Face mask or food deserts–one in the same?

August 13, 2020

Post Hurricane Hanna, Matagorda, TX

Remember when public health folks realized that it doesn’t do much good to promote eating fruits and vegetables if fruits and vegetables are not available or affordable?

Lots of effort was spent mapping out “food deserts” to demonstrate the problem. In 2015, the state where I now reside had the highest number of low income, low access residents–five million [ https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/state-level-estimates-of-low-income-and-low-access-populations/].

Food Desert

That got me to wondering. I haven’t heard any media telling folks where they could get a free mask to wear to protect against COVID-19. Mask wearing is being heavily promoted and even required in many places. But is this another case of telling people to do something that they simply cannot do, then blaming them for their illness when they get exposed, and even fining them for failing to wear a mask?

I checked into this. Of course, it varies by state. Here in Texas, beginning on June 24, 2020, “Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), in partnership with the Texas Military Department, will begin distributing 3-ply surgical masks to every Texan who undergoes COVID-19 testing at state-run mobile test collection sites.” Is this close to a case for closing the barn door after the cattle are out? In general, one is not getting tested without having symptoms and even in many cases a physician recommendation. Wouldn’t it be best if we provided free masks before someone experiences symptoms and maybe then they might never need to be tested?

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