Masks, Resistance, and Hope

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August 10, 2020 by libroshombre

Glancing at an article on the best material to make anti-Covid masks from, I saw it was from last April, and thus woefully dated, what with the constant flux in pandemic information.  “New Study Details the Best Types of COVID-19 Face Masks,” from is from June 30 and said, “the most effective homemade face masks are those made with tightly woven fabric and providing a good seal along the edges, bandanas aren’t effective,  N95 masks are great, but “should be reserved for those who need them,” and “surgical face masks are another effective option.”

Their information is from a study reported in the scientific journal “Physics of Fluids” conducted by Dr. Siddhartha Verma, a Florida University professor whose team tested all sorts of materials and found that handkerchief and bandanas “were virtually ineffective” and “determined that the most effective homemade masks were those that were well-fitted with multiple layers of quilting fabric.  Cone-style masks also worked well.  ‘Quilting cotton, with two layers stitched together, turned out to be the best in terms of stopping capability.’”

“Tea towels and antimicrobial pillowcases aren’t ideal materials, but they’re better than a single layer of cotton,” for homemade masks, according to a July 16 article by Aria Bendix in  The UK study she cited says they’re the next best alternative to vacuum cleaner bags, but they need to be very tightly woven to be effective at all.  They also learned that “people who wore cotton masks had a 54 percent lower chance of infection than people who wore no masks at all.”

A brand new, not-yet-peer-reviewed study from the University of Illinois found that “three layers of either a silk shirt or a 100 percent cotton T-shirt may be just as protective as a medical-grade mask.  Silk in particular has electrostatic properties that can help trap smaller viral particles.”  However you slice and dice it, as CDC Director Robert Redfield predicted in the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association, “the universal adoption of face masks could bring the US’s outbreak under control in as little as four weeks.”

We’re all exhausted from dealing with Covid-19 at every turn, so it helps to dwell a bit on hope, like Vaclav Havel, playwright and Czech President.  It’s “a state of mind, not a state of the world.  Either we have hope within us or we don’t.  Hope is not a prognostication – it’s an orientation of the spirit … Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.  It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless how it turns out.”

Emmett Ashford, the first major league baseball umpire, loved wearing his protective mask at the ballpark and provides an example of Havel’s style of hope.  Ashford broke the color barrier in the minor leagues in 1951 and was promoted to the American League in 1966.  As such he was the first Black authority figure many baseball managers and umpires had ever dealt with, and he consequently suffered at least as much abuse as Jackie Robinson, even from fellow umpires.  Yet he was an energetic and entertaining umpire who maintained his love of the game throughout.

Paul Rivet, a leading figure in the French Resistance in WWII, wore a different mask – that of founder and Director of the Museum of Mankind in Paris.  He was a high profile figure but networked, translated, and provided the cover for opposing the invaders.  As Nazi tanks rolled into town, he posted on the museum’s front door Kipling’s “If” (”If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs … you’ll be a Man, my son!”) and went on to recruit the organizers of the Resistance from his staff and around Europe.  They trained in the museum’s library, run by librarian Yvonne Oddon.  Part of their efforts included publishing a clandestine newspaper, which Oddon proposed calling “Resistance” to recall the French Huguenot women who were imprisoned in the 1700s because of their religion and carved “Resister” into their cell walls.

That’s how the movement came to be known as “the Resistance.”  They were betrayed, and after being tipped off that the Gestapo were coming, Rivet escaped to Colombia in 1942.  The others were sent to concentration camps, but Oddon survived the Ravensbruk camp, and today the Museum of Mankind has the “Yvonne Oddon Library.”  As Utne Reader founder Eric Utne described Havel’s version of hope, “It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless.”






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