As states reopen, governments and businesses ask (and often require) residents to wear face masks. And as we have reported, there are dozens of companies that step in to sell them. But it can be difficult to know what you are getting, if it will be effective and if it will come at all.
At Marketplace, we are also trying to get our hands on the masks. This is what we have learned.
Choose a mask
Cloth face masks can protect us from the expulsions of others: large drops of saliva or sprays from a stubborn cough or sneeze. But the effectiveness of a mask depends, in part, on the fabric.
Dr. Susan L. Sokolowski, from the University of Oregon, and Dr. Karen L. LaBat, from the University of Minnesota, who research personal protective equipment, have a helpful and detailed review of all of this.
Some conclusions: Look for masks that have multiple layers, made of fabrics that are easy to wash and tightly woven, with a high number of threads. Bonus points if the fabric has an antimicrobial or water repellent finish, especially for the outer layer. It is also useful if the mask has a pocket for a disposable filter.
What can you use as a filter? Sokolowski suggests stacking 2-3 coffee filters or using a non-woven interface (a fabric used to stabilize collars, waists, and cuffs on garments).
The mask should also fit snugly around the nose and mouth. Look for a mask with adjustable straps and a piece of metal that pinches around the nose.
If yours has elastic ear hooks, it could be too loose. That happened to several of us.
The good news: You can alter it. I stitched the elastic over mine.
Lastly, do a little research on the seller before buying.
In the early days of this pandemic, I ordered surgical masks from an outside vendor on Amazon, and never received them. I contacted the seller several times, but never received a response. I ended up getting a chargeback from my credit card company.
Something similar happened to Mitchell Rosen, father of Marketplace podcast producer Peter Balonon-Rosen. He ordered 100 masks from Amazon and they never came. Fortunately, her credit card was never charged.
And scams aren’t just happening on Amazon:
Before ordering skins, search the company name on Google. Look it up on the Better Business Bureau scam tracker, which is full of scam stories with skins. Read Comments And if you have doubts or questions, please email the seller.
Dealing with delays
Many people who ordered cloth masks a month ago have still not received them.
On April 20, I ordered some cloth masks and filters from online retailer Vida. I received this email on May 5:
The email also included a 30% discount code and said I would be reimbursed for shipping. Vida also said it is trying to partner with US factories for future orders. I still have not received the masks.
In April, I also ordered a mask from Rendall Co., a workwear retailer in Los Angeles. Eleven days later, I received this note:
The email said that Rendall Co. had started working with three new factories and a local distribution center to expedite shipments, and included a 20% discount code. I still haven’t received the mask.
Also in April, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Marketplace Deborah Clark ordered four cotton masks on Etsy. Masks were supposed to ship in two to seven days. More than two weeks later, the seller told him there was a delay with the fabric he wanted. The masks have just arrived.
Another example: Our editor / senior technical producer Michael Lipkin ordered masks from menswear brand Buck Mason in early April. They just arrived, more than a month later.
I spoke to Erik Allen Ford, co-founder of Buck Mason, this week. He said the orders are running about a week ago and that the company is making masks for the first time, so there has been a lot to sort out. Demand has also been high. For context, Buck Mason generally makes about 750,000 T-shirts a year, he said. He has made 400,000 masks in six weeks.
An advice: consider buying local. Michael ordered masks from a local seller on Etsy. He picked them up the next day.
And I bought masks from a company called Tembo NYC. They were sewn by hand in Queens and arrived in days.
Lastly, just because you receive an email saying that your skins have been “shipped” doesn’t mean they actually have. Several of us have received those emails and then sellers have told us that it simply means that a shipping label was created.
Due to delays, many people have had to improvise their own makeshift facial covers, using items like tea towels, masks, and socks.
Hayley Hershman, producer of our “This is Uncomfortable” podcast, made a mask with a scarf and a pair of headbands.
Tutorials abound to make your own mask.
Also, NPR’s Maria Godoy compiled a video with some tips on how to make any face covering you more effective.
Oh, and remember: experts say covering your face is better than nothing.
Also, no matter what mask you wear, you must keep your distance and wash your hands.
Tell us about your experience buying or making facial masks.
When does the extended unemployment insurance COVID-19 run out?
The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized additional unemployment payments, increased the amount of money, and expanded who qualifies. The highest unemployment benefits have an expiration date: an additional $ 600 per week that the authorized act ends on July 31.
What states are reopening?
Many states have begun to relax restrictions in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Although social distancing measures are still maintained practically in all parts of the country, more than half of the states have begun to gradually eliminate stay-at-home orders and phase in business reopens. Others, like New York, they are in slower terms.
Is it worth applying for a job now?
It never hurts to look, but as unemployment reaches the levels last seen during the Great Depression and most of the jobs available are in risk-bearing places like the supermarket or department store, it’s not a bad idea to stick around either. still, if you can.
You can find answers to more questions here.
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