Two glimpses of common sense emerged out of California in the coronavirus crisis. In Los Angeles, mayor Eric Garcetti told 4 million Angelenos to stay home as much as possible, but when going out, cover their faces. “This will be the look,” Garcetti declared as he modeled his own face mask for public outings. The instructions run counter to current guidance from CDC and state medical authorities, but Garcetti argued that it’s the best way to keep asymptomatic carriers from spreading COVID-19:
The mayor of Los Angeles urged 4 million residents to wear masks to combat the coronavirus when they walk out in public, even as state health officials shied away from requiring a coverup.
Homemade cloth masks, or even a “tucked-in bandanna,” will help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the nation’s second-largest city and remind people to practice safe social distancing, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday as he donned a black cloth mask to make his point.
I know this looks surreal,” Garcetti said. “We’re going to have to get used to seeing each other like this … This will be the look.”
But he urged people against using medical-grade masks, such as N95 or surgical masks, which are in short supply and needed for health care workers and first responders. Garcetti also said people should only use masks when they are going out to shop for food or perform other essential tasks.
Two days ago, the CDC reportedly began reconsidering its initial guidance on masks in public. The delay on changing this stance is understandable to some degree for two reasons. One, the CDC doesn’t want to leave people with the impression that face masks will make it safe to congregate in public again, which Garcetti also addressed by scolding, “This isn’t an excuse to suddenly all go out.” Second, they don’t want to create a run on surgical and N95 masks that are already in short supply for health-care workers, another point Garcetti emphasizes.
However, the use of homemade masks, industrial masks, and leftover clinic masks (which is what I have been using) makes lots of sense. Anything that contains respiratory droplets to the individual makes it less likely for transmission to occur in close proximity to each other. Masks mainly operate as containment for the asymptomatic rather than protection for the uninfected, but there’s at least some value for both. Any serious effort to restart public interaction will have to include face shields or masks of some sort, or else we will start seeing a new wave of infections as asymptomatic carriers come out of seclusion.
In other words, this is common sense, a quality usually in short supply in California’s governing class. In another rare outbreak of common sense, San Francisco has decided to eliminate another potential transmission source — reusable grocery bags:
In the latest sign of how dramatically the coronavirus pandemic is altering the social landscape, even the liberal San Francisco Bay Area this week banned reusable grocery bags as a sanitary measure, dismaying recycling advocates who say durable sacks should still be allowed at stores.
The provision was among a host of lifestyle changes imposed Tuesday by six Bay Area counties in a rewrite of their first-in-the-nation March 16 order that required millions of residents to shelter at home. The counties have been credited with taking early actions that may have helped slow the spread in California.
The Bay Area counties reduced the types of businesses and facilities that can stay open to the public and tightened requirements for those still operating, including grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants still open for takeout or delivery. Among the updated requirements in the order, which lasts through May 3: “Not permitting customers to bring their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items from home.”
The rule appears to be the most stringent coronavirus-related restriction placed on reusable bags in California, which has banned single-use plastic bags since 2016. California allows the 70 or so jurisdictions whose local bans preceded the state ban, including most of the Bay Area, Los Angeles County and Sacramento County, to preempt state law.
Eco-warriors might be dismayed, but reusable grocery bags are potential infection sources even in the best of times for grocery stores. Single-use bags allow stores to control their environments much better, even if that means that we have more plastic or paper disposal than usual. Modern plastic bags are more biodegradable, and paper doesn’t act as much as a medium for viral and bacterial growth. In a time of pandemic, we can’t afford to keep reintroducing material from people’s homes into places where food and other necessities are sold and bagged.