Covid-19 – To mask or not to mask?

I had no intention of posting today, but I believe this video by Dr John Campbell is so important, everyone should see it. And then perhaps we should demand that our governments do something useful to reduce the rate of Covid-19 infection. But first the video:

If you don’t want to watch the video, I’ve cherry picked what I believe are the most important points. First up, a study that shows we’ve been under estimating the distance the virus can spread:

According to this data, the 1.5 metres advocated by most governments is not enough, even just for breathing, especially in confined spaces like public transport.

Next up is a study using hamsters. And yes, they can get Covid-19 just like us. What the researchers did was to set up two cages, side by side. One cage was ‘masked’ and infected hamsters were placed inside [cage on the left]. Non-infected hamsters were placed in the second cage [cage on the right]. Then, a fan was used to blow air from the infected [but masked] cage across to the uninfected cage. This is what you see in the top row of the dinky graphic below:

The result was that only 15% of uninfected hamsters became infected. Remember that their cage was not masked.

The second row of the graphic shows a similar setup, except that this time, only the cage of uninfected hamsters is masked. The result is that 33% – i.e. more than double the previous number – of the hamsters were infected, despit their cage being masked.

The reason? Because ordinary masks aren’t fine enough to filter out the tiny droplets of the infection.

Now let’s extrapolate to you and me. If I’m infected and you’re not, but you are wearing a mask, there’s still a 33% chance that I’ll infect you just by talking to you, or by leaving droplets of infection on surfaces you may touch. But if I’m the one wearing the mask, almost all of the virus I breathe out will be trapped inside my mask, so it can’t reach you.

Now, if both you and I are wearing masks, the likelihood of infection plummets. You can find Dr John’s very good explanation at 13:26 of the video.

Still not convinced? Then look at the countries that have done best during this pandemic. Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand etc have all managed to protect both their people and their economies from the ravages of Covid-19, yet they don’t have vaccines or special treatments. All they have is what is available to us as well – good hygiene, social distancing, and a culture that’s okay with wearing masks in public.

If 80% of people wore masks [of any sort, even home made ones] in public, we could stop this pandemic in its tracks and reopen our countries safely. Instead, here in the West, we’re reopening on a wing and a prayer. We hope that people will continue social distancing and doing the right thing…pfffft.

Just last night I heard a really loud party going on here in Warrandyte. If the volume of screams and laughter were anything to go by, the party goers were drunk, and having a very good time indeed. Of course they were social distancing…yeah, right.

We’ve proved, time and time again, that we can’t be trusted to do the right thing. Yet governments are basing their hopes on us, and a dinky app that will, supposedly, make it easier to track infected contacts? Puleeze.

I believe that mask wearing has not been mandated because:

  • making self indulgent people wear masks would be like herding cats, and
  • the governments of our countries actually want us to keep infecting each other…just not too much. They don’t want our hospitals overwhelmed, they just want enough of us to get sick so we develop ‘herd immunity’.

But…

‘Researchers think that the R0 for COVID-19 is between 2 and 3. This means that one person can infect two to three other people. It also means 50% to 67% of the population would need to be resistant before herd immunity kicks in and the infection rates start to go down.’

https://www.webmd.com/lung/what-is-herd-immunity#1

The trouble is, even the places with the highest rates of infection so far, the so called ‘hot spots’, have nowhere near the 50-67% infection rate needed for herd immunity. For example, New York has an estimated infection rate of only 13.9%. https://www.chron.com/news/article/Cuomo-13-9-percent-tested-positive-COVID-19-15221278.php

This means that people will have to be infected for years in order to reach herd immunity. Years of continued deaths, years of the vulnerable having to live in a bubble because every single person they meet could be a spreader. Years of the hospital systems having to cope with an ongoing pandemic…and that’s the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that the virus will quickly slip its leash and spread like wildfire through the uninfected parts of our populations. Given how little immunity those populations currently have, that means pretty much everyone. At once. As Italy proved, no health care system can cope with such a demand.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We could follow the example of our Asian neighbours and wear masks until an effective vaccine can be developed. Once there is a vaccine, reaching that magical 50-67% required for herd immunity would be a snap. We could all be protected, and no one would have to be sacrificed ‘for the economy’. This is the Plan B our governments want to ignore.

