In the Czech Republic, wearing masks in public has been required for the whole country since March 18, 2020. A grassroots campaign started by a social media influencer led to the widespread use of masks in public, a move that is saving lives. The hope is that similar campaigns will spread in the U.S., the U.K. and other countries around the world where wearing masks in public is still stigmatized.
Last month, at the earliest appearance of Covid-19 cases, the Czech government was among the first on the continent to shut down all non-essential businesses, impose severe restrictions on public gatherings, and close its borders. They quickly adopted the physical-distancing and hand-washing regimen that has now become standard all over the world.
What sets the Czech Republic apart from almost every other country in Europe was the decision in mid-March to require everyone to wear a face mask covering the nose and mouth at all times outside the home. Without complaint, the entire nation transformed itself almost overnight into a giant factory churning out homemade masks. Thousands of individuals and businesses immediately began sewing masks out of a variety of fabrics. Dozens of video tutorials for producing makeshift respiratory masks appeared on the Internet in Czech and English. Within three days, there were enough masks for every man, woman, and child in this country of 10 million.
Wearing a mask is a signal of each person’s willingness to play his or her part in this battle against the pandemic. Those who defy the law by pulling down their masks to drink a coffee or smoke a cigarette are subject to a hefty fine and also run the risk of being confronted and ostracized by fellow citizens. The government has now banned cigarette smoking outside, for this reason.
“Mask trees” emerged, on which people would hang homemade masks in public places where anyone in need could pick one up. They were made with bright colors and patterns, distinguishing them from the surgical masks being prioritized to health care workers. Meanwhile, social media and celebrities got involved, urging people to share the information, take a selfie wearing a mask and use the hashtag #masks4all.
In the Czech Republic, mask wearing is now seen as a pro-social, selfless act and a measure of kindness for your fellow humans, as wearing a mask not only protects you from others but also protects others from you.
Their motto for wearing masks centers on kindness:
“Your mask protects me, my mask protects you.”
Now, if you’re not wearing a mask in public, you’re considered to be antisocial and putting others at risk – a sharp contrast to the U.S., where mask wearing is still far from commonplace.
The new information that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week indicated that the virus can be spread through the air and by people with no symptoms. The CDC recommends that everyone wear a non-medical face covering in public settings. Trump said the guidelines were voluntary, adding that he wouldn’t be wearing one. (He didn’t like the visual.)
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, warned that masks should not replace social distancing and hand washing but should be added to what we are already doing.
Data scientist Jeremy Howard studied why wearing masks could be a key strategy to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), stop lockdowns, get the economy back on track and restore society back to normalcy. Howard, founder of fast.ai, explained that in countries that have implemented widespread use of masks in public, COVID-19 cases have remained under control. Furthermore, masks can be made inexpensively at home, which means you’re not “stealing” a mask from a health care worker by wearing one in public.
Ivan Hung, an infectious diseases specialist at the Hong Kong University School of Medicine, explained:
“If you look at the data in Hong Kong, wearing a mask is probably the most important thing in terms of infection control. And it not only brings down the cases of coronaviruses, it also brings down the influenza. In fact, this is now the influenza season, and we hardly see any influenza cases. And that is because the masks actually protected not only against coronaviruses but also against the influenza viruses as well.”
“Cover your face with cloth – however you want to do that,” said Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs who was a co-author of a widely shared article about the need to cover your face. “Cover your face pretty thoroughly from your mouth to your nose to prevent large aerosol droplets coming out or going in.”
This sounds like good advice. I have sewn – by hand because my machine is broken – a mask for my husband and one for myself. After a trip to the grocery store, I realized I will need a couple to get through the day. I wash everything I wear to the store immediately upon returning. I just took my last walk around my neighborhood without a mask. There were some people wearing masks but the majority of people were without masks. Some were on their daily run, huffing and puffing and, no doubt spraying who-knows-what. Younger people are still acting invincible while they hang out together on blankets by a nearby lake. Women were walking together chatting with little regard for the 6 foot distance asked by the CDC to maintain. My mask was in the laundry. I want to have two or three ready to go.
