A mask project benefitting Covid-19 relief
When we stepped off the plane in January from our year abroad in Asia (hashtag digital nomad), a pandemic was the last thing we expected to be welcoming us home within a month. Where we had been in Hong Kong, wearing a face mask when you're sick is more than simply polite – a mask is a vital courtesy.
"Why some people embrace masks while others shun them is not just about government directives and medical advice - it's also about culture and history, a debate over evidence, and even about personal liberties. Yet in some parts of Asia everyone wears a mask by default - it is seen as safer and more considerate." – BBC
In 2019, a face mask also became a political statement during ongoing protests in Hong Kong; now in 2020, it's a statement of sorts here in the States, too. Over the quarantine we caught up on HBO's Watchmen series (a highly recommended binge-watch) which explores a darker, deeper motivation behind mask wearing – unrelated, yet eerily related.
If I'm being honest, as a Westerner I've felt uncomfortable or even dramatic putting on a mask. I have a minor in Psychology, so I'll hazard a guess as to why: to wear a mask in the West calls attention to ourselves – specifically, to my germs, and presumably therefore to my shamefully unclean lifestyle tsk tsk. Of course this isn't remotely true! But it's our unwritten cultural rule, even though Americans fully expect doctors, nurses, dentists, surgeons, and other incredibly hygienic professionals to wear them.
Not unironically, as doctors and nurses quickly became our heroes against an invisible assailant, the demand for front-line worker masks found us in a preventative pickle. The novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, swept the globe and in January declared its presence on our shores. In February, the US Surgeon General tweeted to "Stop buying masks"!
In hindsight (oh, 2020) our understanding of the virus was in its infancy. Those at the front lines urgently needed masks for protection against their Covid-carrying patients, but there weren't enough masks to go around. Now we know N95 masks are for the professionals, and cloth masks are recommended for the rest of us, with this word from the CDC:
CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Fortunately, now there are plenty of masks available to civilians! And thanks to relentless research under constant review, we know that masks are effective when used properly, although alone they are not enough to defeat Covid.
Right now in the US we're riding waves of openings and closings, following social-distancing rules, and washing hands properly (who didn't have a favorite how-to-wash-your-hands meme?). Practice good mask hygiene as advised by Johns Hopkins, including:
- Mask should always cover your nose, mouth and chin
- Avoid masks with openings or exhaust valves
- Keep your hands away from your face, and do not touch your mask
- Always remove the mask by the straps (do not touch the cloth)
- Reusable masks reduce waste, just remember to wash your mask after wearing
In solidarity (from 6 feet away)
How did we go from wearing our new Cooper sunnies on a Hong Kong rooftop to sporting Ferris FaceMasks in an Alabama grocery-store freezer aisle? Well, when there's a pandemic and you have the ability to help by getting masks into people's hands as quickly as possible, you improvise with a photoshoot on your weekly grocery run.
Backing up a bit – as two introverts who prefer to remain behind the scenes in our business, the decision to produce and sell masks was not one we took lightly. But after wearing DIY masks, we were really impressed by the masks we wore most often. Produced in Florida by our friends at 3FDM, we ordered more masks and gave them to family members, or had them mailed directly to loved ones far away.
Though we have different faces, the style works well on both of us due to the roomy fit and adjustable straps. Snug, comfortable, and reusable were requirements – the better the fit, the less likely you'll touch and fidget with your mask.
Spread love, not Covid
The design was great, but what about all the politics and the guilt: Were we literally capitalizing on a pandemic? Clearly not an option. Around this time, long-time Distil customer Ethan Lipman reached out to let us know what he had been working on. As an operations lead for EastBayFeedER, he told us about their partner World Central Kitchen.
Chef Andrés' incredible efforts feeding victims of natural disasters is being applied directly in the WCK #ChefsForAmerica program "making a key connection between people who need meals and restaurant workers and drivers who need to earn a living." Every day WCK distributes over 150,000 fresh, individually packaged meals to communities, including delivery to seniors who can't safely venture outside.
In partnership with our fulfillment team Nice Commerce, we are also donating to GiveDirectly's Project100 which employs their proven method of "effective altruism" to get cash into the hands of vulnerable people who need it most.
While many lives across the globe are affected, we feel humble to be able to play a small part in making things a little better by getting masks out there and donating 100% of profits from mask sales to these charity relief efforts.
Rolling with our new routine
They say it takes 66 days to develop a new habit, so in the meantime to help you remember this additional item in your new out-the-door routine, we've stitched in a magnet. Use it to keep a Ferris FaceMask on the fridge, or right on the washer where it'll hang to air-dry overnight and be ready for you in the morning.
"Putting on a mask every day before you go out is like a ritual, like putting on a uniform, and in ritual behaviour you feel you have to live up to what the uniform stands for, which is more hygienic behaviour like not touching your face or avoiding crowded places and social distancing." –Donald Low, a behavioural economist and professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
So as you head out on occasion to grab essential items, don't forget to grab your mask. Until we're on the flip side of this crisis with you, we'll be wearing masks, staying 6-feet away, washing our hands like seasoned professionals and screaming inside our hearts.
And stay up to date with your state's mask requirements at Masks4All.co