mask

On May 29, Gov. Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 63, requiring all Virginians to wear face masks when entering most indoor businesses. Northam explained that because keeping our faces covered helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, the mask order is essential to a safe reopening of Virginia businesses.

In the early days of the virus, finding masks was a challenge. The internet was awash with suggestions on how to make your own face coverings. Hundreds of good neighbors donated their time and talent to making protective barriers for first responders and medical personnel. People who had masks held on to them.

As time passed, supply lines regrouped and most types of personal protective equipment became more accessible. The mask shortage ended. Today, facial coverings of all types are plentiful. People are wearing masks that support sports teams, political logos, flowers and just about anything else one can imagine.

But by far, the most plentiful and popular face mask seems to be the light blue disposable type. A month ago, a box of 50 sold for about $35 on Amazon. Today, one can purchase that same box for anywhere between $19 and $24. Amazon Prime customers can get free next-day delivery.

The readily donned masks help keep us all healthier. But there is a downside to these convenient coverings. Too many people carelessly are discarding them like common litter. In the past several weeks, shoppers, joggers, sunbathers and environmental groups across the state have reported finding them lying on the ground in parking lots, hiking trails, beaches and waterways.

Not only is this newest trash item unsightly, but face masks that have been worn by people infected with COVID-19 — or even the common flu — basically are medical waste. Microbes can live for days on moist surfaces and easily could infect others who might touch such a mask.

We applaud all who are socially responsible enough to wear a mask. Please remember to be environmentally responsible enough to properly discard it in a waste bin when done.

— Robin Beres

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