist and clean it (if it’s reusable) or discard it safely.