To Mask or Not To Mask

It’s been a few months now that I’ve been repeating the standard line of not wearing masks unless caring for someone sick or if you are sick yourself.

However, I’m one of them idiot guys who listen to what people say . . . and what they don’t say . . . and I especially listen to people when they say two things that contradict each other.

And so, I stupidly got into a discussion that seemed to get overly heated way too quickly and for no reason that I could tell.

Well, this post is me discussing things with myself. I mean, how much trouble can I get into?

So, let’s begin with the first set of contradictory statements . . . first, the World Health Organization (WHO . . . but not Dr. WHO) basically saying healthy people don’t need to wear masks. Well, that seems pretty clear; wear a mask if you are sick or if you are taking care of someone who is sick. This advice has been repeated in the news, by the CDC, and pretty much everyone making a public statement about facemasks.

Here, I could add an observation . . . all this came about after the mask shortage. I’ll get back to this point later.

So, where is the contradiction, you ask?

Well, we’re also being told we could be sick and transmitting the virus well before showing any symptoms. In fact, you could be transmitting the virus and never yourself feel significant effects from it. That’s the whole premise for social distancing . . . you don’t know who might be infected.

Do you see the contradiction? I mean, I’ve been called an idiot, but I see it.

If you don’t know if you are sick,
and if you know you should wear a mask if you are sick,
and if you should wear a mask when caring for people who are sick,
how do we justify the idea that there’s no benefit to wearing a mask?

I’m pretty sure I’m not skewing information here. All of those are clear and simple directions and instructions from a number of official sources.

Again, I’m an idiot and I see the contradiction, so what’s the argument to support the fact that I’m an idiot?

Well, I’m told that masks are effective only if properly worn.

That’s an odd thing to say . . . there are instructions on how to wear masks and it’s pretty simple. But, say there are people who are even bigger idiots than I am (and remember, I know how to wear a mask), how is wearing a mask detrimental to people who are not idiots and who follow instructions?

Plus, you can still stress following proper hygiene and thoroughly washing your hands.  However, I can guarantee that just as many idiots don’t follow proper hand-washing protocols. Does that mean we should stop encouraging people to wash their hands?

But, but wearing a mask might give people a false sense of security so they will engage in riskier behaviors. Odd that . . . odd because I could make the same argument about washing hands . . . or seatbelts, or condom use or just about anything.

But, but, improperly worn masks pose a danger . . . but so do improperly washed hands, and believe me, if you want to see improperly washed hands, pay attention next time you’re in a public restroom . . . I mean, pay attention to the handwashing only, and only go to a public restroom after they lift the shelter-in-place.

But, but, medical personnel are trained professionals in the use of masks . . . and yet, anyone who has been around a hospital or doctors know they don’t always follow procedures. I’ve had doctor visits where the doctor washes his or her hands in under ten seconds. Same for the Purel sanitizer; a quick squirt and wipe, well under 30 seconds of wet contact. People forget we’re still dealing with humans. Again, look at all the people who aren’t idiots. Are we saying they derive no benefit from properly worn masks?

So, here I should pull back . . . two weeks ago I was still saying masks don’t help. I even argued the point with some people. In fact, I had a few left over from the previous time that I’d been sick, and I didn’t bother wearing them when I went shopping . . . because I was told they don’t help.

So why am I discussing this now with myself?

Well, I started rearing the virus can live airborne for three hours.

Say what? Let me read that a little closer and double-check sources and stuff . . . OK, yup.

So that got me thinking that almost any barrier that impedes respiration of possibly floating viruses has got to be of some help. You know, it’s kind of common sense . . . any barrier is better than no barrier. So, I started digging around . . . and came across THIS article.

Now, I just came across this article today, just a few hours ago because of the discussion I got into. Let me reproduce some of what it says:

The truth is that while masks are by no means a perfect tool for preventing the spread of an illness, in a world without a vaccine or any clinically proven treatment for COVID-19, they may be one more ounce of prevention that can help slow the spread across a community, especially when people who don’t yet know they’re infected wear them to protect others.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “does not currently recommend the use of face masks for the general public,” the agency said, again and again, on nearly daily briefing calls with reporters in late January and early February, as the coronavirus spread rapidly through China.

