About masks …

Misinformation kills.  The problem is that most misinformation is on some level true.  That seems like a contradiction in  terms, but that’s how it is.  Take the arguments over masks.  I have seen various “experts” talking about how cloth or surgical procedure masks don’t filter out virus particles, so they are worthless for the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.  The first half of that statement is true.  The second half is dangerous BS.  It is vital to keep in mind that the virus is being spread in small droplets when you talk, sneeze, cough, even just breath (ewww).  “Small” is relative; those “small” droplets are  millions of times larger than the virus. Stop the droplets, stop the virus. The TL;DR is that if you have COVID-19 and wear a normal procedure mask, you reduce your chances of spreading it to someone else by something on the order of 80 or 90%.  If you wear a mask it “only” reduces your chance of getting it by 50% or so.  If both are wearing?  Estimates are over 95% or so effectiveness – maybe 99%+.

Here is a short take on the subject from a Stanford Medicine scientistHere is a more comprehensive scientific literature review in PNAS.    So just wear a (insert colorful language) mask in public places – cloth is fine.  Of course, in a clinical setting, you should be using an N95 mask and face/eye protection.  But Publix isn’t a clinical setting.

There is a French saying:  if you put a spoonful of wine in a barrel full of sewerage, you get sewerage.  If you put a spoonful of sewerage in a barrel full of fine wine, you get sewerage.  So it is with information … keep the sewerage out of your wine.

Speaking of sewerage, here are some updated charts.  The trends are clear, Arizona, South Carolina, and Florida are in full blown rapid community spread. Texas is on the verge of that.  Georgia is trending in a bad way.  Expect a spike in hospitalizations in a week or so, and deaths in a couple of weeks …

This first graph is the rate of new positives.  It’s noisy, when people show this data they often smooth it – I don’t because the noise is information, and shows you why you can’t get excited about day to day moves until the trend is clear.  This is the rate of new positives per capita (per 1000 people).  That way you can compare states; 100 people in Arizona is about three times worse than 100 people in New York (pop 7 million vs pop 19 million).

This next graph is the cumulative positives. This is per 10,000 people. The shape of this curve tells us where we are in the pandemic.  These are called logistic curves – they tend to have a characteristic “S” shape.  When they start to bend sharply upward (like AZ, SC, FL) it’s bad news … in short, the previous graph is showing how fast the graph below is changing.

5 thoughts on “About masks …

  1. I’m wearing a mask when required but it stands to reason if the virus according to the CDC is transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks (within 6 feet of another) that, if you don’t cough, sneeze or spittle on another then the mask is moot, no?

    • You left out the biggie: normal droplets emitted during speech or breathing. That seems to be the route for asymptomatic transmission: someone has a big enough viral load for it to be aerosolized, but for whatever reason isn’t otherwise sick. The probabilities are lower, of course, than sneeze/cough/etc from a symptomatic person, but apparently high enough for sustained transmission, and if as seems to be the case 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 cases are asymptomatic, that’s a lot of people running around spreading the joy …

    • I was in the groc the other dsy when out of no where I sneezed twice. Luckily I had on a personally fitted N-95. Key words to focus on in this are “out of no where”

      • Don’t N-95 masks have valves on them such that your expelled breath is not filtered? If so, your mask was lucky for whom?

        • It is a common misunderstanding about N95’s – they are mostly filtering incoming air but not so much outgoing (although there is some capture, etc). That’s the reverse of most surgical (procedure) masks – they mostly filter outgoing, but also filter incoming to some extent. I’d bet with a sneeze, a lot of the expelled particulates end up trapped in the mask. Gross 😛 ! But, yeah, for normal speech/breathing, a lot is going out unfiltered …

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