If you’re not able to sew or don’t have materials available, a simple mask can be constructed by cutting a T-shirt into a square that fits snugly across the nose and mouth. Leave extra fabric to use as tie strings along the top and bottom to secure the mask to your face. You can slip a coffee filter or a vacuum filter between layers for extra protection.
Another option is to cut a section of coffee filter and place it in the center of a bandana that’s been folded in half lengthwise. Then, fold the top and bottom of the bandana over the filter to create a long, layered strip of fabric. To wear the mask, place a pair of hair ties or rubber bands about 6 inches apart in the middle of the fabric length, folding the bandana around the ties, which can fasten around your ears to secure the mask to your face.
Follow this link for a tutorial on how to sew your own fabric face mask from common household materials.
Surgical masks are 89% effective against 0.02-micron bacteriophage particles, while other materials have been rated as follows:
- Vacuum cleaner bags 86%
- Dish towel 73%
- Cotton bland T-shirt 70%
- Antimicrobial pillowcase 68%
- Linen 62%
- Pillowcase 57%
- Silk 54%
- 100% cotton T-shirt 51%
- Scarf 49%
The highest-quality, most expensive medical masks, called N95 respirator masks, should be reserved for hospital workers and emergency responders who are regularly exposed to high viral loads from infected patients, both from frequent contact as well as medical procedures that can spew tiny viral particles into air.
Dr. Soe-Lin said she believed an added benefit of a mask was that it serves as a constant reminder against touching your face, a major way that the virus is spread. But no face covering, whether it’s homemade or a medical mask, makes you invincible. Pulling a mask on and off or fidgeting with it will lessen its effectiveness. And in theory, fiddling with your mask could contaminate it. Always remove a mask by the ear loops or the tie, trying never to touch the part that covers your face.
Follow the trends that have already been proven effective in other countries that have effectively “flattened the curve” of COVID-19 by including masks as part of their general precautions. It absolutely makes sense to make your own and use it whenever you’re in public, even if you’re not sick.
Wearing homemade masks is a step that virtually everyone can take to protect not only themselves but also the communities around them, especially when used in conjunction with other infection control measures, like hand-washing, keeping a 6 foot distance from people and adhering to a healthy, preferably plant-based diet. Remember that the coronavirus is a zoonotic virus, transmitted from animals to humans. The universe is telling us something. Could it be to Stop Eating Animals?
Maca is a Peruvian plant grown at high altitudes in the Andes mountains. It is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning that it is related to broccoli, cabbage, and kale, that looks similar to a turnip or radish. It only grows well in the cold, arid climates of high mountain plateaus, and in soil that is inhospitable to most other crops. The main edible part of the plant is the root, which grows underground. It exists in several colors, ranging from white to black.
Maca root is generally dried and consumed in powder form, but it’s also available in capsules and as a liquid extract. The taste of maca root powder, which some people dislike, has been described as earthy and nutty. Many people add it to their smoothies, oatmeal and sweet treats.
Maca root powder is very nutritious, and is a great source of several important vitamins and minerals.
One ounce of maca root powder contains:
- Calories: 91
- Carbs: 20 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 133% of the RDI
- Copper: 85% of the RDI
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
Maca root is a good source of carbs, is low in fat and contains a fair amount of fiber. It’s also high in some essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, copper and iron. It contains various plant compounds, including glucosinolates and polyphenols. Maca powder is a good source of B-complex vitamins and minerals like calcium, zinc and iron. The high fiber content in maca supports a healthy digestive system and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. With seven essential amino acids, maca powder is a nearly complete source of protein.
Maca powder works by nourishing the adrenal glands, which regulate the hormones involved in energy production. It has none of the negative side effects associated with caffeine!
The most well-known benefit of maca root is its potential to increase libido. There is some evidence that maca root increases men’s fertility. A recent review summarized the findings of five small studies. It showed that maca improved semen quality in both infertile and healthy men.
