Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Face Mask Returns!

I am bringing back the Face Mask pattern that I first posted on Ravelry and then withdrew 24 hours later. My thoughts about this have evolved over time. Here's how that happened.

Since it is both impossible to buy face masks and also the CDC has asked the public not to purchase them to allow medical staff to have any that become available, I had the thought "Any mask is better than none, right?" With that thought in mind, I created the Face Mask pattern. I liked how it turned out so I then posted it on Ravelry with warnings that they are not as effective as medical masks and everyone should decide for themself whether it is a good idea.

The pattern became instantly popular on Ravelry, rising to number 12 on the "hot right now" list in less than 24 hours.

But at the same time I started receiving comments that I was doing more harm than good because people would think they were getting more protection than they actually were. Then Ravelry also posted a notice at the top of the pattern saying "This design resembles a medical mask. The World Health Organization’s coronavirus guidance states that the use of cloth masks is NOT RECOMMENDED in any circumstance." I read the article which does make that statement at the very end, but offers no supporting reasons for it. However, it is W.H.O. so even without supporting reasons and data, we should pay attention.

After doing a bit more research, I then withdrew the pattern and replaced it with a warning that it was as bad idea because it might increase your chance of infection if it is not sanitized frequently.

So what happened next? On Saturday, I made a last minute trip to the market to get bread before it all got bought out again and decided for myself again, "Any protection is better than none." So I put on cloth gloves and wore my knitted face mask and went to the store. As soon as I got home, I took off the mask and gloves, put them directly into the washing machine, and washed my hands for at least 20 seconds. I assume, though I have no way of knowing for sure, that if the mask is a breeding ground for pathogens, then that is not going to happen in less than any hour for a quick trip to the store. 

So then I started to think, what if other people feel like it do and would like to have some kind of protection rather than none and also will be careful not to endanger themselves by wearing an infected mask? While still considering whether to bring it back, I ran across this New York Times article which pointed to the study that concludes that a homemade mask "would be better than no protection at all."

So I decided to bring back the pattern with all the appropriate warnings at the start. So here it is:

Face Mask on Ravelry