Everyone knows the point of wearing a mask, right? I feel like I have to check. A mask that covers your nose and mouth prevents droplets from your sneezes and coughs from spreading and possibly infecting other people.
We are being asked to wear masks because when everyone has their noses and mouths covered and they interact from a safe social distance, the chance of COVID-19 spreading from person to person is lower than it would be if we weren't wearing masks. Masks that completely cover our noses and mouths. Some people don't seem to understand this.
First, there was the woman who cut a strip out of her paper mask to make it "easier to breathe," which defeated the whole purpose of the mask. And now, masks with holes in them, so you can drink booze through a straw, are being sold. Well, they were. They are currently sold out.
The idea for the mask with a hole in it is the brainchild of Ellen Macomber, an artist and seamstress based in New Orleans. "We're all in New Orleans, and here in New Orleans, we like to drink," Ellen told Fast Company.
In order to keep her fashion business afloat, Ellen recently made the shift to producing face masks. A friend made the suggestion to create a mask with a small slot in the middle so people could drink cocktails (or coffee or whatever) through a straw.
Ellen told Fast Company that she and an assistant produced 40 masks in a week and sold them for $30 each. They sold out in half an hour. She's now trying to ramp up production of these problematic masks, but it's hard since they are handmade and take about an hour each to make.
Macomber's mask went totally viral because it, um, seems to completely defeat the purpose of a mask. Twitter users everywhere roasted it to no end.
But according to Ellen, the hole isn't really a hole at all. "We were thinking of doing a lip appliqué, where it would flap open and close but you’d have to touch your face," she told Fast Company. "I was like, ‘Well that won’t work because you have to touch your mask.' That’s when I was like, ‘Dude, we just drill a little flap, an extra layer, and you angle the straw to get in. So the hole is never completely open.'"
Ellen told Fast Company that she is not a health specialist and "doesn't claim that her mask should be the de facto for COVID-19 prevention." That being said, she does feel that her masks scratch an itch.
She sees people gathering in socially distant groups to drink and hang out, and they're not wearing masks. This mask would allow them to do that in perhaps a moderately safer way. "Anything is better than nothing," she says, and I think on that front, she's not wrong. If this mask gets people who wouldn't otherwise wear one to wear one, hey, that's something. Still, there's another issue at play here...
Twitter users are able to poke holes in just about anything, aren't they? Pun definitely intended. In many places, single-use plastic straws have been banned or at least frowned upon. This mask has a hole in it, which is problematic in and of itself, but it also promotes straw use? Tsk tsk.
Ellen made her mask for a specific set of people she's witnessed. She understands that her mask might not be ideal to wear "near your grandmother or during a grocery store run."
And it's not like she's having trouble selling these hole-y masks, so the demand is definitely there. Let's just hope people are responsible enough to use them in certain situations and not in others.
Ellen does have plans to make masks without holes, along with masks for kids and babies. But right now, the demand for these masks with holes is through the roof. She told Fast Company, "I’m just rolling with the punches, and trying to provide my clients with what they’re asking for: a mask. This is my take on it.” Stay safe, everyone. And maybe, if you can, drink cocktails in the safety of your own home. At least for a while.