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Please Advise! What’s the Future of Masks?

They’ll be with us for a while. But where many see uncertainty, Doc Steve sees opportunity.

Steve Burgess 13 Jan

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Masks are a part of our lives now, but the variety can be bewildering. Are new masks on the way? What does the future of mask technology hold?



Dear Muffled,

So many masks, so many Twitter arguments. There are ordinary surgical ones, cloth ones, KN95s, N95s, C99s. But have we truly reached the limits of mask innovation? Entering year three of the mask era, Dr. Steve believes we cannot remain static. Boredom will set in unless we innovate. Here are some possibilities for the future of protective masks.

Ad Masks

The technology that survives and thrives is the technology that can be monetized. Mask advertising will probably start with simple logos, like on soccer jerseys. Then advanced video and scrolling versions will arrive. Some masks will offer CNN headlines in addition to prescription drug commercials. Say hello to a neighbour, and before getting a reply you will have to sit through a 30-second commercial. You will however have the option of skipping the ads by never speaking to another human again.

Tactical Bio-Weapon Masks

Masks are protective — they protect both the wearer and the community by preventing the spread of COVID viruses. But for many, that will come to seem unsatisfactory. Some will want to protect themselves but not others, or at least not everyone. There are people they would rather attack than protect. Thus, the new Tactical Bio-Weapon Mask. It will come with a spray nozzle. Squeeze a bulb in your pocket, and the mask will spray fluid on your chosen target. Ordinary curmudgeons might just spray tap water, but the real crazies will fill up the little reservoir with actual saliva, or worse. The advantage to this device is that it might finally convince dangerous loonies to start wearing one.


Ideal for people who wish to hide their identities as they fight the shadowy power of intrusive government. Great for unvaccinated Quebecers who want to escape paying fines. Also good for Halloween.

Plastic Bag

The N95 mask is currently recommended, although KN95s are held by some to be as good. The “95” in the name indicates that they filter out 95 per cent of particulates from the air. But that still allows five per cent to get through. One possible solution: plastic bags. Theoretically a dry cleaner bag would offer 100-per-cent protection from viruses, particles, nitrogen, oxygen, etc. But although early testing on broccoli and goldfish showed promise, human subjects tended to interrupt the scientific observation process with profanity and violence. Research is currently at a standstill, pending several criminal complaints.

'Don’t Look Up' Masks

The culture wars have taken many turns in recent years. The latest front seems to be the film Don’t Look Up. Dr. Steve’s social media feeds have consistently and reliably informed him the movie is must-see cinema, powerful, important, unwatchable, embarrassing, awful and clumsy, heavy-handed agitprop. Like a red MAGA cap, your mask can identify your position on Don’t Look Up and spare you from interactions with those in the opposing camp.

Listerine Masks

The worst thing about masks is your own breath. It’s horrible. A surgical mask is like an avenging angel that turns your own Cheeto vapours back on you, wreaking vengeance for all the misery you have inflicted upon others. But no more. The Listerine Mask will make your exhalations antiseptic and fresh. And there’s a new Extra Strength version, for people who think the solution to COVID is drinking their own urine.

Stupid Masks

We all say dumb things. Someday the right mask will be able to help. The Stupid Mask will actually mask stupidity. Your idiotic remark will enter the Stupid Mask where it will be transformed into something benign or even clever. “Novak Djokovic is a hero,” you might say into your Stupid Mask, but what your conversational partner will hear is, “It’s his own FAULT so deportation would SERVE him right ha ha see what I did there.” (This would just be the early prototype of course — the technology would eventually become much wittier.) The obvious drawback to this product will be that no one who truly needs to wear a Stupid Mask will ever wear one. Dr. Steve, for example, will never be caught dead in one of those things. They’ll make great Christmas gifts though.  [Tyee]

Read more: Coronavirus

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