Defend against the Invisible Poop!

My name is Rachel Lei and I’m a school teacher in Taiwan. As the UK looks forward to re-opening schools on 1st June, I thought I’d share a story about how I taught my students to wear masks properly.


First, a little bit of background: Scientists think that on average, without any intervention, someone who has COVID-19 gives it to 2-3 other people. Some scientists think that number (called the reproduction number, or R for short) may be as high as 5 or 6. In other words, it’s very infectious. But R can be changed! The goal of lockdowns and social distancing is to reduce R, and when R is lower than 1—meaning that the number of people getting infected is decreasing rather than increasing—we can start to slowly open back up and go out again. But as we do, we must do everything we can to keep R down, otherwise the number of cases will spike up again and all the days we spent in quarantine will have been for naught.

That’s why masks are so important. Imagine that your body is a castle, with a few gates: your nostrils, your mouth, and your eyes. The castle wall (your skin) is a great protective barrier, but the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can get in through these openings. And this is a particularly sneaky and stealthy virus: not only is it invisible, people who have it can also pass it on BEFORE THEY START FEELING SICK. So we have to be diligent to guard these openings. How do we do that? By making it hard for the virus to get through physical barriers, like masks and partitions. But the effectiveness of barriers depends on us using it correctly, to a large extent. If you barricade one gate (e.g., your mouth) but leave others (e.g., your nose) wide open, or even invite the invaders in (e.g., rubbing your eyes with unwashed hands), your castle will fall before long!

This is how I taught my elementary students how to wear masks correctly:

So defend your (family) castle against the attack of the invisible poop! Each member of your household is on duty to guard multiple gates. Because we don’t want to let the sneaky invisible poop in, any time we interact with people we don’t live with we need to make sure our gates are well protected with physical barriers like masks.

As a mum, you may have many questions about masks. Are they really protective? Can kids really keep them on? My friend Cindy who runs a large parenting group on Facebook put together FAQs about Kids and Masks. We both also help run Join the Maskerade, a resource page about masks where you can get up-to-date info about masks (including easy no-sew tutorials) and ask any questions you may have.

Keep Calm and Defend Against the Invisible Poop!

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