A local medical doctor has been an early proponent of face masks to use during the COVID-19 crisis. Now he is part of the effort to get masks into the hands of Roswell citizens.
The Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. also wants to use its membership network to help along these lines.
At this time, wearing face coverings while in public is still only a recommendation, rather than a requirement, by public health officials from the New Mexico Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previously, masks had been recommended only for those already ill or most at risk for serious complications.
But Dr. Masoud Khorsand with Kymera Independent Physicians has been strongly on the side of requiring their use since he became aware of the spread of the new coronavirus. He is a member of the medical advisory team for the Clinical Care Workgroup for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
He said that masks serve four purposes. They stop the spread of the virus to others. They protect the wearer from infection. They stop people from touching their mouths and noses, a major way in which the virus is transmitted from surfaces to people. Lastly, masks serve as “behavioral modification” tools. He said most people back away from others when they see them wearing a mask, which serves the 6- to 10-foot social distance rule.
But people wanting to follow the recommendations now have to determine how to obtain a mask, because store and online supplies are no longer available.
Khorsand said he is aware of some people selling them through local hardware outlets and knows of about six volunteer groups in the area making fabric masks. He said he plans to create a Facebook page to get the masks to residents who need them.
Bud Kunkel, chairman of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp., said its members are working with various people and entities to try to obtain and possibly pay for protective masks from various sources.
He also said he also wants to “challenge” local church groups to get involved in making and distributing fabric masks.
A couple of members of a local family have been making masks for family and for about a week, with Ruth Gonzalez saying she has fashioned about 100 of them so far.
A full-time health care worker and a seamstress as a hobbyist, she said that she does not have the time to make the masks for the general public right now, but she has some tips for those interested in fashioning their own.
She recommends using two layers of 100% cotton. Because elastic is no longer typically available in stores, she said, people have to get creative about what they will use to hold the face masks on. Some people are using fabric tie strings. Some are using thin elastic headbands when they can be found.
She also knows that some people are inserting a “filter” layer of paper towels between the two layers of cotton, with the heavier blue “shop” towels used by mechanics recommended.
If people are uncomfortable with sewing or don’t have access to cotton fabric, various social media videos show other options for creating face coverings.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has posted a video on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website about making a no-sew face mask using some rubber bands for ear loops and a folded bandana, scarf or small T-shirt. That video can be found at www.cdc.gov.
According to the CDC, face coverings are recommended in public, especially in areas where crowds gather tightly together, such as stores, because current indications are that even asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals can transmit the virus in droplets when they talk, sneeze or cough.
Khorsand said that cloth masks are only about 30% effective in stopping virus transmission. But with all the surgical and medical masks available needed for health care professionals, he said he thinks they are a good option for the general public.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.