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The mask has become the symbol of the pandemic

If there has become one symbol that characterizes the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the facemask.

They’re everywhere. You see them in the stores, on the streets, the restaurants, offices and even in some homes (but not mine).

They come in all shapes and sizes, colors and patterns; they’re store-bought, handmade, shaped, something grabbed spur of the moment, part of a T-shirt and some have patterns. Some are held on the face by elastic, others by drawstrings and all are hot. They’re disposable or washable.

They partially shade the eyes, pinch off or obstruct the nose sufficiently enough to make breathing difficult and if worn for months without washing smell like a pair of dirty socks.

Masks are the topic of debates — wear one, don’t wear one — a source for ridicule and an item most people wouldn’t be without.

They have become like toilet tissue, a scarce commodity and treated like gold. They’re becoming one of the top items now being advertised on TV and available for $19.95 or $13.95 or $12.95, and call immediately and the company will double your order, giving you umpteen masks to use around the home, at work or visiting the neighbors. By the way, they also make great Christmas gifts, but they don’t slice and dice.

My family and I have never been strangers to the facemask. Going back almost 15 years, we wore them to protect our respiratory systems from mold, mildew and dust as we cleaned out our home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Back then, masks were a prime commodity as every homeowner on the Coast was looking for them. We were fortunate to get them when we made periodic trips to Baton Rouge.

Back then they were necessary. They were also hot, uncomfortable and made it difficult to breathe. When COVID-19 went from a few sick people to the pandemic in the U.S., the first masks we used were those leftover from Katrina; we got our money’s worth.

Now I wear a mask made by my wife. Given my fascination with the first Star Wars trilogy, my mask has a pattern of storm troopers — my wife couldn’t find her Darth Vader material. My backup is the Millennium Falcon and X-fighters.

The nice thing about it is my glasses don’t fog when I wear the mask, allowing me to see where I’m going. It is also, for the most part, comfortable, and I haven’t seen another one like it, making me, I guess a trendsetter; ah, the pleasure of being one of the elite.

I’ve seen a lot of different style masks as I go through town or go to the store, and I also see many people not wearing masks around town, and I’m not going to judge anyone as to whether they wear a mask or not. But it makes me curious as to why.

Some day, when all this is ended, I’m sure we’ll put our masks away, probably in a dresser drawer or box in a cabinet. There they will sit until that one day when we pop up and we’ll grab them and recall a time when that piece of cloth was once high-fashion and our lives changed.


John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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