April 11, 2020

Mayor again strongly urges residents to cover faces to slow spread of COVID-19

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While there was some early confusion about the value of face coverings at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, the federal Center for Disease Control reversed course and now strongly recommends people cover their mouths and noses in public.

This is especially important in densely populated cities, where social distancing might be more challenging as many more people living in multi-family dwellings, or in public or private apartment complexes or senior housing. It is one reason the mortality rate among African-Americans far exceeds the national population proportion.

In Newark, Mayor Ras J. Baraka has ordered all City employees to wear masks or face coverings while out in public. Masks are being distributed in the City’s senior housing buildings and police are passing them out but, for now, have a limited supply.

Also, as many stories have been out of stock since the early days of the outbreak, finding a surgical quality mask or the recommended N95 mask may be very hard to find. (N95 means the mask filters out 95 percent of airborne particles that could carry viruses or germs.) Many of these are being reserved for front-line medical professionals to keep them safe as they treat patients with the virus.  

But even when these N95 masks are found, the price may be exorbitant as some unscrupulous merchants price gouge to capitalize on people’s fear.

The solution is easy. Any face covering is better than none, and making face coverings at home, no matter how simple, can be a fun “shelter-in-place” family project.

During his Facebook Live briefing last Saturday Mayor Baraka showed how to make an effective face covering with cloth and rubber bands. It can be found here:

But there is no end to the possibility of making an effective face covering at home with standard household products.

The mask needs to be something that can be worn tightly around your mouth and nose, porous enough to allow you to breath but also able to block virus particles spread through moisture droplets when people cough, sneeze or even talk.

Two layers of tightly-woven 100 percent cotton fabric might be the best bet, either from t-shirts, pillowcases or bedsheets. Most scarves are more porous but again are better than nothing.

If you sew, the CDC website has few patterns you can follow. It can be found here:

Surgeon General Jerome Adams also put out an instructional video on how to make masks out of household items. It can be found here:

This virus is a silent killer and very dangerous. Any face covering, used with proper social distancing, will help slow the spread of this disease that has already taken tens of thousands of lives around the world.