FAKE NEWS: Face Masks?

Obviously there’s no government “Freedom To Breathe Agency”.  It’s a private group out to sell cards, which unless you’re very lucky will not help you one bit.  You would be ill-advised to rely on one of these to evade arrest.

But you didn’t need anyone to tell you that.  You already knew it.

That’s why we’ll discuss other things, such as whether having a legitimate medical condition is enough to get you out of wearing a mask in public during a mask mandate, just how well a folded tee shirt blocks viruses, and whether it’s unhealthy for the average person to use a respirator from the moment they open their door.

Some notes before we begin:  If this is your first visit to The Not Fake News, you won’t know this, but as a general rule, we don’t trust major media to tell the absolute truth at all times.  That’s the fundamental point of our existence.  So when there’s something here that links to a source, it goes without saying that the original article has been fact-checked, and not just by Snopes (who we also mistrust; they debunk the Babylon Bee on a regular basis just as though it wasn’t a satire site).

However, this is not medical or legal advice.  There’s no staff doctor at TNFN fact-checking our recommendations, and lawyers tend to charge for their services.  In the end, you’ve got to do your own thinking for yourself.  All we can do is give you the benefit of our efforts; you’ve got to take it from there.

1. Medical Conditions

There are indeed several medical conditions that make it potentially hazardous for a person to wear a restrictive mask.  A viral Facebook post not long ago went into this in some detail; it was largely misleading, but in one thing it was correct:  On a job site, OSHA regulations compel your boss to make you fill out a questionnaire, and if you answer “yes” on any of eight questions, you may need a doctor’s approval to work with a mask.  (Full disclosure:  This doesn’t make the mask optional; it makes you optional.  No mask, no work — sick or not.)

But there’s a reason you go to a doctor and not just decide for yourself.  Doctors can run tests for lung capacity and so on, and the mere fact that you had pneumonia five years ago isn’t necessarily enough to disqualify you.

There is no Federal mask mandate for COVID-19 at present; state and local governments are expected to decide for themselves.  Which makes sense; a virus on Manhattan shouldn’t make you sick in Tennessee.  One down side, however, is that every mask law is written differently.  Whereas the Illinois order mandates a mask for all people over the age of 2 able to medically tolerate a face-covering or a mask, there’s no exemption in some jurisdictions.

Expect to need a doctor’s note, by the way.  The police aren’t as trusting as they used to be.

2. Which Masks Work For What (And Which Don’t)

In an epidemiology lab, researchers wear full-body suits with separate air supplies, and they’re paranoid — rightly so; even a microscopic pinprick can be deadly.  In hospitals, providers use various masks, including the N-95 fitted respirator in some cases.  Others, a simple paper mask is considered plenty of protection — and that includes surgeons working on your insides for hours at a stretch.

So yes, they do work in general.  So far as this particular event is concerned, wearing a simple mask will make it less likely you’ll cough, sneeze, or spit on someone else, and it will provide minimal protection for you.  These engineers ran a study on which varieties are more effective; turns out the cheap CVS ones work OK but not so much a doubled tee shirt or bandana.  Two layers of quilting cotton is what’s advised for a homemade mask.

Having said that, there are some rules of thumb, like:  Avoid touching your mask, wash and dry the thing between uses, change clothes when you get home, and wash your damn hands — 20 seconds, hot soapy water.  Oh, and if you’re in close confines with someone for hours, no mask ever made will prevent one of you infecting the other; you’re trying to block a fruit fly with a chain link fence.

NOTE:  N95 vented respirators are designed for construction.  The only person those will protect is you, and not much.

3. Are Masks Unhealthy?

They certainly can be.

For example, the W.H.O. advises against wearing one while vigorously exercising.  Cloth masks can wick up your sweat and become sodden; in other circumstances that’s known as waterboarding, and it’s against the Geneva Convention.  Instead, if you’re out jogging, go at a time and place where you won’t run into other people.

