We’ve all been scrambling for masks the past few weeks. Finding one during a pandemic is a necessity and now an obligation in France when using public transport or shopping in some stores. We’ve had to learn the hard way that a mask can protect us and protect others from the contagious COIVD-19.
Yet it hasn’t been easy to get one particularly for our healthcare workers on the frontline. But with a bit of imagination and creativity, masks are now an extension of our health habits, wardrobe and personality.
Why are masks so important?
A new study by the Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute explicitly explains that wearing a mask can protect you by 80% from spreading or contracting COVID-19 through a viral charge. Countries such as Japan and Hong Kong, which are more culturally inclined to wear masks, have a much lower COVID-19 mortality rate than France or the United States.
The researchers have developed computer models and simulations to show why wearing a mask can make a huge difference when practiced with social distancing. Learn how in this fascinating 4-minute video to help you weigh the pros and cons.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo would like everyone in Paris to be wearing a mask outside. Mayors of big cities such as Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Montpellier agree with her. While the French government has not made wearing a mask mandatory on the streets, an emergency doctor at the Private Hospital of West Paris insists we should.
“My message is just protect yourself, protect others. And for this you have to wear masks. Everywhere. Every time you go out, it’s very important” – Doctor Romain Mariauzouls-Wolny
Dr. Romain Mariauzouls-Wolny’s emergency department at the private clinic in Trappes was turned overnight into a COVID-19 unit treating up to 40 patients a day for the past two months. He believes a second wave in France is inevitable with the deconfinement that started on May 11.
The emergency doctor says the reality is the medical and scientific community still do not know enough about how the virus lives, spreads and affects us. The doctor understands everyone is anxious to resume a normal life but they should not forget a pandemic exists.
Where to find the right mask
Two million free masks are now being distributed freely to passengers taking public transport in Ile de France. The Paris Mayor has made an additional half a million washable masks available to the grand public until the end of May. These masks can be washed up to twenty times and can be obtained at free distribution points such as designated pharmacies in the French capital. To sign up for a free voucher, click here to order your masks and find your pickup point.
You can also buy them in tobacco shops, pharmacies and supermarkets.
Paris expat Deyi Tcherdakoff and daughter Julia wearing Delphine Mongrand’s washable masks. © Deyi Tcherdakoff
Smile through your mask
When handicraft maker Delphine Mongrand closed her workshops on March 17 for Paris lockdown, she didn’t stop her production for long. She began sewing a few homemade masks with the bolts of fabric and ribbons in stock. Within a month of confinement, Delphine had stitched more than 2000 washable, reusable masks in playful patterns with a slot for a filter. After donating a large amount to hospitals, she began selling them in her husband’s Paris chocolate shop.
Word of mouth spread about these masks now certified for use by the French government.
And sure enough, a visit to Roy Chocolatier shop in the 16th reveals a colorful display of her creations in the store window. You can’t miss the giant chocolate dwarf wearing a mask. INSPIRELLE spoke with Delphine and her husband Stéphane Douville – from a safe social distance – about how masks have changed our lives in the time of coronavirus.
Delphine, what gave you the idea to start making masks after you had to close your handicraft business due to the lockdown?
I couldn’t just stay at home and do nothing. It was a stressful time and we heard so much about nurses and doctors not having enough masks and safety equipment. I have many friends who work in hospitals and I wanted to help. I had the fabric and material in my workshop. So I started to sew washable, reusable masks and we would donate packages to them. It made me happier being involved.
Why did you start selling them in the chocolate shop?
I am not doing this to make a profit. There were not enough masks for everyone, and everyone was looking for them before May 11 to start the deconfinement.
My husband, Stéphane, re-opened his chocolate shop just before Easter being very careful to respect the new health rules. He is always wearing one of my masks and customers would say where did you get that? We put some in the shop and customers come in to buy chocolates and masks now!
The French government has certified my masks. I don’t do this for business. It’s my way of getting involved right now.
Why are people so taken by your masks?
When you wear a mask all you see are the people’s eyes. I hear people say, “Oh, I don’t see your smile anymore.” With my masks, in their different colors and patterns, I think they feel happy that they are protected.
I say, “Look at people’s eyes and see them smiling above their mask.”
For a mask with flair and sustainability, you can purchase a package of two of Delphine Mongrand’s masks for 9.90€ and also indulge in some delicious chocolates at Roy Chocolatier in the 16th arrondissement. Two guaranteed pick-me uppers in this time of restrictions.