How Many Face Masks Should You Pack to Bring to College?

If you're like me, you can't wait for school to start to give your life some sense of normalcy again — but how safe will that return be? For preventative measures, the CDC recommends social distancing and wearing cloth face coverings. If you think you may have COVID-19 or test positive, it's recommended you stay home and quarantine yourself as a way to prevent others from getting sick. Many universities are expected to reopen in the fall, so if you have plans to return to your campus, it's important you follow these preventative measures.

Lately, a group of ''anti-maskers'' has emerged, refusing to take the CDC's recommendations. While this mindset is unsafe, the opposition to wearing masks may come from the relaxed regulations we were seeing on masks not too long ago. It's possible that the lack of encouragement to wear a mask could have been from the surgical mask shortage, as they were needed most for essential workers who can't wear cloth masks on the job. Due to the high-demand for cloth masks, though, there has been a surge of corporations and independent manufacturers selling cloth masks, which are highly encouraged for the daily consumer to be wearing to protect against COVID-19.

So, how should we plan for the upcoming semester given all of these circumstances? What do we need to know to keep ourselves safe?

Dr. Fauci's claims on the benefits of masks

So, how do masks actually effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19? Dr. Anthony Fauci, a physician and immunologist working closely with the Trump administration, says they're critical. In an interview with CNBC, Fauci claims that Americans who don't follow the CDC's recommendations, such as not wearing a mask, ''may actually propagate the future spread of infection.'' This sounds simple enough, wear a mask and prevent the future spread of the virus to yourself and others...but people still seem to take issue with the regulations. Fauci claims that ''there's kind of a trend of anti-science in this country, which is really unfortunate because, for most of the part, it's really based on misinformation.''

In an interview with NPR in response to the previously laid back mask regulations, Fauci said ''people congregating without wearing masks,'' was responsible for a spike in confirmed cases in the US. ''It's really in our hands as a community, as a nation, as a populace to make this happen,'' referencing flattening the curve of cases. 

How many masks to bring to school

Due to the expert recommendations, wearing masks does seem to be an important factor in protecting yourself and others. So, how many masks should you own, let alone take with you to college? Since cloth masks are going to be the best option for protecting against the virus, you should bring two or more cloth masks with you when you return back to school. Since it's recommended you clean your mask after every time you wear it, bringing two cloth masks will always allow you to have one to wear while the other is getting cleaned. Since laundry in college is so expensive, you can hand wash the masks with soap and water, and then hang it to dry. The CDC recommends using bleach when hand washing masks, but other sources, such as this set of tips from Mayo Clinic, don't mention the need for bleach. 

I can't afford to buy a mask

This page from the CDC details how you can make a mask of your own with the right sewing and fabric materials, some of which you may already own. The article recommends cotton fabric, which can potentially be found in an old t-shirt. Just make sure you check the tag to make sure the ingredients are pure. If you have an old bandana or scarf laying around, wearing that will be a better option than wearing nothing, as it still will cover your face and nose. This article from Insider lists several masks you can buy in bulk from Amazon, similar in pricing as a singular mask, and this Etsy page has a bunch of stylish, cheaper options you can buy from independent sellers as opposed to Amazon. Some universities, such as the University of South Florida, also plan to provide students with two cloth masks upon return to campus. 

Wearing a mask is an essential way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and upon returning to campus it is important to ensure we take the appropriate measures to protect ourselves and others from the virus. I want to get back to life as it was before as much as everyone else, but we can only do that by making sure we each do our part in flattening the curve as we do so.