The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, took a more aggressive approach.

“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” Adams tweeted on February 29. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology and a mask researcher at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, described it as “a confusing message.”

“Because at the same time, the suggestion is that they’re really important for healthcare workers,” he said.

Well, crap! That’s what I was saying!

“The argument … about everybody wearing a mask is not that it will prevent everyone from getting infected — it’s that it will slow down transmission in the community a bit,” Cowling told Business Insider. “That’s already useful. Just to have even a small effect is useful.”

FSMdamnit! That’s what I asked two months ago and that’s what I kept asking!

Recently, others have been more militant about suggesting that everyone use masks. The data scientist Jeremy Howard has called for “#masks4all” and said that “not a single paper” in 34 studies of masks he reviewed showed “clear evidence” that masks were not effective at reducing virus transmission in public.

The truth is that gold-standard scientific studies about face masks — randomized controlled trials — are in short supply. Those that do exist suggest that masks may not be very effective at preventing viruses like influenza from spreading, which could be partly because the people in those trials often aren’t great about wearing their masks the right way.

“Randomized trials don’t support a big effect of face masks, but there is the mechanistic plausibility for face masks to work, right? So why not consider it?” Cowling said. “If you don’t wear the mask properly, and if there’s a lot of chances for you to get infected, then the mask may not do a lot of good.”

FSMdamnit and double FSMdamnit!!

I click on those links and — because I’m an idiot — I’m certainly comfortable in being an idiot who’s inclined to believe masks help more than they hurt. Other than, of course, bigger idiots than me. Nothing can help them people.

But, here’s what pissed me right off:

With more than three-quarters of Americans now under lockdown, it may be too late for the country to start wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I think it’s too late to do a lot for the current epidemic, because it’s already spread such a lot, and then the cases that you’re getting now are people infected two or three weeks ago. And the lockdowns that are in place will hopefully really slow down infections,” Cowling said. “Adding masks now I don’t think would make a lot of difference to that trajectory.”

But face coverings could still help essential workers and others who might need to leave home and use public transport.

“Among people that still need to go to work, particularly people who need to go through crowded areas like underground trains and public-transport systems, wearing masks on those could be particularly useful,” Cowling said.

The CDC is considering recommending such a move, advocating that people cover their faces out in public, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

Well, fuck!

This doesn’t mean people need to buy up the fancy respirators or medical masks that are in such short supply, though. A recent review of six randomized controlled trials found no significant difference in the effectiveness of N95 respirators and paper surgical masks at preventing infections. Cowling suspects that homemade-mask makers might be able to develop something even more effective for the cause, from household materials.

“I can imagine that we could find something even better than a surgical mask, because the surgical mask wasn’t designed especially for this purpose,” he said, suggesting that more research should be done to find out which fabrics best catch viruses

Well, double-fuck!

Which explains why even at this late stage some hospitals are asking volunteers to make masks (and even provide patterns). HERE is one site that says they no longer need them but still has the patterns (at the bottom).

See, around this time in the discovery process is when I start to get these weird ideas that the only reasons we were told they don’t work is so that there would be more for hospitals. If that’s true (and I admit it’s a big IF) then I’m doubly pissed because it means we could have slowed the number of cases and done so early, not just here, but in other countries as well (which coincidentally, might have meant fewer demands on health workers supplies).

Let me be clear; yes, give the masks to the hospitals, but tell people to cover their mouths and noses. (see below for links to plans and patterns to make your own mask). Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but this is the very thing governments did during the Spanish Flu; meaning, they lied, and they lied to the detriment of millions.

