By Christine Grace
As I remember, the COVID-19 pandemic really came into full effect the same week as spring break back in 2020. At the end of March, I returned to my house in Geneseo with my sister. My sister had been in Florida when COVID first became a threat in March and we didn’t want to risk our parents’ health, so I went with her to stay in my house on Franklin Street. Those two weeks of quarantine were mentally strenuous. Living in Geneseo during the pandemic was really sad because there was so little to do and not a lot of students stayed. At this point, the masks were not mandatory. I first heard about the mandatory mask rule from my neighbors in Geneseo at the time in April, who told me that after a certain time masks would be mandatory in New York State in public places. I had just left Wegman’s before that went into order, and they were just coming to Wegmans at the time it started. We passed each other in the parking lot. Because I had entered Wegman’s and left before the time the mandate went into effect, I did not wear a mask. My neighbors showed up after the time masks were made mandatory in New York State, so they wore bandanas around their noses and mouths.
In February, I was in complete denial that the pandemic would come down to having mask mandates. I was really hoping that it would really only take two weeks to flatten the curve, but of course it has taken much longer than two weeks. The thought of having to wear masks was very unsettling to me, I felt unease by not only the threat of the virus, but also the extent that the government was becoming involved. I feared that once masks were mandated, they would not be effective enough in slowing the spread and government officials might enforce curfews and confinement to just your home, as had been the case in places like Spain and Italy in April. Thankfully, the kinds of curfews and confinement in the United States was not exactly as strict as it was overseas.
In February and March, I had heard that bodegas, grocery stores, and other convenience stores in the New York City area had run out of masks completely as people were wearing them on their own accord. I only started wearing the mask in April, after it became state mandated. My sister and I had to fashion them ourselves at the time, my sister used a scarf and I used a bandana. I used a red bandana that I found stuffed in my sock drawer. It didn’t go very well in the beginning, I would clumsily tie my bandana too loose and it would slip or it would partly obstruct my vision causing me to have this weird brain-fog everytime I stepped foot in the grocery store. It was as if I only could see out of three quarters of my eyes. Once I came home from Geneseo, my dad gave me a couple of the blue paper masks. I used to be in denial about the whole mask situation to the point where I felt second-hand embarrassment for people with cloth masks up until May.
Back in March, I did not think the pandemic would come to that point. I thought mandatory masks would be really frightening, but as it turned out the toilet paper and pasta shortages were scarier than having to wear face coverings in public. In the beginning, I tried to stay home as much as I could because I felt really disoriented having to wear a mask out. Throughout the remainder of April and May I used the blue paper masks, which are the ones for medical use. I noticed this was generating a lot of waste because they are only good to wear a few times before they need to be discarded. In June I started my job as a waitress where my job supplied the blue masks, so I chose to continue wearing them because it was convenient. I really disliked working and having to wear the mask. The restaurant would get really hot and the mask was just not very breathable, so it was not comfortable running around a busy restaurant wearing one. It was also annoying having to enforce New York State restaurant mandates at the restaurant where I worked in the Adirondacks. Many customers were indignant about the mask rule, as if it were my own idea. I found that waitressing during the pandemic made me slightly nervous, as customers could remove their masks once seated. Overall not pleasant at all having to enforce the mandate myself on the general public.
The first cloth mask I got was given to me by my friend Riley in July. The mask was an athleisure type of material from Lululemon. I have since lost it unfortunately. It was maroon on the outside and white on the inside with black adjustable straps for the ears. A problem I had with this cloth mask was that it caused my skin to break out where the cloth met the strap near my cheekbones.
The second cloth mask I got came from the guy I was dating over the past few months. I think he gave it to me in January. It is black with adjustable straps, and what seems to be underwire in the nose band. I’m not sure exactly what the fabric of the mask is, but it is more breathable and does not cause “maskne.”
My father had to buy me a cloth mask once because I forgot mine before church. It was from the stationary store near the church in our town, and it smelled like chemicals I remember the moment I put it on. This mask was a plain black with a rigid nose band which I have since lost as well.
The most recent mask I accumulated was through another friend of mine. I visited Geneseo earlier this April and was given a white cloth mask with a floral print by one of my friends. I do not know why she gave it to me or how exactly I ended up with it, but I found it in the pocket of my sweatshirt when I got back home. I have yet to purchase a mask myself, although I seem to obtain them quite easily, so hopefully I will not need anymore masks for the rest of the pandemic.