Your Humble Blogger has been back at work for a week now! It was surprisingly difficult to adjust to getting up, dressed and out of the house every morning. It has been surprisingly easy to adjust to wearing a mask for eight hours a day.
I thought I’d write down some of my thoughts about wearing a mask for full days—I think there have been a lot of people in my position, who were either unemployed or working from home for the last few months, and who have been wearing masks on occasional errands but not for full days. I know there have also been a lot of people wearing masks for full days all summer, and in fact wearing full PPE gear for 12-hour shifts, and I admire those people a lot! And there are also people who are actually studying how this stuff works medically, and those people are also terrific. But there are a lot of us desk-worker types and academia folk who have been staying home like we were supposed to, and are now (for a while, anyway) starting to put in full days out in public, with our faces covered like civilized humans. And if not, well, these are my thoughts anyway.
First, obviously: wear a mask! Wear it properly, covering your mouth and nose, and ideally snug to your face around the edges. That’s the stuff we’ve already known, and that applied if you were just making a quick grocery run or getting your eyes checked or whatever, but it’s obviously also true when you are at work all day.
The thing that is obvious in retrospect, but wasn’t so much until I did it, is how much difference good climate control makes. Wearing a mask all day in a cool, air-conditioned or well-ventilated space is very different from wearing one in a hot, stuffy warehouse. If an employer wants workers to wear masks properly for full workdays, put some oomph into the cooler. There are other issues with ventilation, that I can’t really speak to, but I can absolutely speak to the mask part.
As long as the air is cool and dry, though, a full day of mask-wearing is not that bad. I found (and I’ve heard this from others, too) that there’s a stretch of time around two hours in or so that it’s irritating, but if you press on, then the irritation goes away again. I will admit that it is always a relief to take the mask off at the end of the day, just as it’s a relief to take off my shoes or undo my collar button (my shirt collars have mysteriously grown narrower over the twenty weeks of my furlough) and as I am told it is a relief to take off one’s brassiere, but there it is. Work clothes aren’t necessarily as comfy as pyjamas.
My household bought a few different styles of masks and face coverings, to try out to see which ones we like best, and I would definitely recommend that. Different people have different faces, and will like different styles. A good metal clip over the nose is important for spectacle-wearers like YHB, in my opinion, although there are those who prefer soft cloth and a scrap of medical tape. I don’t mind the elastic around the back of the ear, but that’s going to be a problem for some people while the tie around the back of the head is not. I found the neck gaiter to be terribly uncomfortable, being held up only by the elastic around the bridge of the nose, but one of my siblings prefers that kind. People are different, one to another.
I would strongly advise, however, that you find a comfortable mask that meets the baseline medical recommendation, rather than getting the safest mask. I do think it’s a good idea to have a really really high-end safe mask, if you can get hold of one, yes. But if you are going to be in an office or classroom or library all day, a good-enough comfortable mask that you are going to strap on and then leave alone for hours is much better (in my opinion) than an excellent mask that you will fiddle with or take off. Save your supersafe one for the doctor’s visits or other short errands that may require close-up.
The main problem with the mask this week is that I drink a lot of tea over the course of my workday. Sip, sip, sip every few minutes. I have not yet tried to drink through the mask and poured hot tea down my front, but it’s only a matter of time. And I don’t have any pattern yet for dealing with it—at the moment, I am mostly stepping through an open doorway to lift my mask and sip, as if the air cannot possibly come back through the portal. I could figure something out with a straw, but not without making the mask a lot less effective. I imagine it will be a matter of forming new habits, which is always hard… but doable.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,