Originally published as a column on October 5, 2020 on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News.

I have two reusable masks, both made in Kamloops by small business owners. One has a metal nose wire, and the other doesn’t. They are both great to use, and I do so, but I favour the first a bit more because I wear glasses and they fog up with wireless masks.

However, the elastic in my wire mask has loosened up a bit, which I fixed with a needle and thread. I intend to hold onto these masks for as long as possible.

I am not telling you this to put you to sleep, but to make a point. I have only tried two types of locally made reusable masks and they are both well made from good quality materials.

It’s a good way to contribute to the local economy, which I am hoping that many of us are doing, and was hoping that the school district would too. After all, the local community of crafty entrepreneurs need as much work as they can get, and with that, the money – and the guarantee for a well-done job, stays in the community.

On October 2, Kamloops-Thompson School District issued a recall for one of the two masks that each student in the district was given at the beginning of the school year. That’s because one student had the metal wire poke through the fabric after washing the mask. Fair enough, wires gone haywire (could not resist) is a safety matter, especially since they are close to the eyes.

With the recall in place I learned that these masks were manufactured in China, which means two things: that a good ongoing deal has not found its way into the hands of local businesses, and that these recalled masks might be thrown in the garbage.

Double the loss. The question is: where will the new ones come from? Will they be safe to use or will there be another issue and another recall?

If safety is a concern, then we should pause and think about how the actual masks, wired or not, are used. I am guessing that while on school premises, most students wear them as advised, because once they step outside and gather at say, bus stops, masks and physical distancing vanish.

They stand close to each other, sometimes peeking at each other’s phones to see some funny thing. Some have their masks tucked under their chin and others play with them while chatting.

I am not criticizing the kids, they are like all of us once were, blissfully engaging in each other’s company and ignoring the rules once they step outside the school zone.

Also, the safety of the cohorts is as good as gone when they leave school, more so when they mingle at bus stops or on the bus and maybe around town. The next day they hang out with their class and cohort colleagues and one can only guess that the safety boundaries are no longer in place.

While I know that the district is doing their best to figure out this big awful puzzle called covid-19 pandemic, I am hoping that in all its awfulness, this challenge will be met with some constructive thinking such as turning to local businesses to supply the face masks.

Here’s another idea: could students maybe use some of their school time to learn how to make their own masks? Could that make them more diligent in wearing them?

Worth a thought perhaps.

It’s been a couple of weeks of us parents and educators holding our breath while getting the school experiment rolling. It’s also the season of colds and flu, other than covid-19, but our hearts get a jolt every time we hear the case numbers or, God forbid, detect any signs of illness in our kids.

Masks are lifesavers at this point – general health and mental health too.

Let’s do it right then. Let’s remind kids why proper wearing of masks while at school and also during the times they spend in groups before and after school is responsible thing to do, along with regular hand washing and/or sanitizing.

Let’s keep it local. It’s a great time to teach kids that local economies are vital, any time, but in troubled times especially. We build that together, one product at a time, masks included.