This Mask Allows You To Eat Without Removing It, But Is It Safe?

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These days, there’s a lot of discussion about reopening restaurants (at least for a few months before Covid-19 cases come roaring back and we have to shut everything down all over again).  Plans have involved more frequent and enhanced cleanings, social distancing enforced by bumper tables, and wait staff serving patrons while wearing masks. But all of those solutions aimed at keeping diners safe overlook one thing: how the hell are you supposed to eat with a mask on?

Well, it seems like some Israeli inventors have come up with a strange and possibly unsettling-looking way to get food through a mask and into your face hole. According to Reuters, Avtipus Patents and Inventions recently demonstrated a mask with an attached lever that can open and close to let in food, functioning as a sort of movable mandible for diners.

“The mask will be opened mechanically by hand remote or automatically when the fork is coming to the mask,” Avtipus vice president Asaf Gitelis told Reuters. “Then you can eat, enjoy, drink and you take out the fork and it will be closed, and you’re protected against the virus and other people sitting with you.”

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While Avtipus Patents and Inventions has (fittingly) secured a patent for their design, the fact that Israeli restaurants are still only open for takeout is probably good news for them. The company told Reuters that it “plans to start manufacturing the mask within months,” at which point it would sell for about $0.85 to $2.85 above the price of a regular blue surgical mask.

Tested recently at a Tel Aviv juice bar, those who recently tried out the mask were divided about its usefulness. “I think this mask, that enables me to eat while I’m still wearing it, is a must-have,” Ofir Hameiri told Reuters.

The thing is, it would seem that such a mask could only really work well with solid food or drinking through a straw. Otherwise, it could get pretty messy, as an ice cream-eating Ron Silberstein pointed out during the testing.

“I don’t think this mask could hold this kind of ice cream — it’s dripping all over. I wouldn’t want to wear it afterward.” Definitely a fair point, because wearing a sticky mask on a hot day would be kind of unpleasant. And for the price premium, this isn’t necessarily the kind of mask you’d buy in bulk for daily use.

While this invention is definitely a good example of ingenuity applied to the weirdness of our current moment, it’s hard to tell how useful it would actually be at stopping the spread of Covid-19. The original Reuters story makes no mention of any scientific claims for or against the invention, but you’d have to figure a mask that opens and closes might not work as well as one without an opening right where your mouth goes. Whether or not restaurants stock up on these to hand out to customers remains to be seen, but they might want to keep exploring other options in the meantime.

 

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