Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to have trouble deciding what face covering to put on every day.

Tux Turkel displays one of the neck gaiters he wears as a face mask. Amy Sinclair photo

When the pandemic first ramped up in March, I thought I was all set. I dug out a few dust masks from my workshop. I even discovered two hard-to-find, N95-rated respirators from an insulation project. Every week, I’d strap on a mask, slip on a pair of tight-fitting nylon gloves, and head to Hannaford.

I figured my gear would last me until we got the all clear. Or if the outbreak went viral, so to speak, and doctors starting using coffee filters for personal protection, maybe I could sell a N95 to Maine Med or something.

But spring came, the pandemic was still with us and the weather turned too hot for gloves. By then, my paper masks were getting crushed from being closed in the car’s glove box.

Then I saw Allen Manufacturing, a stitching company in one of the old Lewiston mills that has pivoted to COVID products, was advertising washable, cotton face masks. That seemed more comfortable and durable. I ordered a Family Five Pack.


Now I had options. Each mask was a different color. Like choosing a tie or a scarf, suddenly I had to decide which one to wear.

I like those face masks, but I grew tired of having something hanging from my ears. And now that we’re heading into a summer when most places are asking you to cover your face, I need more choices.

One day, I saw a guy who looked like he had unrolled his turtleneck shirt to cover his mouth and nose. But it wasn’t part of his shirt or a scarf. And it wasn’t one of those western bandanas that makes you look like you just robbed a stagecoach.

So I went online and discovered the world of sun masks, aka neck gaiters.

Fishermen and ATV riders have made these popular. They’re silky, stretchy tubes made from polyester microfiber, sometimes with an SPF sun rating. They come in every color of the rainbow. Some are emblazoned with flower designs and geometric patterns. Some feature skull faces or sardonic joker smiles. There’s camo in every shade and even political themes, like American flags.

Personally, I’m going to stay away from the political themes. Too complicated, in an era when not wearing a mask is somehow a political statement, rather than just self-centered and risky behavior during a public health crisis. It makes me want to get a gaiter with an image of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”


Anyway, these neck gaiters also can be converted to many other functions. Advertisers show images of them being used as caps and headbands, hair scarves and wrist braces, pirate head coverings and do-rags. Use your imagination, and I suppose they could become emergency filters for making coffee or microfiber buffers for waxing the car.

I ordered a bunch.

I especially like the ones that are lightweight and looser around my neck. They’ll be nice in hot weather, when I’m outdoors and away from people, but may need to cover up to pop into a store or whatever.

I’m not so sure about the other functions. I was on Zoom a few nights ago with one of my adult kids and, for fun, I put a tube on my head as a do-rag. On me, it’s a don’t rag. I looked like a geriatric gangster.

But my new collection did make me realize something. We’re going to be masking up for the foreseeable future, so it’s good to stockpile a covering for every Maine activity and season.

Turkey hunting: Deep woods camo.


Black flies: Fine mesh.

Gardening: Cutworm green.

Bike riding: Safety yellow.

Boating: Safety orange. Save for deer season.

Skiing: Black fleece. Make that double black.

Maybe you’ve seen pictures from the 1918 influenza pandemic of nurses and police wearing white surgical masks. Everyone’s in boring white. That’s all they had. They didn’t know any better.

Someday, our grandchildren will look at images from 2020. They may remark about the death and the illness and the social upheaval. But I think their strongest reaction will be, “Wow, did they have some great face coverings!”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at virus@pressherald.com

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