Wally Kennedy: Masks likely necessity for forseeable future

·4 min read

Jan. 28—Over the years, you learn to add things to your wardrobe. You want a light coat for cool weather, but a heavy one for when it's really cold. You want comfortable walking shoes for the trail, but boots when you do yard work.

Who could have foreseen that a variety of face masks would become part of that wardrobe? But here we are.

I have several types hanging off the turn-signal lever in my car and a whole bunch of them in a bowl in my kitchen, including the first, a very stylish cloth one in white-on-black polka dot. It was hand-made by a friend. It was ineffective, but better than nothing.

But even an ineffective mask can help remind people that you are aware that a deadly virus is circulating and that you expect them to keep their distance.

Eventually, I would pick up more effective masks in different styles.

Some are better at layering than others. I thought I was in control of the mask situation. But apparently I was not. To protect yourself from the omicron variant, and the variants that are likely to come after it, you need to wear an N95 mask.

This is what the experts are saying: "Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection."

But the CDC also noted: "Some masks and respirators offer higher levels of protection than others, and some may be harder to tolerate or wear consistently than others. It is most important to wear a well-fitted mask or respirator correctly that is comfortable for you and that provides good protection."

Translation: Any mask is better than no mask.

To put a better mask in my arsenal, because we know this pandemic will eventually become endemic like the flu, I went looking for N95 and KN95 masks locally. I could not find any. I ordered some KN95s online.

But are these real KN95s or knockoffs? You never know these days.

But here's some good news on this front. The rollout of free N95 masks for the public should begin next week in Joplin as part of the Biden administration's effort to distribute 400 million free N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile via pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, and community health centers.

The program is expected to be up and running in early February. The masks, limited to three per person, will arrive with flyers and signage from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for the masks. They will be available while supplies last. The 400 million masks amount to more than half of the 750 million stored in the stockpile.

I checked with the manager of the CVS at 32nd and Main streets about whether the store would be getting the masks and, if so, when? The manager told me that his CVS will get the masks and that the signage was going up. He said the pharmacy is waiting on the details as to when it will receive the masks. He said there is some confusion about the rollout of the free N95 masks and the free COVID-19 tests from the federal government that are beginning to arrive in the mail. He said some people are thinking the masks will arrive in the mail too.

They will not. You have to go to a participating pharmacy or community health center.

I also checked at the Walgreens at 32nd and Main streets. A clerk there told me: "We're just waiting on the masks."

It's not clear whether every pharmacy will offer the masks so it might be advisable to call your pharmacy to see if they have them in about a week or so.

I will certainly pick up these masks. You never know what's going to come down the turnpike next with this virus so it's best to be prepared for the worst.

New home

The Buckle, a longtime fashion fixture at Northpark Mall, will reopen Friday in its new store in North Point Crossing. The store is located between Kohl's and Kirkland's Home.

I visited The Buckle on Wednesday to see whether a pre-move sale is underway. No sale, but the store is full of merchandise in anticipation of this move.


Main Street Pet Care, 1910 S. Main St., closed about a week ago. Signs have been placed on the windows and doors to notify clients.

I received notice of the closing from a client who was a bit distressed about the fact that no one had called him about the closing.

Main Street Pet Care occupies most of the west side of the 1900 block of South Main Street in structures that once housed Joplin Tobacco Co. and a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

Contact Wally Kennedy at wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.