You Probably Already Have Face Masks At Home And Don’t Realize It

In a huge about-face, the CDC is recommending that Americans wear masks when out in public. They want to preserve N95 respirator masks for health care workers who have the greatest exposure to COVID-19, but believe that the general public wearing lesser masks can help stop the spread.

  • N95 masks provide enough of a filter to keep the virus out, and protect the wearer

  • Standard masks will do something to prevent the virus from spreading beyond the wearer

The recommendation isn’t to wear masks for your own benefit, but for the benefit of those around you. The underlying reason for the shift in recommendation is that early in the pandemic the CDC was saying that aymptomatic or pre-sympomatic people would not spread the virus. That’s no longer believed to be true.

While masks aren’t the only driver of this by any means, it’s still a striking chart:

Someone without any symptoms, or with mild symptoms, may shed the virus and infect those around them. You may have COVID-19 and not even know it (and may not ever know it until there’s serotesting, the first antibody test has been approved but it’s not that useful yet). And even the weakest mask will do something to prevent the spread if you cough or spit, the theory goes.

Since you can’t get your hands on the good masks, and will be socially shamed if you do, you’re expected to protect others with whatever you can find. Etsy is full of home made masks (some with slots to fill with home air filters or paper towels).

But if you’re a frequent traveler you probably have face masks. In fact you may have a bunch of them in a closet without even realizing it. Ever take an international flight in a premium cabin, and bring home the amenity kit?

Go to your closet, pull out that amenity kit, and turn the eye mask into a face mask. It’s your ticket to social acceptance the night time you have to go to the grocery store.

To be sure it’s an imperfect solution at best. You want good masks that you can wear correctly. (HT: David S.) But it’ll get you by in public until you can make or buy something that offers better protection – which, until the CDC changes their mind again, should be right away.

Update: it occurs to me you should also go through your amenity kits to find hand sanitizer as many include that hard to find item as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s fascinating how quickly the sheeple can respond to whatever directive is issued from their “leaders”. Critical thought is gone in this country.

  2. @James N: Please go out and meet as many like minded people as possible. Charles Darwin approves that (if after your meetings you stay away from people that are not like minded)

  3. @Sven the problem is that not enough people like @James N get thinned. And unfortunately, they get to vote too, which is what gets us in these messes.

  4. This is a brilliant suggestion. Thank you! Miami Beach has issued an order that masks must be worn to go into grocery stores and drug stores and to pick up restaurant takeout. Of course there are no masks to buy (not even bandanas), yet the order went into immediate effect. I used a long scarf yesterday, not so good. A sleeping mask underneath is perfect!

  5. Cut out a piece of coffee filter paper, tape it on the inside…for a bit more protection.

  6. So there’s a use for the Spider-Man eye masks from United other than freaking out your kids?

  7. @James N: I was merely suggesting that all these “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” type people should stay the f**k amongst themselves and let nature run its course. If all is as harmless as you think, you’ll be totally safe.

  8. How do you know James thinks this is harmless? I see his point that people follow CDC instead of their own critical thinking. Are some of you the same idiots who ridiculed people for wearing masks because the CDC said they did nothing?

    NY Times ridiculed people telling them wearing masks is just a superstition.

    The CDC taking so long to about face on this, when it has been so obvious for anyone with common sense for weeks, just highlights their slow ability to understand or react.

  9. @FlyingBoat: “sheeple” is a dead giveaway that he’s one of the tinfoil-hat wearing freedom-fetishists who will always claim any order from the government is just part of a great conspiracy

  10. Here in Colorado, they showed a very simple mask construction:

    Take a bandanna (or a piece of t-shirt about the side of a bandanna) and fold it inwards a few times so now you have a cloth about the correct height for a mask.

    Place two large rubber bands near the ends of the bandanna and then fold the edge of the bandanna inward to cover the loops of the rubber bands. Place cloth on face, loop rubber bands over ears.


    As I believe that I am just about recovered from C-19 (after two weeks of illness at home), I will wear one if I go out to slow the possibility of infecting others.

