Sporting mask doesn’t have to be a pain

Mandatory masks in the Czech Republic reduced their infection rate. Austria ditto. Seven states in the United States have made masks mandatory for people in public places. In Canada, mask are only mandatory on airplanes, and are recommended on trains and boats. Why wouldn’t we make masks mandatory for everyone in Canada (or Ontario or at the very least locally) in public places? Don’t we want to return to normal sooner rather than later? What are the issues against mask wearing?

Are people concerned about the uncertainty of masks’ effectiveness? Read something about the Czech Republic or Austria. Is vanity your worry? Get over yourself and put the welfare of others first. (Plus, for vanity I’d appreciate if you’d cover up that porn star-like moustache you’ve been flirting with under a mask. To be clear, it is not Movember.) Also, there are some very fashionable masks out there, to co-ordinate with and accentuate every outfit.

Perhaps your excuse is that you are Van Gogh and only have one ear? Or the elastics knock off your hearing aid? Perhaps they hurt when you wear them too long? These last three are all fair points, and can all be solved by an ear-saving mask clip. These plastic devices stop the mask elastic from digging into the back of the ear. With long wear, the elastic has caused blistering and abrasions, but when hooked onto an ear-saving clip that goes across the back of the head, pressure is taken off the ears.

A friend of mine started making these nifty things for free on his 3D printer for healthcare professionals. Jason Sproule and his wife, Joanne, are realtors by day and found themselves with extra time on their hands in the real estate slowdown. Jason put his 3D printing hobby project on hold, and started making ear savers.

He modified a pattern from a 3D builder community site to be able to produce as many plastic ear savers per print as possible and ran the printer 20 hours a day. The demand was so high that Jason bought a second printer. They aren’t charging for the ear clips, or their time, but said that the community has been generous with donations.

Funded by these donations, Jason and Joanne have now printed and delivered over 1,600 ear clips to essential workers at Arch, the Sault Area Hospital, local nursing homes, one Tim Hortons location, and Armstrong Audiology & Hearing Aid Clinic (for their patrons with hearing devices). They’ve also shipped to Hamilton, Ont., Toronto, Alberta, and Lansing, Mich.

Also in Sault Ste. Marie, Maker North is selling face shields. They are using 3D printers to make the headbands and a laser cutter to make the shields.

The upside of Jason’s endeavour is that Joanne now approves wholeheartedly of his tinkering. For Jason, he’s thrilled to feel useful, even if he is only sleeping six to seven hours a night. He’s received notes of thanks from essential workers using the clips saying how much more comfortable they are thanks to the ear savers.

Jason’s story made me think about how I could help. I landed on writing this article. If you know (or are) an essential worker, hearing-aid wearer, or Van Gogh, know that ear-saving mask clips are available from Jason and Joanne on Facebook @JTeamC21, by calling 705-255-1917, or by emailing I’m also hoping that perhaps by reading this column, the next time that I’m in the grocery store, more community members will be wearing a cloth mask, even if it is a bandana, it can’t hurt. To our leaders locally, given the high percentage of elderly in our population, why not implement a mandatory mask decree for the Sault?

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