By Marcus Day
Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for around 20 seconds. Maintain a minimum distance of about two metres from others, as much as possible.
Two of the most repeated guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19 … but what about the importance of wearing a face mask? Why hasn’t this message been drilled home with the same regularity and urgency?
It is a question that troubles Denise Needham, Darlene Froberg, and Linda Kapasky — who believe there is a strong case for making face masks mandatory in enclosed spaces in the Maple Creek area.
They are founders of Mask Makers JQ4 (Maple Creek & Area), a volunteer group that creates free cotton face masks for the community, with priority for essential workers.
The trio have different roles: Needham is the seamstress, while Kapasky is the community liaison, in charge of production and distribution. Froberg, a registered nurse, is the web developer, health liaison, instructional designer, and mask tester. As of June 30, the group, which formed on April 10, had made 1,064 masks and given away 606. It has also created a poster to promote its community masks (see Page 3).
On Canada Day last week, Needham, Froberg, and Kapasky spoke to the News-Times, expressing concern about “mixed” messaging on face masks across the country.
They are also worried about people dropping their guard as restrictions are eased under the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan, saying there is an ever-present danger of the invisible enemy of COVID-19 striking.
“The virus has not been eradicated,” said Kapasky, pointing out a possible vaccine could be a long time away. “The more freedoms we have, the more important it is to have an added layer of protection.”
“We need to think globally,” said Needham. “We all have to do our part — and we have to do it together.”
The group said the response to the quality of its masks has been very positive.
“People have been very happy with them, from what I can gather,” said Kapasky.
From the group’s observations, there is a gender difference in attitudes to face masks: men seem less willing to wear them, perhaps worried about being seen as weak or uncool, even though statistics show they are being hit harder by COVID-19. It has been known, for instance, for a wife to accept a mask, while the husband declines one.
Froberg said the idea of equating mask-wearing with weakness was misconceived. If men saw themselves as family guardians, then they should support anything that strengthened that role.
“Men as protectors need to wear masks,” she said. Colour is also an important factor in mask-wearing. The group is asking for donations of material, such as camouflage-coloured cloth, that might appeal to men.
During the interview, the group laid emphasis on the need for public kindness and empathy, as the world grapples with COVID-19. Mask-wearing, it said, demonstrated respect and consideration for others.
Asked recently about face masks, Michelle McKenzie, the mayor of Maple Creek, said wearing them was a matter of personal choice.
As she understood it, science suggested mask-wearers were not protected from COVID-19 — but were less likely to spread it to others.