The cultural connotation of the word “mask” has changed drastically over the last six months. It used to conjure up images of Halloween, supervillains and even skincare, but in recent months, face coverings have become synonymous with maintaining health and safety. The importance of wearing clean masks is undeniable as made evident by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] and countless healthcare professionals. The CDC recommends a mask with two or more layers of fabric that are snug on the nose and chin. Masks with exhalation valves are discouraged along with thin coverings such as bandanas and neck gaiters, commonly known as buffs. Neither prevent the spread of potentially viral particles. With this in mind, Willamette students have begun to build their mask collections in preparation for the new semester.
Paisley Leiske (‘23) is one of many who have accumulated cloth masks from her hometown. One of her favorites is a floral blue, yellow, and green mask that she was gifted for free at a restaurant. She rotates between five masks, but has up to ten at home. “I wish I could say I was stylish enough to match my mask to my outfit, but I don’t, it mostly depends on what’s clean!” Leiske said.
Some students, such as Ben Fritz (‘21), are frequent users of disposable masks. “At the beginning of the pandemic, a friend’s dad sent over a really large bag of disposable masks,” said Fritz, “but I’m making the switch to reusable masks starting with one I may or may not have taken from my girlfriend.” The classic blue disposable masks are instantly recognizable and many were stockpiled at the start of the pandemic. Over time, the more sustainable option of reusable masks has become popular. A disposable mask is always better than having no mask at all, but be sure to clip the elastic straps when you throw it out to ensure that wildlife will not be entangled.
Willamette Housing has also contributed to the mask collections of those who live on campus. Free, black Willamette masks were given to first-years at the commencement of Opening Days and are some of the most common masks seen around campus. Professors have also handed out homemade masks to provide further protection from the virus. “Professor Fisher made masks in all different sizes and laid them out for us to take at the end of class,” said Jenna Harris (‘23). “When I grabbed mine she said, ‘not a lot of people like the Peppa Pig ones.’”
Matching masks have also become increasingly popular among students. Corinne Pierson (‘22) has about ten masks at home, but is particularly drawn to a maroon mask with an embroidered pair of swimming goggles. “I live with three other housemates and when we all moved in, one of their moms bought us matching masks because we’re all swimmers on the varsity team here.”
Though mask collections are seemingly vast already, it’s never a bad idea to accumulate more. Don’t forget to wash them frequently and to keep sustainability in mind when you choose a mask in the morning. Stay safe and smart, Bearcats!