Students Bring Attention to Campus-Made Masks

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By: Chase Scherr, chscherr@go.mnstate.edu 

To combat the spread of COVID-19 this year, MSUM recently provided their own Dragons Care masks, which were produced in the summer of 2020 and then distributed for the fall semester. And while the masks did follow the CDC guidelines, questions still arose about if these masks still work to help to reduce the spread of the virus.

“In this time that we are living in, we should be able to encourage people to keep wearing masks,” Jacob Balken, a senior at MSUM, said.

Recently, an email went out that claimed that these Dragons Care masks did not pass what is dubbed the “Candle Test”. The Candle Test is a way for you to assess the effectiveness of your mask by trying to blow out any open flame, such as a lighter or a candle, through the mask itself. One student, who wishes to be anonymous, was one of the first to warn people about this fact. 

“Back in August, I saw the Candle Test and I was curious to try it on the masks that I had owned and [the Dragons Care masks] were the only ones that don’t work,” the anonymous student said. “So then with two masks on and even that didn’t work.” 

Over the past few months, students have reportedly notified the school about these masks. But each of them has gotten different responses from faculty. Jacob Balken was one of those people. 

“When I heard about it from a friend, I had tried talking to a few staff members about it,” Balken said. “I had gotten into contact with the school and I was hoping to set up a personal meeting with [a faculty member].” 

Balken says that after a phone call with them, he had to wait for two weeks until someone texted him and asked him to send a formal email about the matter. 

“[After I sent the email,] I got a response back after a week and a half from someone else and I got sent back a few articles talking about why masks are important,” said Balken. “I chalk up to a simple misunderstanding but it still made me a little upset.” 

Another student, senior Macy Mack, said she tested the masks herself and then put the results on her Snapchat story afterward. 

“A few of the members of Student Senate saw the video I had released and they asked me to speak at one of their meetings,” Mack said. “I did a demonstration through Zoom with President Anne Blackhurst attending and she seemed shocked.” 

Mack says that she hopes the school will continue to be extra cautious with students’ safety and health.

“I know I personally don’t have a whole lot of trouble since I live alone,” Mack said. “But what if someone had a roommate that was immunocompromised or would go home and see their grandparents?” 

According to the staff at MSUM, no one had any knowledge of this Candle Test. In a recent announcement from the school, it says that they handed out all of the masks that they had on-hand and would no longer give them out. 

“I just hope that MSUM is more aware of this issue and extra cautious… so that we don’t have to worry about this problem any more than we have to,” Balken said. 

If you do need a mask, they continue to offer single-use masks for students in the Dean’s office and around various departments on campus.  

“College students are some of the last people to receive [the vaccine] unless they work in a job where they should be getting it right away,” the anonymous student said.

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