So the question is this, are we okay with the arrogant assumption of government that they can ‘control’ this virus? Or would we prefer to wear masks until plan B can take effect? I know which plan I prefer.

Meeks

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

26 responses to “Covid-19 – To mask or not to mask?

  • Widdershins

    ** puts hand up** … we wear masks whenever we go into publicly accessible buildings – stores, etc … anything less is damn close to criminally insane.

    Liked by 1 person

  • da-AL

    valuable info – many tx

    Liked by 1 person

  • Margy

    Thought you and your readers would appreciate the rather well-balanced information in this article.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-52015486

    Here in Canada, as in many places in the world (including Italy), the people who are getting sick and dying are the aged. On the whole, the young (under the age of 60) have mild to no symptoms. This age group is, then, our best hope of developing herd immunity in a shorter time frame, without there being a significant death toll.

    Mask wearing, in a herd immunity scenario, could be important when in contact with seniors (as well as social distancing), but undesirable the rest of the time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      Thanks for commenting, Margy. I would agree with you if there were no hope of a vaccine at all. Then yes, herd immunity would be our only hope. But it would not be a good hope because achieving the 60% of infections required would see an awful lot of people die. And not all of them would be over 60.
      If you look at the actual statistics, younger people are dying of this virus as well, just not in huge numbers.

      I first realised this when I saw video footage of an intensive care unit in Lombardy [Italy] during the height of the outbreak there. Couldn’t see the faces of the the patients hooked up to ventilators, but their naked chests showed that almost all of them were young or youngish.

      Once the hospitals in Lombardy were overwhelmed, the doctors were forced to triage the patients. That included taking older people /off/ ventilators and sedating them so they didn’t suffer too much before they died. The ventilators freed up by this triage were given to younger people. Is that truly the price we’re prepared to pay?

      Back to your point about herd immunity though, the truly horrifying thing is that despite all those deaths, the actual percentage of people who recovered and now have immunity [for however long] is still only a very small fraction of the total population of Italy. So all that suffering, and they’re still miles away from anything approaching herd immunity.

      Just to put this into context, smallpox was around for thousands of years until an effective vaccine came along. If humans couldn’t create herd immunity to smallpox the ‘natural’ way, what makes us think we can do so with Covid-19?

      Apologies for bombarding you with all this, but I really do not think that this attempt at herd immunity is the right way to go. Not while we have no vaccine and no treatment.

      To be fair, my bias is that the Offspring has medical issues and I’ve had cancer, plus I’m 67, so we’re part of that statistical cohort of those most likely to die. So are many members of my extended family who have diabetes, asthma, MS etc.

      For us, it’s personal. For the politicians, we’re just expendable statistics.

      Like

      • Margy

        I can certainly understand your position of caution. You are right that statistics will be guiding decisions now that there is a better understanding of who is at high risk. This should provide a better outcome than the fear-based model we have been under for the past few months. Governments have been trying to keep the ‘weasel out of the hen house’ when in reality the weasel had slipped in the back way and was attacking the frail seniors before anyone even noticed.

        Liked by 1 person

        • acflory

          -grin- if by weasel you mean asymptomatic carriers? Oh absolutely. But again, I see that as the perfect reason /not/ to reopen until there are some strategies that really do work.
          Interestingly, I believe there are two streams of thinking amongst epidemiologists too. I just hope we don’t pay too high a price for the ‘herd immunity’ stream.

          Like

  • MELewis

    Very good post with lots of information and sensible advice as usual, Meeka! I wish everyone took the mask-wearing as seriously. For now I still feel like a stranger in a strange land when I go out. But it’s common sense to reduce the risk for all with distancing plus simple barriers to transmission.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Elizabeth Drake

    Mask up! Really don’t get why it’s so difficult.

    No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.

    Liked by 2 people

  • CarolCooks2

    As a country, we have 54 recorded deaths we are not allowed in shops without a mask… end of…we comply we don’t feel our civil liberties have been infringed or whatever we are happy to be alive and I am happy my neighbours are alive…Hugs Meeks…Get masked up peeps 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

  • davidprosser

    Mask every time, get us back to work and shopping. We need the economy to start paying back some of the National Debt our countries have racked up.
    Huge Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

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