Br(u)no: Face Masks Become All the Rage, Week 3

The Czech Republic has become a major promoter for the worldwide use of face masks. Photo Credit: Gabriela Zalubil Reichlova.

Everyone has their personal list of moments that exemplify the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mine are: Overhearing my wife telling the Rohlík delivery guy to leave the package just inside the front gate. Listening to a podcast where an Italian doctor described the devastating situation in his Bergamo hospital. And, more recently, getting a package of homemade face masks — roušky in Czech — that included kid-sized versions with fun animated images.

Every day brings new information, higher statistics and more stories from around the world, and from self-quarantine in Brno, Czech Republic, too. Please share your stories.

Saturday, March 28 — Day 15

Living in an apartment building must be maddening. I am fortunate to have a backyard. It offers a large, private space with a lot of fresh air for my two toddlers. We are planting potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi. The garlic was planted in the winter and it will add zest to all of the home-grown produce.

One of my biggest fears during this time of self-quarantine is that one of my kids will get hurt (or ill) and need to go to the hospital. They fall down all the time and bump their heads on everything. On our first day in the garden we got a big scare: The girl decided to swing a metal garden trowel around and she hit her brother in the corner of an eye; luckily, he had blinked and he was struck by the flat part of the blade.

Sunday, March 29 — Day 16

Time sprang forward to give us more “usable” sunlight in the evenings.

The spread of the coronavirus has affected different parts of the world at different times. It started in late December in China and spread around the world. The Czech Republic has been directly affected for a bit more than a month. My family has been in self-quarantine since mid-March.

The lag time of the spread has made for uncomfortable conversations with mom in Washington State during our Sunday Skype calls. Many in America are not yet convinced that this pandemic is real. Powerful people, like the president of Brazil, still have doubts. Very disappointing.

Monday, March 30 — Day 17

Another work week. More laws and regulations to understand and more complex deadline writing.

Our attic is a large open space with a home office on one end, book shelves and a weight bench in the middle and a large children’s area at the other end. There is one rule: toys should not pass the central chimney/foundation column. Unfortunately, that rule has proven unenforceable. The kids want to be close to mom and dad as they work in the home office section. As I write this, within one meter there is a remote controlled dump truck, a fireman helmet, the PAW patrol police car, a small hockey stick, and another dump truck. Come to think of it, there several clues as to the culprit.

Of course, it was the girl’s doll house and Barbie accessories that I (painfully!) stepped on in the pre-dawn morning when I went to start work.

The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babiš, gave an address to the country. He wore a face mask. It was a powerful image. Leadership by example.

Tuesday, March 31 — Day 18

The Czech Republic, where covering your nose and mouth in public became required on March 18, has established itself as an international leader in the promotion of face masks. After two weeks it is still a bit strange, but it makes sense: a homemade mask may not be perfect, but it is something.

#Masks4All has continued to pick up international momentum as a “movement for population-wide use of homemade masks as critical protective equipment against COVID-19”. The videos are professional and the statistics are convincing. It is at the following URL —

Babiš sent the link to leaders around the world, including to the White House.

Wednesday, April 1 — Day 19

Emergency sirens are tested at noon on the first Wednesday of every month. I’ve wanted to write about this practice for a long time because it is completely foreign to my upbringing and the wailing is eerie in the best of circumstances. Today, however, I did not hear them. I asked many people. Nobody recalled hearing them. Perhaps having the regular test would have created panic. Did anyone hear them?

Face masks have begun to be sold in vending machines, known as a rouškomaty, around Brno.

Nobody did any April Fool’s pranks, as far as I can tell.

Thursday, April 2 — Day 20

I talk with a longtime friend about once a week over Facebook messenger. He is a great sounding board for what is happening. Today he mentioned a terrible fact: if the football season doesn’t start back up again, FC Zbrojovka might be stuck in the second league for another year.

The wife and I took the kids up the street to the pediatrician for some regular vaccinations. It was their first chance to wear their face masks. It is heartbreaking to see your kids wearing them. They handled it well, unlike the shots.

We tell our kids the truth and don’t sugarcoat anything. For example: “You will get a shot today, deal with it” (as opposed to surprising them). It has, generally, worked. Almost a year ago, they both went to the funeral of their grandmother, who had lived in the same house for their whole young lives. Many said that we should have spared our kids the pain and confusion of the funeral. We disagreed. I think it worked out. Now they seem to have an appreciation for the gravity of this pandemic.

Friday, April 3 — Day 21

The headline in the New York Times this morning: “White House Debates Face Masks; Worldwide Cases Hit 1 Million”. By the end of the day, the headline was: “Half the World Is Under Stay-Home Order”.

All of these details should bring pause. One million is a macabre milestone. Half the world represents billions of people.

Later in the day, the White House announced that face masks would be “recommended”. I think this pandemic would become real for Americans when Donald Trump — the self-obsessed and vain president with the fake head of hair — wore a facemask. So far, he says he won’t do it.

* * *

Are you satisfied with Czech politicians? Would you like anything specific to be done? Are you able to adjust to life with a face mask?

Please share your ideas for coping with the ongoing repercussions of COVID-19 in the comments below or on Facebook.

Be safe. Be well.

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