A clothing designer from New Orleans named Ellen Macomber has come up with a creative way to sip iced coffee and cocktails while practicing proper COVID-19 preventative measures: a mask with a slot for a straw. Of course someone from a city known for never passing up a chance to party came up with a way to follow safety regulations while still getting a little tipsy.
According to Fast Company, Macomber initially thought a flap that opened and closed might work, but she realized the wearer would have to touch it, potentially contaminating the mask, so she landed on a small slit that could be opened by simply angling the straw to slip it in. She said the final design prevents the slot for the straw from opening completely.
Macomber emphasized that she’s not a health expert, but that she does understand that, regardless of regulations, restless people bored of quarantine are going to go outside and socialize, eat, and drink whether they have or mask or not. At least her version provides partial protection. And there is demand: Her first batch of modified face masks sold out in 30 minutes, and she has plans to produce more.
“Here in New Orleans, we celebrate alcohol on the regular and this problem was occurring during social distance visiting,” Macomber said in an email. “People were having to either take off their masks to take a sip or not wear a mask at all. After a few prototypes, we developed the ‘suck it’ face mask, or face mask with a straw hole.”
The masks have a double layer of cotton and a third layer for the hole flap that’s sewn in the interior lining to act as a trap door. The hole is closed when there’s no straw, preventing saliva spray from leaving the mask.
“I will reiterate that any fabric face masks don’t protect you from COVID-19,” Macomber added. “They help minimize the spray from speaking, coughing, or sneezing that would otherwise go all over the person you are near.”
As states begin plans to tentatively reopen, more people will be spending time outdoors, whether they’re taking a walk in the park with a cold drink or eating al fresco at a newly reopened restaurant. People will be wearing masks in public for a long time to come, but one challenge has been how to eat and drink while sporting face coverings. Macomber’s mask design will likely be one of many potential solutions that arise as places reopen in the months to come. After all, the threat of mass restaurant closures means that business owners will be experimenting with various clever ways to get diners back in their seats, from mannequins to restaurant booth plastic shields.