To mask or not to mask?

Should you wear a mask and how might you get one? We unpack these questions.

That is the question of the moment – and we’re not talking facial cleansing. The jury seems to be still out on whether masks protect you from the coronavirus and its resulting disease, COVID-19. Experts agree that they may do a better job protecting others from you than you from them. Still, there are doctors who think we better be on our way to becoming a mask culture. And there are those who say the masks can help when you have to be in public.

“If you are an essential worker, and if you’re being asked to work during this time, I do think that wearing a simple surgical mask would be effective and would be helpful in trickling down the amount of infection,” Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D. – the oncologist, cancer researcher and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” told  “PBS NewsHour’s” Jeffrey Brown in its March 31 installment.

With that in mind, we present two stories of mask-making in our time as a public service.

The first involves our cousin, Nicole Roque. A former logistics officer for the U.S. Air Force, for whom she worked the flight line at Ramstein Air Base outside Frankfurt, Germany, Nicole was a ballet and skating costume designer/seamstress by trade until the virus hit the pause button on performances. At loose ends, her husband suggested she make masks. She posted one online and sold it in 10 minutes. Then her sister, Carissa Ronish, who works for The Nathaniel Witherell, a short-term rehab and long-term care facility in Greenwich, asked if she would make masks for the home. So Nicole donated a bunch. She figures the ratio of sales to donation is now one to one.

The masks are made of double-ply washable cotton. Nicole being Nicole, she personalizes them with appliqués. For more, email her at

Meanwhile, the Dominican Sisters of Hope, the Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of the Divine Compassion are making masks for the Wartburg care facility in Mount Vernon and Bronxville, using U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.  

  “Sewing isn’t my strong suit, but I am making a donation toward the purchase of elastic and ribbon,” says Sister Rose Kenlon, a member of St Francis. “Anything for Wartburg’s marvelous staff.”

 The masks are not the same as N95 respirators but will be useful for other essential personnel who also need protection, a Wartburg spokesman says.

Mukherjee, wh  just wrote about COVID-19 for The New Yorker, also made this appeal during the “NewsHour” interview:

If you are not a health care worker and you happen to have an N95 mask, please do a social service and donate it to a health care worker.”

His thoughts are echoed by David Gentner, Wartburg’s president and CEO:
“We need continued advocacy for more broad and rapid testing and assurance that protective equipment will continue to be available.  Also, (Gov. Andrew Cuomo) and (Westchester County Executive George Latimer) have called for retired nurses and medical professionals to volunteer to help in the effort.  Finally, we ask that all people in this community practice social distancing, self-monitoring and general flu-prevention measures.”

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Georgette Gouveia

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