One review of four studies in menopausal women found that maca helped alleviate menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and interrupted sleep. Some proponents of maca root believe it may help balance levels of the hormone estrogen.
Animal studies suggest that maca can help protect bone health. Women have a higher risk of osteoporosis after menopause.
As an adaptogenic root, maca powder strengthens our ability to deal with stress and manage anxiety. Adding a few teaspoons of maca powder to your diet can help balance stress hormones when they’re out of whack. It’s been associated with reduced anxiety and symptoms of depression, particularly in menopausal women.
The endocrine system secretes hormones that affect mood and behavior, and sometimes those levels can become imbalanced. Maca powder naturally stimulates hormone levels that are too low, and regulates those that are overactive. Maca contains plant compounds called flavonoids, which have been suggested to be at least partly responsible for these psychological benefits.
Maca root powder is a popular supplement among bodybuilders and athletes. It might help you gain muscle, increase strength, boost energy and improve exercise performance. Some animal studies indicate that it enhances endurance performance.
There is some evidence that applying maca extract, a concentrated form of the plant, to your skin may help protect it from UV radiation. An animal study conducted in 2011 found that extracts from maca leaves might help prevent the formation of sunburn cells. Keep in mind that maca extract cannot replace a conventional sunscreen. Also, it only protects the skin when applied to the skin, not when eaten.
Maca may improve brain function. Maca has traditionally been used by natives in Peru to improve children’s performance in school. In this regard, black maca appears to be more effective than other varieties. A 2014 review of the literature suggested that maca may have benefits for learning and memory performance. Research suggests that it could be helpful in treating conditions that affect these processes, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Peruvian natives believe that consuming fresh maca root may have adverse health effects and recommend boiling it first.
Additionally, if you have thyroid problems, you may want to be careful with maca because it contains goitrogens, substances that may interfere with the normal function of the thyroid gland. These compounds are more likely to affect you if you already have impaired thyroid function.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult with their doctors before taking maca.
How to Buy
You can buy organic maca at your local coop or grocery store. Maca root powder is the traditional form of maca root. It’s mainly flour produced from the maca root. This is the pure, organic form of the plant. The standard dosage is between 1500 mg to 3000 mg per day.
Maca root powder is usually loaded in gelatin capsules or pressed into tablets for ease in dosage. There is no mixing or cooking needed. Just take the capsule together with your favorite beverage. This form of the root must also be 100% pure, organic powder. Examine the list of elements on the bottle to see if any preservatives or different chemicals have been added. Make sure to check the dimensions of the capsule when you’re calculating dosage. Capsules come in quite a lot of sizes from 240 mg as much as 800 mg.
How to Store
Maca powder can be stored at room temperature for up to one year. It can also be stored in the refrigerator, although this isn’t necessary. Maca powder can be stored in the freezer for up to 2.5 years.
How to Cook
The easiest way to use maca is to add a teaspoon to a tablespoon to individual smoothies or protein shakes.The malty flavor works particularly well with chocolatey flavors.
Maca powder is also a good addition to energy balls or no-bake sweets.
Sarah and Peter Hagstrum
- 1 1/2 cups pure hemp protein
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1/2 cup toasted carob
- 1/2 cup raw cacao
- 4 teaspoons vanilla bean powder
- 1/2-1 teaspoon stevia or monk fruit (luo han guo) – Check the label – some manufacturers balance the taste of monk fruit (it is very sweet) by mixing it with other sugars, such as maltodextrin or dextrose. This can change the sweetener’s nutritional profile and make it unsafe or undesirable.
- 4 tablets chlorella, ground up (1/2 teaspoon, if you have powder)
- 1/4 cup maca powder
Mix all ingredients together in a glass jar!
Plant-based protein powder that you buy in the store can be pricey. This homemade protein blend is clean, cost-effective, and it tastes great. Shake it up in a mason jar and store in a cool, dark place. Mix this homemade protein powder with water or with your favorite non-dairy milk.