To mask or not to mask

I'm not talking about the "unmasking" of Gen. Flynn, whatever that means. (It has to do with intelligence gathering methods.)

Here, let's look at the issue of wearing a mask, any mask, for the purpose of "protection" against the Covid-19 virus.

First, when I did a general Google search for face masks, the top 20 articles were either CDC, FDA, or other common agencies with articles on how to wear a mask, or where to buy one.

I was more interested if face masks where worth the bother, based on empirical data. So I did a search on Google Scholar for some scientific papers, and the conclusion was: They (most cloth masks) are not very effective, are not worn or used properly, instill a false sense of security, but are better than nothing. So I choose not to wear one unless I'm forced to, and then I may fight back. Hear that, Costco? I'm not coming to your store.

But -- if you choose to wear a mask, please do so. But do it correctly.

Covid-19: What is the evidence for cloth masks?

Experts have warned that recommending that members of the public wear masks can lead to shortages for those who are more in need: health and care workers and immunocompromised people, for example. It can also lead to complacency. There are several explanations as to why face masks have not generally been found to be effective if worn by the general population: they do not protect against the virus getting into the eyes (only close fitting goggles do this); people may not fit the masks properly or take them on and off; and people may have a false sense of reassurance and thus pay less attention to other behaviors key to reducing transmission, such as social distancing and hand washing.”

Face masks pose serious risks to the healthy – Blaylock

Dr. Russell Blaylock warns that not only do face masks fail to protect the healthy from getting sick, but they also create serious health risks to the wearer. The bottom line is that if you are not sick, you should not wear a face mask.

As businesses reopen, many are requiring shoppers and employees to wear a face mask. Costco, for instance, will not allow shoppers into the store without wearing a face mask. Many employers are requiring all employees to wear a face mask while at work. In some jurisdictions, all citizens must wear a face mask if they are outside of their own home.

Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks

We identified seasonal human coronaviruses, influenza viruses and rhinoviruses in exhaled breath and coughs of children and adults with acute respiratory illness. Surgical face masks significantly reduced detection of influenza virus RNA in respiratory droplets and coronavirus RNA in aerosols, with a trend toward reduced detection of coronavirus RNA in respiratory droplets. Our results indicate that surgical face masks could prevent transmission of human coronaviruses and influenza viruses from symptomatic individuals.

Evaluating the efficacy of cloth facemasks in reducing particulate matter exposure

Standard N95 mask performance was used as a control to compare the results with cloth masks, and our results suggest that cloth masks are only marginally beneficial in protecting individuals from particles

Face masks for the public during the covid-19 crisis
  • The precautionary principle states we should sometimes act without definitive evidence, just in case
  • Whether masks will reduce transmission of Covid-19 in the general public is contested
  • Even limited protection could prevent some transmission of Covid-19 and save lives
  • Because Covid-19 is such a serious threat, wearing masks in public should be advised
Utility of Cloth Masks in Preventing Respiratory Infections: A Systematic Review

Although cloth masks generally perform poorer than the medical grade masks, they may be better than no masks at all. Filtration efficacy varied greatly depending on the material used, with some materials showing a filtration efficacy above 90%. However, leakage could reduce efficacy of masks by about 50%. Standardization of cloth masks and appropriate use is essential for cloth masks to be effective. However, result of a randomized controlled trial suggest that they may be ineffective in the healthcare setting.

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