Here's the situation. Coronavirus is in full swing and the tools we have to 'flatten the curve' are evolving.
This is what we know for sure:
Hand hygiene is essential: a 20 second soap and water hand wash is your best bet, followed by hand sanitizers and other disinfectants.
"Soap is more than a personal protectant; when used properly, it becomes part of a communal safety net. At the molecular level, soap works by breaking things apart, but at the level of society, it helps hold everything together. Remember this the next time you have the impulse to bypass the sink: Other people’s lives are in your hands."
(The New York Times, Ferris Jar, March 20, 2020)
Social distancing appears to be working: Whether you have symptoms or not, you may be a carrier and as a result, social distancing has become an essential tool for everyone - with or without symptoms.
"There is going to be a natural lag or delay between when you implement successful interventions to reduce the spread of disease and when you see the actual number of reported cases peak or begin to drop.
So, the first few weeks of social distancing might be discouraging. But I believe that eventually we’ll see the number of new cases drop—thanks in large part to the social distancing we’ve been doing."
(University of Michigan, David Hutton, March 30, 2020)
Wearing a face mask is effective: We know that N95 face masks work best, but they are in limited supply and - for now - it is generally agreed that supplies should be kept for front line workers. This brings up the next question...
Should we all be wearing masks, and if so, where should we get them and what should they be made of?
There has been a lot of debate about the wearing of masks - some scientific and some cultural. The opinions vary greatly depending on the Country of origin.
In China, George Gao, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the past 2 months claims that the biggest mistake western countries are making is not ensuring everyone is wearing a mask:
"The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks. This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role—you’ve got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth. Many people have asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others."
(Science Mag, Jon Cohen, March 27, 2020)
By contrast, in a February 29th tweet, US Surgeon General, Jerome Adams said:
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
It seems that in recent days, however, the US may be reconsidering its position and encouraging the general public to start using cloth masks, while saving supplies of the hospital grade (N95) masks for front line workers.
"Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are considering altering the official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces... according to a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing matter of internal discussion and nothing has been finalized....
The official said the new guidance would make clear that the general public should not use medical masks — including surgical and N95 masks — that are in desperately short supply and needed by health-care workers.
Instead, the recommendation under consideration calls for using do-it-yourself cloth coverings, according to a second official who shared that thinking on a personal Facebook account. It would be a way to help “flatten the curve,” the official noted.
Such DIY cloth masks would potentially lower the risk that the wearer, if infected, would transmit the virus to other people. Current CDC guidance is that healthy people don’t need masks or face coverings."
(Washington Post, Joel Achengack, Lena H. Sun and Lena H. Sun, March 30, 2020)
How Do You & etee Fit In?
We have several thousand meters of organic cotton fabric that we were planning to use to launch our foodwraps and bags in Europe. That opportunity has fallen through and our wrap sales have also slowed down in recent months.
As a business, we are surviving the pandemic, but it has had an impact and like many businesses right now we (and everyone who works for us) are vulnerable, so we are considering using our organic cotton fabric for mask production.
We would like to set it up as a buy-one, donate-one offer where we could both help the larger community by donating the cotton masks to community groups in need (for example, one local hospital is requesting cotton masks for visitors or to use over top of N95 masks) and continue to operate our business.
Having reviewed the Science about cotton masks we feel that they are a useful tool - not a perfect solution - in slowing the rate of infection. We believe, for the general population, cotton masks result in a "I protect you <> you protect me" situation by limiting the number of droplets that exit your mouth and reducing the amount you touch your face.
What do you think? Would you support this project? Let us know in the comments below.