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Face Masks for Greenbelters

posted in: Pandemic

The Greenbelt City Council voted to require face masks at Buddy Attick Park, including the path around the lake. Seems like a good idea, based on all the reports of crowding there. 

I was so glad to see the executive order from PG County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (also now by Governor Hogan for all of Maryland) that requires face masks in stores and on public transportation, following these CDC recommendations:

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

I went to Greenbelt’s Target store the morning this took effect, during the early hours for people at risk (I’m old enough to fit the bill) and was sorry to see that the order isn’t being enforced. A manager told me they can’t enforce it; only law enforcement can.  While they clearly can’t arrest people, perhaps they could talk to the uncovered and offer at-cost face-coverings of some kind for them to purchase and use while shopping?

Walking, Running and Cycling in Greenbelt

What’s NOT required or even recommended? Wearing them any time we leave our homes and yards, including while walking, jogging or cycling. The mandate applies to indoor places (plus farmers markets).

But we still need to be smart about it! People are reporting that the path around the lake is crowded, so I’m sticking to city streets instead, or walking the empty roads through the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

We’re so lucky to live here, where our sidewalks aren’t so busy that we can’t keep our distance. (How safe could can people possibly be walking the sidewalks of Georgetown, for example?) It’s easy here to keep at least 6 feet away from people while walking our sidewalks, switching to the street to avoid on-comers, and my own practice is to stay 10 feet away. (There’s no magic to the 6 number; 8 is better and 10 is better still, and close enough to communicate without yelling.)

Someone yelled at me recently for not wearing a mask outdoors (he was 25 feet away and there were no other people around) and it was upsetting but I’m going to just assume he’s misinformed. And not alone in that. Someone wrote on Facebook about a similar experience (with no yelling but an “angry face”) and one responder wrote that “Some people just have resting ‘angry’ face. Be gentle about it right now and don’t read so much into it. The person is probably scared and focusing on being vigilant; it’s not personal.” Sounds reasonable.

We all know it’s super-helpful to our physical and mental health to get fresh air and exercise, so I hope people don’t stop unnecessarily because they simply can’t do it with a mask on. The bandanna+rubber band thing I use hurts about 5 minutes, so wearing it for my hour-long walks isn’t an option. Running, in particular, is difficult to impossible to do with a mask on. One commenter on Facebook wrote that “I’ve been out on a few runs and simply can’t imagine doing it with a mask on. Keep your distance and you’ll be fine.”

And how about all the glasses people are wearing while exercising? Masks are notorious for fogging them up. And the mask itself can reduce visibility, so that’s not an option for us seniors, especially (this being the worst possible time to fall and break your hip, say.)  High-quality masks may perform better in these areas; I wouldn’t know.

(While I recommend gardening for fresh air and exercise, it’s not aerobic.)

Make your Own Mask

So how can we be safe and follow important government mandates to cover our faces in stores and on public transportation? Here’s what I’m doing, rotating 5 bandannas (from the Greenbelt Coop), washing after each use. Here’s the Surgeon General showing us how:

There are many videos for people willing and able to sew, like this one and this one. Just search on YouTube. Fabric may be easy enough to find (either buying online or using t-shirts ready to be retired) while apparently elastic can be hard to come by. But for our purposes as regular shoppers (not medical workers) the coverings made with rubber bands are adequate.

Greenbelt Volunteers Make Free Masks

Kudos to Sarah Liska and her co-conspirators for organizing a way for Greenbelters to make really masks for medical professionals and others in high-risk jobs. They invite local facilities, nurses, doctors, EMTs, etc to request masks,” according to their Facebook page.

The COVID-19 Makers and Helpers Greenbelt and Surrounding Area volunteers help in various ways. Sarah writes that “We have Sewers, ‘runners,’ ‘cutters,’ and people who just have material and notions in their home and are willing to give it to a good cause.”

This group is like the book “Stone Soup” – just a lot of Greenbelters who want to help and each has an item or skill set that makes mass production more possible.  Every day we are collecting and distributing as many as 100 or more masks to local hospitals, nursing homes, medical buildings, and even the Greenbelt Coop Grocery store. The masks at the police department are free, but we are accepting donations so we can replenish supplies..MORE important that money would be elastic or bias tape!!!!
The masks are also available to the public. Click to reserve one to pick up at the Greenbelt Police Station. That link says “If you have an exceptionally vulnerable recipient or are unable to pick up masks, contact us at GreenbeltMasks@gmail.com or text 301-655-7008 (don’t call).” A $5 donation is suggested.

Buy Locally

masks made by Greenbelters
Some Greenbelters who CAN sew are stepping up to make and sell them. Missy Dodd posted to Facebook: “Temporarily unemployed upholsterer! I’m making cloth face masks for $6.00 They are double thickness with a wire over the bridge of the nose to adjust for a closer fit. Reversible (after you wash it of course) Stay safe out there, we’ll get through this together!

And Hakimun Nahar wrote “Hello neighbors I’m a fashion designer in your neighborhood. In this difficult time all of us need face masks. I am making some to help my community. They are 2 ply cotton reusable fitted fabrics masks. I’m having good reviews for them. If any one interested please contact. Price is $10 each. As you know, materials are hard to find in USA. Stay safe.”

Both can be reached via Facebook.

Buy Online

Some recent lists of sources:

Follow Susan Harris:
“Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com and direct the nonprofit Good Gardening Videos.org.”

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