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Opinion
Elaine Ou

Sheltered in Place? Make Masks

Homemade protective equipment sure beats the alternative.

Do you have a better idea?

Do you have a better idea?

Photographer: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

It’s no secret that U.S. hospitals are facing a dire shortage of personal protection equipment for their workers. The surgeon general even urged the public to stop buying masks, stating, “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk.” Aside from insulting our collective intelligence — masks definitely can’t offer foolproof protection, but isn’t it enough that they can help? — the statement potentially fueled distrust and encouraged further hoarding.

We need to take the opposite approach: Emphasize how important masks can be in preventing the spread of disease if widely worn by anybody who is sick or might be. They’re so important, in fact, that we should do whatever we can to get a mask over every face during a pandemic characterized by stealthy spread from people who don’t know they’re infected. Even if it means making them ourselves.