Masks don’t help you much. They help other people, but not you.
The numbers on wearing a mask to protect yourself aren’t very good, unless it’s a fitted N95 surgical ventilator. Plain cotton or paper? Maybe 10%. What protects you is goggles (30%), and washing your hands (25%), and not touching your face (20%). Notice how people aren’t wearing goggles? Strange, isn’t it?
Well, probably not all that strange, come to think on it. Bet they’ve stopped washing their hands too, and I’d be surprised if everyone stopped touching their face. Masks itch.
I can hear some of you thinking: “That’s one reason masks are bad.” Which would be true if you didn’t touch your face all the time anyway. It’s something humans just do; we rub our eyes, pick our noses, suck our thumbs, and exchange bodily fluids with people who find us attractive. Not very sanitary, but it’s human.
No, masks don’t help you much. That’s not why we wear them. They help other people.
It should be acknowledged: They’re also a virtue signal, and they’re a sort of security blanket. They provide a pleasant sense of self-righteousness, and they give a false sense of comfort in the middle of horrible events. Which is just fine by me; I wouldn’t begrudge anyone a bit of comfort, and if helping others makes people feel better about themselves, that can only be a good thing.
But it remains true: Masks help other people.
Now, I’d personally like it if people would start avoiding indoor gatherings again, washing their hands constantly, and wearing masks. I’d also like them to stay away from me (but that’s just me being antisocial). But I won’t demand it of them; I’d like it because it might keep them safer and stop the plague like it ended last year’s influenza season.
But masks aren’t for them; they’re for other people. And that, I feel I have the right to… well, strongly request, if not actually demand. Someone walking around without a mask is similar to them walking around with a very loud radio. It’s up there with those perfume counter salespeople who just can’t stop spraying you. From a contagion standpoint, it’s right up there with them spitting on me — which is what they’re doing, at least on a microscopic level.
So this is me strongly requesting you to wear a mask. As a personal favor to me.
Here’s some science for you, in case you doubt that masks are effective:
- I wrote this last year, and it still holds up:
- NIST has been testing masks for a while now, and the physics are pretty interesting. This is one of the more recent articles; there are dozens on their site:
- A year ago, this was done as a rough collection of articles about mask-wearing and infection. It’s most of the old science, and it’s reliable:
- Here’s the math behind mask physics, as simplified as I’ve ever seen it:
- This is an application of the Wells Curve, describing droplet spraying for use in a healthcare setting:
- Here’s how we know COVID-19 doesn’t survive well on dead surfaces:
- And this article, while not a scientific paper, neatly explains that COVID spreads from people with no symptoms:
- The Post published a leaked internal CDC document about the new Delta variant and transmissibility:
Bottom line? COVID is deadly; it is debilitating; you are fairly likely to have it and spread it without knowing you’re sick; wearing a cotton mask can stop it from being spread.
So wear a mask. It’s the least you can do.
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