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Opinion: Someone slipped me some face masks. What do I do with them?

Face masks these days are about as elusive as common sense during the COVID-19 pandemic. The masks - along with hand sanitizer, toilet paper and disinfectant wipes - have become as precious as gold.
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Face masks these days are about as elusive as common sense during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The masks - along with hand sanitizer, toilet paper and disinfectant wipes - have become as precious as gold. We’ve all seen the photos of store shelves cleaned out of these items by nervous people.

Masks, however, seem to be even more in demand, judging from the number of scammers who have been emailing on a daily basis trying to get me to bite on buying a bulk order – they just need my banking information!

Last night, a friend showed up with a package. She was speaking nearly in a whisper as she opened it up and showed me a collection of 20 face masks a “source” had given to her. These aren’t the level-three respirator N-95 masks that are so preciously needed by medical staff. They are called a microbial earloop face mask.

I protested, but my friend insisted I take a few of them and she left without letting me give them back.

face mask masks
Health officials have repeatedly said these masks shouldn't be worn by people who aren't sick. Chris Campbell photo

So, I have handful of face masks sitting on my dining room table as I write this column wondering what the hell to do with them?

Why am I confused? Well, here is one thing.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, has been repeatedly saying we don’t need to wear face masks in public if we aren’t sick.

"Where it's not known is how effective wearing a mask in the community is when you are not sick yourself," said Henry, last month. "The masks may give you a false sense of security. The most important thing you can do in the community is wash your hands regularly."

And not touch your face.

I’ve seen B.C. health officials repeatedly say to not buy face masks if you aren’t sick. I’ve also heard about people inducing panic by wearing a face mask in public because people think that person has the virus.

OK, so I don’t need to wear them, if I follow this advice.

So, I could just hold onto them in case I do get sick. There’s that.

Or I could ignore the advice and wear them if I need to go to the store for essential items.

My mom is 80. I’m not planning to visit her due to social distancing, but what if she is in dire need and I need to go to her place to help out? Should I wear it then?

This is what has happened during the pandemic. I normally trust the advice of health experts, but there are so many theories flying around right now it has me questioning everything and not always thinking rationally.

I could sell the masks. There seems to be a robust black market selling face masks and I bet I could make a few bucks out of it. I’m kidding. I would never do that. Anyone who does is a profiteering scumbag who deserves to be publicly scorned.

So, if I don’t use them and won’t sell them, perhaps I could donate them. I’ve read stories about dental offices being short of face masks, but now most dental offices have closed their doors.

Would hospitals take face masks donated by a random person? Perhaps, but I doubt it. These have not been handled in a sterile fashion. But I’m still going to ask on Monday if Fraser Health would accept them.

This is where our society is at in early 2020. Instead of enjoying the arrival of spring after a punishing winter, I’m scrambling to figure out how to unload 8 face masks that got slipped to me on the down low.

What a world.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.