TNB Night Owl – The Case For Masks

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Photo by NIAID-RML.

The purpose and motivation behind this article is to be able to share information and ideas with my family and friends. I hope you find it useful, and if you do please pass it on to your own family and friends.

The numbers of infections and deaths due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019) are increasing dramatically every day. As of Sunday, March 29, the total number of cases in the United States were; 123,781 people infected, and 2,229 deaths. One week previous, the number of cases was about half that. One week from now, they will probably be double these numbers.

This is a battle we all must be involved in. The following information is important for everyone to know and understand.

How COVID-19 spreads

Coronavirus, like all viruses, must get inside the body to do any harm. It needs an opening, the most common of which are the mouth, nose, and eyes. Less likely, but still possible, is the ears, a scratch, an open cut, or wound. It cannot enter the body directly through your skin, unless the skin is injured.

The primary means of infection is through airborne droplets of moisture that contain the virus. When people cough, sneeze, exhale, or even just talk, they are filling the air with droplets of moisture that are too small to see. [Video, “Talking can spread COVID-19” (2:43)]
Ordinarily, that’s no big deal. But if the person who coughs, sneezes, exhales, or talks, is infected with the virus then they can spread the virus to others. This is the reason health officials tell us stay at home (shelter-in-place) and to practice social distancing in public by keeping at least six feet away from other people.

The coronavirus can also spread through surface contact. This is far less likely than person to person airborne droplets, because the virus cannot survive for more than a few hours on most surfaces. Since it is still a possibility, remember to wash your hands often, and refrain from touching your face (because you may transfer the virus from your fingers to your mouth, nose, eyes, ears, or a scratch).

If you can’t wash your hands immediately after touching public surfaces, such as gasoline pumps or the card reader at the checkout counter, use hand sanitizer.

Also, be sure to protect and cover cuts, scratches, and wounds with bandages.

What works to stop the spread?

One of the most important things is to test people for the virus, but there’s an extreme shortage of test kits. More test kits are becoming available, so in time more people will be tested. Those who test positive can be kept apart from the general population. This precaution is most important and is called containment, which means isolation for those that have been diagnosed and shelter-in-place for everyone else.

Meanwhile, we mostly don’t know who has the virus and who doesn’t, because it takes a while for symptoms to show. People who are infected but don’t know it are spreading the virus to other people who they come into contact with.

Even if people are avoiding others by voluntarily sheltering in place, many still need to go out to get groceries and other essentials, even if they are sheltering at home. Also, there are essential employees providing essential services. It’s not possible for everyone to remain isolated indefinitely.

This is where masks come into play. Masks have been scientifically demonstrated to limit the spread of viruses. Even a home-made mask (discussed below) can be nearly as good as the best masks meant for hospital use.

Look at this list (current data on Sunday, March 29) of nations where masks have been widely worn as a defense against the virus. These infection and death rates are quite low compared to nations where masks have not been widely used. (Refer to graph here, and data source here).

South Korea: 9,583 infected, 152 deaths
Japan: 1,693 infected, 52 deaths
Singapore: 802 infected, 3 deaths
Hong Kong: 641 infected, 4 deaths
Taiwan: 298 infected, 2 deaths
Czech Republic: 2,689 infected, 13 deaths

South Korea was among the first countries worldwide to be hit by the coronavirus, and had less time to prepare for the pandemic than the other five nations on this list, which is why its number of infections and deaths is much higher than the others. Still, South Korea’s infections are significantly lower than other nations around the world that have not used masks.

The Czech Republic diagnosed its first infected citizens on March 1. Ten days later, it became mandatory for all Czechs to wear a mask. This is the primary reason their number of cases is much lower than other European countries.

This next group is a list of countries where masks have not been widely used. Refer to the graph to compare them to the group listed above.

US: 123,781 infected, 2,229 deaths
Italy: 92,472 infected, 10,023 deaths
Spain: 78,797 infected, 6,528 deaths
Germany: 58,247 infected, 455 deaths
Iran: 38,309 infected, 2,640 deaths
France: 37,575 infected, 2,314 deaths

Shortage of masks

If there were enough masks for everyone the infection and death rates would not be anywhere near as high as they are.

However, not even the best hospital-grade masks will completely stop all the viruses from getting through. The idea is to ‘reduce the viral load’. This means that if you encounter a contagious person, instead of getting a 100% load of infection, you only get a fraction of that. Your immune system has a better chance of defeating 25% of the full viral load than 100%.

A home-made mask is always going to work better than no mask at all, and by making your own, that leaves a larger supply for health care workers.

If you’re on Twitter, take a look at #Masks4All

How to make a mask at home

The following videos will show you how to make your own mask, from quick and easy to more involved. These are just examples, there are other methods if you search for them.

Dr. Ryan Southworth: A Doctor Explains How to Make the Safest Face Mask (video time 14:55)

How to make a NO SEW DIY FACE MASK – $0 Quick & Easy Tutorial (video time 7:41)

DIY Disposable masks with scissors, stapler, papertowels, string and cloth, in 4 minutes or less (video time 17:26)

Effectiveness of home-made masks

Various common household materials can be used to make an effective home made mask. Here’s a very good article on the subject.

Sanitize your masks

Your mask can be disinfected for reuse. Stanford Medicine created a PDF file that you can download which will tell you all you need to know.

Remember your eyes

Your mask provides you with some protection, and it also protects the public from you in case you’re contagious.

What your mask won’t do is protect your eyes, another possible entry point for the virus, from contagious people. Doctors and nurses wear goggles when working with coronavirus patients. If you are a member of a vulnerable group, you’ll want to wear glasses or goggles in addition to your mask if you must go out in public.

Closing remarks

The purpose and motivation behind this article is to be able to share the information and ideas with family and friends. I hope you find it useful, and if you do please pass it on to your own family and friends.

Please let me know in the comments if I’ve left out anything important or made an error somewhere. It would be best to make corrections or additions sooner rather than later. Thank you.

Question of the night: Will you wear a mask if it means saving someone else’s life?

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.