The worst part is this: if it’s true that they mislead the public “for the greater good”, you can kiss goodby to people trusting the CDC, WHO, and “experts” when the next pandemic hits. If it’s true — and I once again stress that we don’t yet know but that we eventually will know — it’s another instance of lying for short -term gains against greater long term consequences. Every time the government lies, there is a huge loss of trust.

So, here’s another thing that now pisses me off . . .

A recent survey Cowling conducted in Hong Kong suggested that 99% of people — Cowling included — were now wearing face masks when they’re outside.

“In Hong Kong, there’s a very clear recognition that people with coronavirus can spread infection before they have symptoms,” Cowling said. “And there’s a very common view that we’re wearing masks not only to protect ourselves, but because if we have been infected, we’re then protecting other people by wearing the mask.”

Feng agreed.

It’s like a civic duty in Asian countries to wear the face mask,” she said. “People wear the mask to protect themselves and also protect others.

So, why would that piss me off? Well, remember the shortage I mentioned above? Here’s an excerpt from THIS article:

In Asia there has been a run on face masks with long queues of people lining up to buy them. Toilet paper and tissues have also flown off the shelves amid claims they could be used as substitutes.

Some industry officials claim shortages are not just due to high demand but disruptions in supply.

Around 50 per cent of the world’s surgical masks are made in China. But even factories there that have ramped up demand say they are hard pressed to meet local demand. The government has taken over manufacturers, and exports have plunged.

“Before the outbreak of the epidemic, we used to export 600,000-700,000 surgical masks a month, but now the amount is zero,” David Peng, manager of Ningbo Buy Best International Trading Co. in Ningbo, south of Shanghai, said.

The company’s dozen or so suppliers in Hubei, near the centre of the outbreak, have been ordered to prioritise government orders.

That article is from February . . . so, I got to ask . . . given the low number of reported cases in China and given the reported draconian isolation procedures, and given the WHO saying masks are not needed for healthy people, I can only conclude the Chinese government wanted to make sure they had something like multiple millions of masks for the treatment of 81K Chinese patients. How generous of them.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. I mean, I assume China lied about the numbers (interesting data gathering that support that theory, including cell data, internet usage, urns, etc.) but I’m beginning to think masks were used (and are being used) in conjunction with social isolation even as WHO is telling us nah, they don’t do nuthin’.

One interesting factoid I can share . . . when I returned from my brother’s funeral in the middle of January, I came down with a very bad “something” that got into my lungs (around January 20th). Got me some antibiotics and stuff that helped clear it, but it was very bad. At home, we practiced our regular routine whenever one of us is sick. We wiped what we touched, washed our hands often, and the person who is sick (in that case, me) wears a mask both at home and when going out. As I mentioned before, we used to pick up a few masks at hospitals and the like at the onset of every flu season specifically for that very reason. So, in the ten days that I was sick, I went through the masks we had.

. . . so I ordered some from Amazon. I was told they were shipped (from China) on February 3rd (my credit card was charged and everything) scheduled to arrive on the 12th . . . then, the 25th, then March 12th . . . and finally, on March 20th, I canceled the order and got my money back. I mean, I don’t need them, right?

The good news, Melisa has made us a number of masks (reusable for single-use, meaning, they will be used once, then sanitized) and if we ever go out again, you can bet I’ll be wearing a mask (which will go in a plastic bag before we get back in the car). Oh, and we already wear gloves we dispose of before getting in the car. And, yes, I will still practice social distancing, and I’ll still wash my hands, still use sanitizer, still wipe stuff down before we use it. At no point will the gloves or mask make me feel invincible. On the contrary, they will remind me I need to be extra careful.

Oh, and for them who say that wearing a mask actually increases the incidence of people touching their faces, that’s not true for this idiot. Wearing a mask actually makes me more aware of the fact I shouldn’t be messing with my face. But, that’s just this idiot.

Disclaimer: me being an idiot, I’m probably not good at reasoning stuff out. Therefore, nothing in this post should be taken as me recommending you wear (or don’t wear) a mask. Do your own research, come to your own conclusions, and stay safe.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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