The Latest CDC on Masks

Over the last 18 months, with the help of many on this page, I’ve sold tens of thousands of ill-fitting and highly ineffective cloth masks to raise money for the mikeroweWORKS foundation. Specifically, I refer to the ill-fitting and highly ineffective cloth masks that say, “Safety Third” on the front.

So far, sales of these delightfully subversive face coverings have generated nearly $400,000 for the next round of work ethic scholarships, while upsetting a lot of people who believe that Safety should ALWAYS be First, and that any suggestion to the contrary is both irresponsible and not funny. A brief word, then, to my detractors.

From the very beginning, I’ve defended my decision to sell ill-fitting, highly ineffective cloth masks for the simple reason that ill-fitting, highly ineffective cloth masks have been approved for use by the CDC. This is a critical fact, the importance of which cannot be overstated. My cloth masks – like all cloth masks – were NOT designed to protect you from a microscopic virus; they were designed to cover your face as comfortably as possible while conforming with current government safety standards. To say it as clearly as possible, being “in compliance” is not the same thing as being out of danger, and I for one do not believe that any cloth mask will protect you from getting or spreading Covid. They will, however, allow you to shop for groceries, go to the bank, enter a pharmacy, or fly around the country.

Recently, however, I’ve begun to wonder if the medical community might one day come to the same conclusion, and finally admit that ill-fitting, highly ineffective cloth masks don’t prevent the spread of Covid. Just before Christmas – eighteen months into the pandemic – Dr. Leana Wen spelled out her concern with this tweet. “Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations and should not be considered an acceptable form of face covering. The US should require (& distribute) medical-grade surgical masks to be worn in crowded indoor spaces.”

Then, Dr. Wen followed up with this bit of insight. “Covid is airborne. Omicron is much more transmissible than earlier variants. We are in the middle of a viral blizzard. N95/KN95s are NOT in short supply. What’s the delay, @CDCgov? Recommending high-quality masks should have been done many months ago.”

Like I said, it was only a matter of time before science confirmed that high quality, surgical grade masks are superior to ill-fitting, highly ineffective face coverings made from cloth. Well, sure enough, the CDC got wind of Dr. Wen’s conclusions, considered the logic therein, and responded with this. “The CDC is currently looking to update its recommendations for KN95 and N95 masks in light of omicron. We know these masks provide much better filtration.”

Obviously, this was bad news for the future of my fundraiser, and the sale of cloth masks in general. Happily, though, and against some very long odds, the CDC has just reversed itself with an announcement from their director, Rochelle Walensky, who said this to White House reporters on Wednesday – “The CDC continues to recommend that ANY mask is better than no mask, and that recommendation will NOT change.”

Whew! That was a close one! For a minute there, it looked like my fundraiser was over. But it’s not! Thanks to the latest CDC guidance and current government standards, you can still buy an ill-fitting, highly ineffective Safety Third cloth mask that will NOT protect you from Covid, but will nevertheless allow you to travel freely about the country, while engaging in lively conversations about the critical difference between being in compliance and being out of danger. Get yours here, while they’re still legal.


PS. It’s come to my attention that other people are now selling similar ill-fitting, highly ineffective cloth masks that say Safety Third. If I sue them, I’ll donate the settlement to mikeroweWORKS. In the meantime, my version is the only one that helps train the next generation of skilled workers.