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Blubaugh: Where, when and what kind? As mask-wearing continues to confound, are face shields next? | COMMENTARY

Think the argument over wearing masks is contentious? In the Philippines, citizens now have to wear full-on plastic face shields every time they go out in public.

A good case can be made for this type of PPE in the fight against COVID-19. No danger of having it fall under your nose, as masks can and do. And those pesky particles can’t drift past the shield into your eyes.

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So maybe that guy I saw Friday night wearing his motorcycle helmet, but no mask, into a convenience had the right idea?

No clue. Are there easy answers to any of this?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m for everyone doing their part to keep themselves and others safe. I wear a mask when I go out because science says it’s the right thing to do and because I don’t want people to feel scared around me. (Covering up half my face seems to help with the latter, oddly.)

Masks come in black or white (or any color), but let’s not pretend this is a black-and-white issue.

Initially, there was little call to wear them. Soon they became mandatory when entering public buildings, but without any standards. Because there was such a shortage of commercially made masks, we were told, wear whatever, just cover up.

Thanks to that advice, I saw a guy in a local big-box store with a pair of boxer shorts wrapped around his face. I’m not sure that was a particularly healthy choice.

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Cloth, nylon, plastic? Bandannas, T-shirts, towels? I walked around with a hat over my face one day when I couldn’t find anything else.

A recent Duke University study showed wearing a certain type of neck gaiter — a fabric tube athletes favor that can be pulled up over the face — is actually worse than not wearing any mask at all. The researcher speculated that texture would split large COVID-19 particles into many smaller ones, which would remain airborne longer. Who knew?

Locally, masks and youth sports were discussed at Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.

The commissioners went along with prohibiting “high-risk” sports — tackle football, basketball and wrestling — at the rec council level earlier this month, but when Health Officer Ed Singer asked that mask-wearing be made mandatory during competition, they decided that was a bridge too far. As of now, kids playing soccer or anything else this fall will have to wear masks to the field and on the sidelines, but not while playing.

That’s similar to the way many fitness centers are handling masks, mandating they be worn except when using equipment during exercise. A letter-writer last week noted that exercising is precisely when masks should be worn, given the increased exhaling going on.

My gym recently made masks mandatory at all times. The first time I tried to do my regular workout with a mask on, I noted that after about 15 minutes my heart rate was 10 or so beats per minute higher than it had been in previous weeks, sans mask.

Psychosomatic? Maybe. But I retreated to the locker room, took off the mask, gulped in as much as oxygen as I could and I haven’t been back to the gym to work on my “quarantine 15″ since.

The arbitrary nature of mask rules is hard to justify. I went to a youth basketball tournament this summer where the kids spent game after game leaning on each other, sweating on each other, yelling at each other ... but couldn’t get near other after the games, waving rather than slapping hands in the interest of being safe.

Which wasn’t as bad as the first time I went to an eating or drinking establishment after they were allowed to reopen with limited indoor seating. Masks were required when walking in or sidling up to the bar. No masks needed when seated at the high-top tables. Staff reprimanded one of the people I was with for not wearing a mask as he stood next to his chair for a few minutes to stretch his legs. His position had changed by perhaps 18 inches, yet he had gone from being perfectly acceptable to a dangerous violator of state law.

So, should masks be worn at the table? While on the treadmill? On the playing field? And what type? I’m still not really sure.

Mandatory rigid, plastic shields worn at all times is probably a safer and less confusing way to go. But I won’t be moving to the Philippines anytime soon.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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