Pandemic blog 10: I’m masked in the supermarket

After thinking it over in previous posts I realized I had no rejoinder to the argument that we should all be wearing masks to go shopping, so I wore a mask to go shopping. Nothing fancy or ultra-filtering, just an elastic paper mask from a box. I worried I would feel awkward, but instead I felt cool, like a bandit. When I last went shopping, 9 days ago, almost no one was wearing a mask; now it’s up to 20 or 25 percent of the customers. Maybe people are reading my blog! I didn’t ask. None of the Trader Joe’s employees wear masks and I wonder whether they’re allowed to.

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11 thoughts on “Pandemic blog 10: I’m masked in the supermarket

  1. olderwoman says:

    This is Pam Oliver in case you don’t know my alternate identity. Anyway, non N-95 type masks are important for protecting other people from you, but are less helpful for protecting you from other people. So it is the socially responsible thing to do to wear one. You are treating yourself as a potential disease vector, which is the right thing to do.

  2. JSE says:

    Yes, exactly. Mask-wearing only has to be protective in one direction to help suppress transmission, and suppression is useful even if it’s only modest.

  3. Since we’re not completely sure how covid-19 is transmitted, opinion seems to be evolving about how useful plain cloth or paper masks are in reducing the likelihood of contracting it. In my super-conscientious deep-blue state many supermarket staff are wearing masks and cashiers are behind a clear plastic barrier. I’m glad to see this since they are now the most vulnerable people next to healthcare workers.

  4. jb says:

    Exactly! It’s catching on fast. Don’t be the last one on your block to be doing the socially responsible thing!

  5. Richard Séguin says:

    Where did you get the masks? I have a box of Walgreens paper ear-loop masks, but they don’t fit very well, and I discovered why: the box is marked “Small.” They’re kid sized. The last time I looked in Walgreens there were no masks at all. I would definitely wear one into a supermarket if I had one. It helps protect others from me, and with my age and medical status I can use all the protection I can get for myself, even if it’s small.

  6. JSE says:

    They’ve been in a box in our house forever, who knows when or why we originally got them.

  7. Frederik says:

    In times when protective masks are in short supply, even in hospitals, is it logical to go shopping wearing one?

  8. Local Fields says:

    Sorry, I don’t see why non N-95 masks are less helpful for protecting you from other people. Can you explain? So these masks can prevent the virus from getting out but are less effective to prevent them from getting in? Why?

  9. A cloth or paper mask catches larger droplets that are exhaled or expelled and prevents them from becoming aerosolized. But they aren’t airtight and they don’t filter fine aerosolization that can contain live virus particles.

  10. JSE says:

    Frederik: Our local hospitals specifically said they did not want masks that were in an already-opened box, which ours are. They are also not N-95 (I don’t know whether hospitals want supplies of these only-modestly-protective masks if they’re in unopened packaging.)

  11. Frederik says:

    JSE: The non-N-95-masks (the standard surgical and comfort masks) can be used by people who come in close contact with high risk groups, specifically the elderly. If one of your neighbours works as a cleaning aid, a home nurse, etc. they will be grateful to receive your already opened box of masks.

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