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Covering Up for COVID; Locals Talk ‘Mask’ Requiremen
From handcrafted creations to the commercially produced, Imperial Valley residents show off their custom face coverings now that Imperial County Public Health Officer, Dr. Stephen Munday, has required all county residents must cover up to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when going out into public places. | COURTESY PHOTOS/M. VALADEZ PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

Covering Up for COVID; Locals Talk ‘Mask’ Requirement

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IMPERIAL COUNTY — When Holtville resident Carolina Villa found out that wearing a face mask in public would be required, she immediately got creative and made two matching silk masks — one for her daughter, who is a nurse, and another for her granddaughter.

She made one for herself, too, which she said she wore for the first time while shopping for groceries at Wal-Mart.

“After wearing the mask for 45 minutes, I actually felt like I had brain fog. I couldn’t concentrate. It was uncomfortable wearing the mask because I had asthma. I realized, if it is hard to wear myself for 45 minutes, can you imagine the nurses and the doctors having to wear it for more than eight hours? it is a sacrifice for them to wear it and they are to be commended,” Villa said.

Several Imperial County residents shared their thoughts and experiences with covering up since Imperial County Public Health Officer, Dr. Stephen Munday, issued a public health order effective April 10 that required face coverings be worn at all times when interacting in public with others.

Munday issued the order to help further reduce the spread of the COVID-19.

“Social distancing is making a difference according to data in the U.S.,” Munday said during an April 10 press conference, “but this is a new layer of protection.”

The order is a misdemeanor crime if not followed and can be enforced through a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail, Munday said.

“This is not meant to protect the wearer, it’s meant to protect others from spreading it,” the health officer clarified.

What Professionals Are Saying

Staff at PRN Desert Rehabilitation Institute in El Centro agree the masks are not the most comfortable or convenient, but they serve a greater purpose.

“It is a great idea for all to wear masks,” said Courtney Barker, an El Centro resident and an occupational therapist. Although her place of work provided masks, they were was not a good fit as she has a small face.

“I ordered them (reusable masks) through Amazon for four packs for $20,” she said.

Imperial resident Anthony Ornelas, an occupational therapist aide, said he added an extension to his homemade mask, so it won’t hurt his ears.

“It is very uncomfortable and my jaw hurts. I bought some homemade masks from someone on Facebook. We need to remember, ‘cuidate que nadie te cuidara,’” he said, which translated to English means, “take care of yourself; no one else will.”

“The mask is uncomfortable around the ears, but if that is what we need to do to stay safe and take precautions, then it is a sacrifice we need to do until all this passes,” Calexico resident and physical therapy aide Ginna Jimenez said. “If we have kids at home, we have to come back home and be safe. It is hard to breath. My jaw feels tight after we take it off.”

Jimenez stated she ordered more masks online with different materials and attachments on Instagram, which were $24 for a pack of two.

Looking at the Lighter Side of Life

The more protection, the better for Jesse Chavez, who is a pharmacy cashier at the El Centro Rite Aid. Chavez was wearing a face mask and a face shield that covers his eyes and face recently. He said his wife made the face mask.

“I feel safe, especially when I work with people right in front of me. (It) doesn’t mean I will not get the virus,” Chavez said. “It is not comfortable to wear, but I feel more safe.” 

Barbara Fusi of Holtville wears a surgical mask, and she said she may keep using it even after the pandemic passes because it covers her wrinkles.

Fusi, who is retired and enjoys painting as a pastime, has been a lot of her favorite activity while social distancing and staying at home.

Rick Johnson and Jodi Ferguson Johnson, retired Valley-ites, sent this newspaper photos of themselves sporting skull-printed face coverings while celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary.

Who would have thought face masks would have become a fashion statement, Rick asked rhetorically. “It used to be that you were automatically ‘detained’ whenever you wore a face mask in public,” he stated.

Rick said he recently saw on the news how a man was physically removed from a public bus because he refused to wear a mask.

More from Munday’s Health Order

In addition to asking that people try to stay at home as much as possible, Munday explained that if people have to go out and be among the public at essential places of business, continue to practice protective measures against COVID-19, that is, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and cover your face.

The coverings are for the protection of others and to prevent yourself from touching your mouth and nose. Those riding in vehicles, either by themselves or with members of their family that they are already staying at home with, do not have to wear masks, Munday clarified during the press conference.

Also, notice the health order, nor Munday during the press conference, uses the term “mask.” He explained he wants the public to avoid wearing surgical masks, like the N95 model, and save those professional-grade items for healthcare providers and front-line medical workers.

For tutorials and directions on using face coverings, see links:



This story is featured in the April 16, 2020 e-Edition.