  11. Sven – you do know wearing the mask doesn’t protect you but keeps your germs near you. Comments on here about people not wearing them dying out due to natural selection are, therefore, flawed. As for me I won’t wear one unless mandated by law. Sorry just not going to do it.

  12. Finally I have come out on top. My wife has been trying to get me to throw away those amenity kits, but I resisted.

  13. I took the clue from the Japanese. In winter, most Japanese wear masks. Japan’s rate of infection is much lower and now the statistics prove so. Keep your distance, wash your hands, wear a mask, and only go out if you have to!

  14. It should be noted that South Korea is smaller than the State of Florida. Japan is smaller than California. Singapore has 5 million and Hong Kong has 7.5 million people. Containment obviously will be easier with these countries versus a lot of others.

  15. @AC

    “As for me I won’t wear one unless mandated by law. Sorry just not going to do it.” —AC

    Thank you for sharing the extent of your selfishness. And also of lack of critical thinking.

    True, a homemade mask or surgical mask or poorly fitted N95 mask doesn’t provide the level of protection of a properly-fitted N95 mask. But plenty of studies have shown that in addition to keeping your germs in, this protecting the community from asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic spread, even homemade masks can reduce incoming viral load by 30-50%. Surgical masks by up to 70-80%. I’ll take that over nothing.

    Lastly, it’s not about you. Wearing a mask is a way for you to signal that you actually care what happens to your community, it signals to others that you are taking *their* health and safety seriously. So if we all did this, it would help reduce transmission— even if it’s only 10-20% that’s worth doing, at very little inconvenience to ourselves.

    I really hope the individual-at-all-costs mentality doesn’t end up irreparably damaging the US.

  16. @AC Exactly, a mask doesn’t protect you but keeps your own germs near you. So it’s a great tool for people who are asymptomatic and don’t know yet that they are infected to reduce the risk of infecting others. If everyone acts as if they would be an infected person, no one would get a new infection.

  17. In with you @sven. Please go out and do what you want. But make sure you sign a waiver that you won’t use a ventilator or hospital bed when you get sick.

  18. I cherish the comments from the likes of Sven. He validates my position over and over. Simply put, they lack the capabilities to advance an intelligent argument.

  19. I am so happy I didn’t throw out my hundreds eye mask in closet accumulating from the past three years.

  20. @James N: That is great that you get validation from me, but I still don’t see any argument on your side. In one comment you argue that stupid gullible people only do what they are told (just a quick reminder, it’s just about face masks). Both of your other comments just state that I validate your point.
    In my first response I merely point out, that now might be the time to turn off YouTube-academy and Alex Jones and listen to real experts and that, if you don’t want to follow their recommendations, you should rather stay amongst like-minded people.
    So what’s your point at all? Masks are not protecting you? I admitted that and made clear they mainly have the purpose to protect others. Do you think this is all a hoax? A bioweapon attack? Should I look up event 201? Benghazi? Pizzagate? QAnon? If yes you should take off your tinfoil-hat.
    Maybe you have a point, but you haven’t made any conclusive argument yet. Just saying “Think for yourself” isn’t one.
    I would be with you to some extent when you would speak about contact tracing with smartphone apps or other wet dreams of politicians who dream about total surveillance, but complaining about masks? That is really not a big deal in the grand picture.

  21. Protect your self. Use your own common sense . It is your life. We each need to do what ever we can to protect it. God gave us life. Listen t

  22. It’s all trash talk, because our great country have no ability to produce enough masks and other things for regular people.
    Hello !!!!!!
    Make more masks for people and people, please, wear them, don’t listen to stupid “advices”

  23. It’s all trash talk, because our great country have no ability to produce enough masks and other things for regular people.
    Hello !!!!!!
    Make more masks for people and people, please, wear them, don’t listen to stupid “advices”

  24. @Gary. Great post. Will start using these on my daily walk and trip to the Supermarket. Thank you.

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