Honestly, I do not like wearing a mask. It’s not comfortable, I feel like others don’t know if I’m smiling when I speak or not. I can’t see the mouth expressions of others wearing a mask. And it just plain muffles me. But I have no interest in contracting another life-threatening disease, or even spreading Covid-19 to others if I’ve been exposed. So I wear the mask in public. I mean, would I listen to a physician with a doctorate in microbiology or some yahoo on social media?
The most simple of reasons to wear a mask at this point in this pandemic, is the caring and compassion of others. Here’s a wee story about how the selfish act of not wearing a mask can impact others:
Jane is in isolation from the public because she is severely immune compromised. Jane’s husband, Bob, is the only one who keeps the home supplied (goes out into public). Bob, healthy as a horse, always wears a mask, hat and glasses.
Oscar believes masks and social distancing are an assault on his constitutional rights. Oscar refuses to comply with Covid-19 safety orders. Unfortunately, Oscar doesn’t know that he is Covid-19 asymptomatic.
Oscar and Bob are in the car parts store. Oscar sneezes. His infected droplets make their way to Bob, likely through his eyes because Bob removed his sunglasses to read the small print on a product he thought to buy to repair his vehicle.
Bob comes home. He doesn’t know he’s been infected with Oscar’s Covid-19. By the time Bob’s symptoms show, Jane has been infected too.
Jane dies within two weeks thanks to Oscar’s need to protect his constitutional rights. Bob has lost the love of his life.
Fictional tale? Yes. Fact-based? Yes.
“According to the CDC, since recent studies indicate a significant portion of people who have COVID-19 don’t show symptoms, the virus can spread before they realize they are sick. This new research — combined with the fact that the coronavirus can spread through close proximity to others, often via speaking, coughing or sneezing — led to their recommendation for the general public to wear cloth masks in public, especially where social distancing may be difficult and in areas of significant community transmission,” writes John Hopkins Medicine.
Still an alarming number of Americans simply don’t get it. I won’t begin to speculate why, other than we do know that an unfortunate politicization on the issue to wear or not to wear a mask as America reopens for business, claims the predictable fervent flyers of the Gadsden flag. And bots programmed for misinformation, spit out false facts faster than a speeding bullet pointed toward Superman (defender of truth and justice).
Crafters of politically based memes have dug deep into mountainous piles of feedlot manure to challenge state ordered mask rules. Example: Holocaust victims lining up before the gas chambers; comparing public health orders to socialism; even comparing farts to the microscopic novel coronavirus; or just plain old-fashioned lies about how unhealthy it is to wear a mask, so that you’ll do yourself a favor to breathe nothing but fresh air to keep Covid-19 out your personal space.
There is absurdity and then there’s just plain failure in logic.
When I’ve countered misinformation memes, as have others, here’s a sample of the responses:
- “Total bs propaganda and unconstitutional.”
- “Do you wear a mask all year long the flu kills many YOUNG AND OLD ALLLLLLLLLL YEAR LONG?”
- My favorite in reply to the Jane and Bob story: “add to your scenario that a meteorite comes flying through the atmosphere and smashes through the auto parts store roof and blows Bob’s head wide open. Bob’s death certificate comes back saying cause of death is COVID-19.👏👏👏👏👏👏👏 ”
- Post: “This quarantine is a bunch of bs we don’t need this anymore.”
Reply: “Scientists and medical professionals disagree .”
Response: “I could careless (sic).”
- “Yeah we truly are not that scared did you stay home and mask up for the swine flu bird flu ? Reg flu I call bullshit when’s the last time you heard a Walmart employer catching it or a Home Depot employer ? Kinda funny they haven’t and been open the this whole fucken time the thousands of people who come threw those store and yet not one person has caught the big bad virus . It is more likely that those wearing masks everywhere for long periods of time will be infected.”
- “You touch your face more when you have them…Stupid Governor who wants to be a tyrant…. and ALL the other useless Democrats who want to destroy our economy.”
A fast bit of facts from Erin S. Bromage, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth:
In order to get infected you need to get exposed to an infectious dose of the virus; based on infectious dose studies with other coronaviruses, it appears that only small doses may be needed for infection to take hold. Some experts estimate that as few as 1000 SARS-CoV2 infectious viral particles are all that will be needed (ref 1, ref 2).
A Cough: A single cough releases about 3,000 droplets and droplets travels at 50 miles per hour. Most droplets are large, and fall quickly (gravity), but many do stay in the air and can travel across a room in a few seconds.
A Sneeze: A single sneeze releases about 30,000 droplets, with droplets traveling at up to 200 miles per hour. Most droplets are small and travel great distances (easily across a room).
If a person is infected, the droplets in a single cough or sneeze may contain as many as 200,000,000 (two hundred million) virus particles which can all be dispersed into the environment around them.
A breath: A single breath releases 50 – 5000 droplets. Most of these droplets are low velocity and fall to the ground quickly. There are even fewer droplets released through nose-breathing. Importantly, due to the lack of exhalation force with a breath, viral particles from the lower respiratory areas are not expelled.
If a person coughs or sneezes, those 200,000,000 viral particles go everywhere. Some virus hangs in the air, some falls into surfaces, most falls to the ground. So if you are face-to-face with a person, having a conversation, and that person sneezes or coughs straight at you, it’s pretty easy to see how it is possible to inhale 1,000 virus particles and become infected.
But even if that cough or sneeze was not directed at you, some infected droplets–the smallest of small–can hang in the air for a few minutes, filling every corner of a modest sized room with infectious viral particles. All you have to do is enter that room within a few minutes of the cough/sneeze and take a few breaths and you have potentially received enough virus to establish an infection.
But with general breathing, 20 viral particles minute into the environment, even if every virus ended up in your lungs (which is very unlikely), you would need 1000 viral particles divided by 20 per minute = 50 minutes.
Speaking increases the release of respiratory droplets about 10 fold; ~200 virus particles per minute. Again, assuming every virus is inhaled, it would take ~5 minutes of speaking face-to-face to receive the required dose.
The exposure to virus x time formula is the basis of contact tracing. Anyone you spend greater than 10 minutes with in a face-to-face situation is potentially infected. Anyone who shares a space with you (say an office) for an extended period is potentially infected.
Unfortunately, I know who will read this blog. It’s highly unlikely that those who may benefit from this will get past the first three words I’ve written. But if you are just a bit curious and do read this, let it be known that what I’m expressing here is my compassion for everyone. Your health and well-being is as important as mine. The health and happiness of our families, friends, coworkers, and strangers is the essential ingredient to pulling out of this pandemic. Letting down our egos, pride, and our sense of self to benefit others is what will get America back up and running. Working together is the key—not whining about YOUR constitutional rights for doing nothing more than wearing a stupid mask and maintaining social distancing.
My gratitude for those, who like me, are no fans of wearing a mask and who just want to grab their families and friends and hug each other silly, have a glass of wine on Saturday afternoon with friends, or sit in a circle gabbing about the ways of life, but who care enough about me, you, and all other sentient beings and wear the damn mask.