Mask on, Mask off

The great mask debate. One of the numerous polarizing issues that is currently crippling our society. In an effort to bring myself some sanity I decided to delve into the research, but there are a few things I need to clarify before I begin as to not waste your time.

It is difficult to know who or what to trust, but I can say for certain this entire pandemic has been incredibly politicized on the left and right. Making it extremely difficult to discern fact from fiction. Here is what I believe to be fact. SARS-COV2 is a real virus, whether it be lab created, manipulated, accidentally or intentionally released we will likely never know. Regardless of how it got here, it is real. Secondly, the virus is transmitted through micro droplets and what scientist have referred to as “aerosol transmission”. This is what makes the virus so contagious and where the argument for masks come into play. When we speak, breathe, sneeze, cough, etc. droplets leave our mouth and enter into the air, we’ve all seen the videos of what happens if you don’t cover your mouth when you sneeze. It’s disgusting how much flies out. When in close proximity to another person, you actually inhale those droplets. So now the question becomes, how much are masks stopping these droplets from entering the air. Without researching a thing, it makes logical sense to me if you cough without a barrier in front of your mouth more particles are going to fly versus with a barrier.

A recent study published by Asadi et al. (2020) concluded surgical and unvented KN95 respirators reduced outward particle emission rates, on average, by 90% and 74% when speaking and coughing. However, wearing a homemade cloth mask resulted in no change or a significant increase in emission rate when speaking. When compared to surgical masks, minimizing emissions of the smallest particles, 0.3 – 0.5 µm, unwashed single layer cotton t-shirt masks increased by almost 600% when speaking. Unwashed double layer cotton t-shirt masks yielded approximately 300% increase for coughing and minimal changes when talking and breathing. In intermediate size particles, 0.5 – 1 µm, similar trends were observed. Unwashed double layer t-shirt masks yielded a 34.1% reduction for breathing and talking compared to no mask. Schilling et al. (2020) evaluated ten commercially surgical-style masks that proposed to be as effective as an N95 respirator. Results varied widely in terms of emission reduction, 22-95% with an average of 72 ± 19%. It is clear to me based on these two studies unvented KN95, N95 and surgical masks are effective at reducing emission rates of particles. However, the fashionable mask your grandmother sewed are likely not as effective.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, MD, PhD, published an article in the Wall Street Journal discussing mask mandates. He conceded that data shows states with mask mandates performed slightly better in terms of limiting confirmed cases by two percent compared to states without such restrictions. As of November 9, 2020 the state of Texas has 1,019,076 confirmed cases, a two percent reduction would have brought confirmed cases to 998,694. Looking at a smaller state like Kentucky with 120,838 cases, a two percent decease would result in 118,421 cases.

Having only a few studies to go off of, it seems to me outside of medical grade masks there is minimal reduction in the emission rate and amount of particles exiting the mouth. There is large scale study awaiting publication out of Denmark that examined masks outside of the healthcare system. They are having a difficult time securing publication, I suspect their findings contradict the current narrative.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the past couple days before finishing the article. I believe we are much better at fighting the virus then we were in March when we saw the massive outbreaks in New York City and Los Angeles. This is not the death sentence they originally thought. We now know putting people on ventilators was one of the worse things to do, Vitamin D and Zinc are beneficial vitamins to help combat the virus and there are medications out there that have been proven to help. I don’t have a problem wearing a mask in places where we are in close contact with other people such as a cashier, waitress or on public transportation. I personally don’t see much of a benefit but if I were a grocery store clerk or elderly person perhaps I would feel differently. I don’t want to spread the virus to others should I happen to have it and not know about it. I feel for those on the front lines in jobs that require constant interaction with other people. They are often the lowest paid in our society yet play a vital role in keeping it running. With that being said there are a lot of things I see happening related to mask wearing I don’t support.

For starters, if you are outside, driving in your car, or even in a large building wearing a mask, it is not necessary what so ever. If you feel compelled to wear one, great, but don’t scoff at the people who do not. I have been shamed quite a bit for running or hiking through the woods with my dog mask-less. I’ve had people jump off into the woods and cower as if I was some type of monster. Yet another way we are being divided. I also have a big problem with the way the mainstream media is portraying this virus and the lack of emphasis on health, fitness and supplementation as a way to better prepare yourself. Additionally, the negative impact it is having on our youth by making them less social. There is already an uphill battle with technology and getting kids to socialize with one another. Locking down schools and going virtual is only making it worse. Forcing kids to walk around in masks all day, not letting them interact with friends at lunch, recess or gym is going to change the way they interact with each other forever. On top of the underlying message of fear the mainstream media is pumping out, I am truly worried of the long term repercussions. I see this changing people and it scares me. We are already seeing high levels of anxiety, depression and suicide amongst Gen Z, I don’t see the way we are handling this pandemic improving the mental health situation. Forcing them to become more isolated and shut in.

I don’t have a solution to the problem but I know a more in depth conversation needs to be had weighing of the pros/cons of this situation. This country is heading toward a lot of unknowns and so far I am not confident in the way they have handled things leading up until now. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I know there are like-minded people out there and that gives me hope we will make it through this because we are resilient.

Stay well out there,

-E

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