Last Updated on September 1, 2020
The Wichita, Kansas city government now requires citizens to wear face masks when entering City Hall, and will provide those attempting to enter without a face mask with a paper towel that has two rubber bands stapled to it as ear straps.
After Wichita residents began wondering about the efficacy of a rubber bands stapled to a paper towel at stopping or slowing the spread of COVID-19, KAKE-TV reporter Jake Bowles began an investigation. He posted a photo of one of the questionable masks to social media, showing what appears to be a shop towel with two rubber bands stapled to it, apparently for ear holes.
The City of Wichita is giving these handmade paper towel masks to City Hall visitors not wearing masks. Viewers have questions, and we’re trying to find the answers. The full story tonight on @KAKEnews at 6 pic.twitter.com/aVbdseIiWp
— Jake Bowles KAKE (@JakeBowlesKAKE) September 1, 2020
At a City Council meeting, members of the public demanding an end to the mask mandate called attention to the makeshift masks, with one man with a biochemistry degree claiming that he was given a dirty paper towel with grease on it to cover his face.
““This paper towel… is actually dirty,” said Scot Pierce, according to The Wichita Eagle. “This has greasy thumbprints, hand prints on it. And my guess is the maintenance man who probably made these did not wash his hands before he put these together. I would not put this on my face and this is not an adequate filtrate to any kind of viral micron.”
Wichita City Manager Robert Layton claimed what the city is “providing are temporary mask coverings, prepared by staff.” He added that “It’s only intended to be temporary for those who don’t bring their own mask into the space.”
According to Bowles, Layton’s office later clarified that “the shop towel masks were produced early on in the pandemic when mask supplies of any kind were difficult for everyone to find,” and “The City-provided shop towel masks were produced to serve as a temporary and disposable solution for those visiting City Hall.”
He adds that research suggests the masks should be about 50% effective at blocking outgoing COVID-19 particles, despite criticism from Pierce and the public that the masks would likely break down almost instantly due to the wearer exhaling air.