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Behinds the Scenes of "Save the PPE" and "Wear a Mask" Videos

When we founded 3MD Masks, as physicians we had two goals in mind:  1) to find ways to help healthcare providers get the personal protective equipment (PPE) they needed and 2) to encourage the public to wear a mask.  When the CDC reversed their recommendation against mask wearing in April 2020, they said that the initial recommendation had been made to help ration scarce resources towards healthcare workers.  Given the flip-flop and the political atmosphere, there was a tremendous amount of public resistance initially to mask wearing.  On the one hand, there were people marching out in the streets holding protest signs demanding haircuts during quarantine and claiming that masks were an affront to their constitutional rights.  On the other end of the spectrum, some people were still hoarding N95 masks or KN95 masks to sell at astronomical prices to the public through a sort of black market.  Surely there could be somewhere we could meet in the middle.

Fast forward several (long) months later and I feel like more people across the country are getting it.  Fabric masks for sale are abundant through several different mask makers across the USA, and with all the selection people are even having a hard time choosing the right face mask.  Medical masks are more available for healthcare workers, including N95s and surgical masks, as well as high quality respirators.  The exponential growth in infection and death rate that our nation was seeing initially has been curbed, and hospitals have not been as overwhelmed as New York was in those early spring months.  Is this all due to the public health campaigns that encouraged social distancing, hand hygiene, and universal masking?  I sure hope so.  But many people are still getting sick, and there are still hospitals where N95s are not available.

We wanted to send out a message.  It needed to be light-hearted enough to be widely received, but firm enough to encourage the changes in behavior that still needed to take place.

"Save the PPE" Video

Our first video, “Save the PPE” came easily.  We already had the ideal main protagonist - my partner, the general surgeon.  It was his day off from work, a rare occasion if you know anything about the lifestyles of general surgeons.  All of the personal protective equipment that was used in the shot had been set aside by our OR nurses because they were clean but no longer sterile.  We did not use soiled equipment but also did not waste anything that could have been used for a sterile procedure.  The lines were short and sweet.  It was intended as a simple 30-second PSA with a cute punchline.  “Save the personal protective equipment for the hospital.”  This is why we are encouraging everyone to wear fabric masks instead of medical masks:  to alleviate a national shortage.  Those who require medical masks, such as those over 65 years old or those who are potentially infectious, should still wear medical masks.  Considering it was our very first video, I think it turned out fantastic.  I received help with the video and audio editing from people in those industries.  Making masks in Los Angeles has its benefits.

"Wear a Mask" Music Video

Our second video, “Wear a Mask” took a little more work.  Since 3MD masks were for sale since before the CDC’s change in recommendation, I have heard many arguments against masking and been called practically every name in the book.  “Sheep”, “tin hat,” “stupid,” and even “murderer” and “holocaust perpetrator.”  People were very angry about being told wear a mask.  One of the complaints we hear frequently especially as physicians is that the mask is cutting off their oxygen supply or worse yet simultaneously retaining carbon dioxide. Both of these are tiny molecules that even the best face masks like N95s cannot block.  Several medical workers have debunked this theory with photos of themselves exercising while wearing an N95 with a pulse oximeter.  No one’s oxygen saturations are dropping below 98%.  We have a pulse oximeter at home as well and have tested this first hand with our masks.  No drop in O2 sat.  The fibers in an N95 or a regular fabric face mask can not possibly be small enough to block off molecular sized particles.  

Many funny memes also came along at the same time to encourage these people to wear their masks.  One of my favorite memes about why you should wear face masks includes this one illustrating “the urine test”.  The meme describes that if we all run around naked and someone pees on you, you get wet right away.  If you are wearing pants, some pee will get through but not as much, so you are better protected.  But if the guy who pees also is wearing pants, the pee stays with him and you do not get wet.  Despite its simplicity, scientifically it accurately illustrates how fluid dynamics works.  And since viral particles are delivered primarily through respiratory droplets, the aerosolized spread is very similar to someone peeing on you with their mouth.  Now you definitely want to wear a mask, right?

The other problem we have noticed in public is that even those who are trying to do their best to wear masks end up wearing their masks improperly.  Mask wearing is like wearing underpants.  If you wouldn’t wear your underpants this way, then don’t wear your mask with your nose hanging out either.  It completely defeats the purpose.  Please wear your mask properly and cover your chin and nose.

We attempted to combine all of these ideas into our lyrics.  My 9 year old is far more musical than I am, so she composed the tune to “Wear a Mask” on a whim one day.  My 12 year old who has better rhythm and harmonies helped me rewrite the lyrics, composed the harmonies, and musically directed the entire song.  We shot the video with my children’s friends on what felt like the hottest day of the year.  All of the kids featured in the video are local middle schoolers who want to encourage mask wearing in their community.  They had all been separated during quarantine, and in Los Angeles school was starting up only online.  Public schools had difficulty transitioning to online school when quarantine started in spring of 2020.  No one thought it would last until the fall.  Learning on zoom presents its unique challenges to families who are all in different situations with parents working from home or working out of the home.  At least our school district has really stepped things up a notch since the fall session started, but nothing beats the socialization that happens in person in the classroom.  All of the girls had a fun experience doing the video, and they all stayed upbeat while doing retakes of each scene despite the blazing heat.  The end result is hopefully a positive memory they can cherish despite this difficult time.  

Wear a mask
It’s easy ‘nough to do
You won’t pass
Out from lack of O2
Even sheep
Can have a high IQ
That’s why we wear a mask

Wear a mask
So kids go back to school
There's no chance
That they can learn on Zoom
They're in a trance
And sleeping in til noon
Unless you wear a mask

Mask mask mask
All you got to do is
Mask mask mask
I think I need a purple one
Mask mask mask
Please just wear a mask

Wear a mask
Cover your chin and nose
Like underpants
Make sure that nothing shows
You won’t get wet
Standing too close to those
Who wear their pants and masks

Wear a mask
It’s the latest style
Keep it on
Cuz Covid’s here a while
Mask wearing
Should be going viral
Please just wear a mask

I’m still trying to convince my kids to make more mask videos, however they’ve decided to branch off into other areas.  Recently they made a music video of “The Schuyler Sisters” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wildly popular musical Hamilton.  3MD’s masks came in handy for the shoot since the kids themselves wanted to be masked for the video to maintain safety.  Doing a music video with masks on makes it incredibly easy to lip synch the audio recording with the video.  We will see if there are any more masked parodies in the future.  Stay tuned and please just wear a mask!

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