Reusable masks are one way to fight COVID-19

To overcome the pandemic, we must embrace masks. Why not use ones that are also environmentally friendly?

Masks are inevitable. The number of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta tells us that our somewhat-diligent acts of social distancing are not sufficient enough to slow the rate of COVID transmissions.

Part of this, I suspect, is symptomatic of our United Conservative Party government’s slow, inefficient response to the pandemic. However, I argue that we have ourselves to blame over our initial resistance to adopt and use masks as a part of daily public life. Studies show that masks greatly reduce the chance of either contracting COVID-19 or spreading COVID-19 to others — why dispute the data when lives are on the line? 

Thus, to manage the shock when reality arrives, Albertans should prepare to embrace masks as simply a new function of human life. This means stocking up on reusable masks.

If masks are truly part of our social existence, why use reusable masks? After all, they’re not as convenient as disposable masks, and you have to wash them after every use! Furthermore, a disposable mask is almost always available; reusable masks require a schedule that includes cleaning and maintaining the mask — more tasks to do in our already-busy quarantined life. Where do we find the time to manage our existing lives with the added challenges presented by COVID? The answer, of course, is by supporting local tailors through purchasing, in bulk, a hoard of reusable masks.

Although disposable masks are convenient and relatively free of labour, their downfall is located within their name: they are disposable. 

Despite our pleas for a bright autumn, winter has arrived in Alberta, covering our cities and communities with a blanket of snow and slush. With the arrival of snow’s purity, garbage and other debris become magnified within the snow’s whiteness. Disposable masks add another eyesore to the already-present trash that plague our lawns, parks, businesses, and schools. It’s all too easy for someone to wear a disposable mask once, then toss it anywhere when its service is rendered complete. 

A reusable mask, however, is less likely to meet this fate: why throw away a piece of fabric that contains a dope design of Baby Yoda or a psychedelic pattern, as many reusable masks do? However, while it’s harder to justify disposing reusable masks, the maintenance required to wash reusable masks is often reason enough to simply buy a large package of disposable masks. What if we do the same with reusable masks?

When my girlfriend bought 15 reusable masks in June, I thought she was trying to retain her online shopping addiction by buying practical things during quarantine.

What I realized, however, is that it’s much easier to maintain and use 15 reusable masks than five. As she works in the service industry, she must wear a mask every day to protect herself, her customers, and the people she loves. 15 masks can be used for two weeks without using a single mask twice and without washing them. It’s much more manageable to wash 15 masks once every two weeks than it is to wash five masks every week, or whenever all the clean masks are used. 

My girlfriend, as she usually does, proved me wrong. While I initially considered purchasing more than 10 masks at a time to be excessive, it turned out to be a savvy investment in preserving one’s health and safety, along with saving time doing laundry.

Wearing masks, just like doing laundry, is inevitable in Alberta. However, this doesn’t mean we should follow the path of least resistance and stick to disposable masks in our day-to-day interactions. Stocking up on reusable masks, as one can do by shopping online, should be promoted to reduce the amount of time spent maintaining masks. All this should be done to maintain the health of our lungs, along with the beauty that only an Albertan winter can provide.

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