Likewise, if you’re damned fool enough to leave your wet mask lying around, it might well mildew.  If you’ve never experienced fungal pneumonia, that’s one way to check it off your bucket list.  Thoroughly wash and dry — and after you touch a soiled mask, wash your hands.

It is absurd to even suggest that a healthy person will suffer oxygen deprivation from wearing a mask in normal conditions; surgeons wear them all day long.  Likewise, as this article says, wearing a face mask will not cause hypoxia, hypoxemia or hypercapnia.  CO2 won’t build up in your bloodstream and you won’t sweat blood.

It is true that you might well feel like you’re suffocating, but you’re really not.  The same phenomenon occurs among SCUBA divers; it’s called “mask anxiety”, and it hits about 20% of people.  It’s the mind playing tricks on you.  Most people can acclimate by simply wearing a mask around the house for a while.  (I’m not that lucky.  -Editor)

4. OSHA Regulations

The mask guidelines are surprisingly simple and straightforward.  For the most part, healthy people don’t need to worry about it.  If you’re not healthy, it boils down to “If there’s any doubt, ask a doctor.”  So if you have any doubts, go ask a doctor.

The Bottom Line:

For COVID-19 protection, the general public is encouraged to do the following:

– If you’re sick, don’t go shopping.  Particularly if it might be COVID-19, you dumbass.
– Even if you don’t feel sick, you might be contagious.  Wearing a simple mask will make it less likely you’ll cough, sneeze, or spit on someone else (even talking sprays spit), and as a bonus it will also provide minimal protection for you.
– If your neck of the woods is having an outbreak, best stay home if you can.
– If you have to go outside and interact with people at a close distance, it’s a good idea to wear a mask even if there’s no mask law in your area.

There are some obvious things that shouldn’t need to be mentioned; for example:  A mask over your eyes won’t cover your mouth.  A mask over your mouth but not your nose doesn’t accomplish much.  Your dog doesn’t need a mask.  Do they work?  Seventy years of surgeons not sneezing into our insides can’t be wrong.  And so on.

One more thing:  In some parts of the country, you might well get mocked for wearing a mask.  In others, you might get assaulted or even arrested for not wearing a mask — even if you’ve got a medical exemption.  Use your own judgment.


A Personal Note:

It’s easy to understand why someone who doesn’t have the luxury of working from home would be offended when they’re instructed to wear a mask, whether in a store or on the sidewalk:  Every day they’re out taking all the risks the stay-at-homes are too scared to.  Many will cope with their own fears through denial or anger, against neither of which sweet reason functions well.  Unless law enforcement is your job, therefore, it’s probably wisest to give these people their space as best you can.

I wear a mask not from fear of illness but because I believe it is the courteous thing to do.  If someone’s terrified of getting sick, it’s only polite for me to appear to be doing my part.  I’m personally convinced that no vaccine will come in time, and half the country will need to catch this and recover before the outbreak fades — but I’m in the distinct minority, and even if I weren’t, our duly elected and appointed government has chosen otherwise.  That’s their job, and unless I want to live outside this society, my job is to follow the rules.

There may very well come a time to pick a point of principle, make my stand, and die defending it.  I submit that wearing a mask would be a really dumb point to pick.

– Editor


TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

There’s a reason your news is biased: It’s because you want it to be.

People pay to read the Times and the Post despite their too-evident biases. CNN got Trump elected and folks still rely on them for news. But the number of people willing to donate on this site is vanishingly small compared to the number that visit every day. We get what we pay for, people.

If you don’t like the CoffeeLink below, you might consider PayPal instead. Slightly more bang for your buck, too.

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NOTE:  The Not Fake News has been informed by two lawyers acting independently (in addition to one non-lawyer reader) that our earlier understanding, that they are ethically bound to charge for their time, was factually incorrect.  The offending pleasantry has been removed, and another, rather milder one substituted.  -Editor

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