The Great Mask Debate

The many masks of Garfield.

A fashion accessory most did not expect to become a staple in their closets was the mask. Although a known object amongst medical professionals and highly polluted populations, the mask was not expected to find its way into the outfits, appearance, and safety of students. This school year, Garfield’s halls have been decorated with masks and facial coverings of all forms. So, what masks are the best? Which takes the cake for best looking but most importantly, most protective? 

At the beginning of the pandemic, many had started collections of brightly patterned and eccentric cloth masks. The look was practical and attractive to younger people. However, as the pandemic continues to rage on and new variants appear, the cloth mask becomes less and less effective. The gaiter, buff, and ski mask trend continues to take Garfield by storm. Offering a single layer over the face, the buff/gaiter is an old classic, suitable for cowboys and the wild wild west. The ski mask on the other hand is a new interpretation of a COVID-19 mask, with a similar shape to the balaclava, offering a full coverage, fashion forward mask providing virtually no protection. The CDC confirmed that all of these could be a perfectly plausible mask option if another mask layer was incorporated. 

Others have opted for the simple, yet versatile and preventive surgical mask. A classic and standard mask many have familiarized themselves with even before the pandemic, frequenting in doctors and dentist offices, and  more recently in schools, public transportation and storefronts. However, in recent weeks, the effectiveness of a single surgical mask has been called into question. Throughout the two-year pandemic, the surgical mask has been the most accessible mask to everyone, but will a single surgical mask continue to suffice? According to the most recent COVID regulations, surgical, cloth and virtually any mask not worn by front line workers has been deemed as ineffective in the spread of Omicron, a new strain of COVID-19 with higher transmittable rates regardless of vaccine or mask status. Incomes the KN-95/94.  A beloved option for both the Center for Disease Control and precautious households is the iconic KN-95. It offers a sleek and pointed silhouette, a variety of neutral colors that pair with every outfit. The KN-95 is a favorite of many, being 95 percent more effective at filtering particles and preventing any touching of the face (a welcomed aspect of any mask). The KN-94 is a close relative to the 95 in regards to preventability and safety. However it offers a much different silhouette, with a rounded surface and a separate nose mount. The KN-94 is the perfect option for those who want a less abrasive shape, with equal the amount of prevention. But as prices go from twenty to sixty dollars on sites like Amazon and more counterfeit masks are being sold, the KN-95 and 94 have become less and less accessible to students. 

In recent days the PTSA has funded up to four thousand dollars to provide every Garfield student with three KN-95 masks. Given that these masks were to be handed out during class, a significant portion of Garfield’s Running Start population did not receive these same accommodations. Although not directly from the district, the efforts to keep students safe is recognized. Until the district can provide the appropriate masks for every school in the district, the disproportionate distribution will continue to impact the rates of COVID-19 in school. In the meantime mask up, and throw away the gaiters.