Why Is the Government Endorsing Soul Patches?

Facial hair for the apocalypse? Photo: Tracy Powell/Getty Images

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The likelihood of a new coronavirus outbreak within the United States has become much more a question of when than a question of if, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned yesterday. It’s an ominous prognosis, certainly, but officials have been taking precautions. The FBI has purchased $40,000 worth of hand sanitizer and face masks, and the CDC has put together a helpful infographic to help you gauge how safe your beard will be in the coming weeks. Your beard, your friend’s beard, the beards of your loved ones — most of them, it turns out, could be a liability in a health crisis.

Luckily, for all of us I think, the CDC has a set of recommendations for best and worst facial-hair styles in the event of an outbreak, based on their compatibility with an N95 respirator. For the possible coronavirus pandemic, the government suggests a soul patch, a toothbrush mustache (is that what we’re calling it?), and/or — provided its pointy edges have been safely curled inside the mask — a “villain,” which feels ever so slightly on the nose to me.

Photo: Courtesy of CDC, NIOSH, NPPTL

The issue with your full beard or your French fork, or stubble of any length really, is that the bristles could either cross the seal on a respirator or interfere with the exhalation valve. This type of respirator helps protect the nose and mouth against invasion by infectious particles, but only if the wearer’s Dali stache isn’t getting in the way. As the American public prepares for the worst — and the CDC asks that it does; the agency had confirmed 60 new coronavirus cases nationwide as of Wednesday — the facial-haired might consider adopting looks that are more easily tucked inside a mask. This means a wide array of dad mustaches (your lampshades, your chevrons, your painter’s brush, maybe a Zappa if you’re feeling wild) and an unfortunate selection of some of history’s less-fortunate facial hair. So: It’s the soul patch or some steely side whiskers, choose your fighter.

Why Is the Government Endorsing Soul Patches?