I just read a very good piece by my friend Courtney, aka “godless_mom” on the efficacy of mask wearing during this pandemic. She makes, as usual very good points and of course, cites data where it’s required to show that masks do help slow the spread of the virus. As I go through the days, I read various essays, even some purported “scientific” papers on the usefulness or not, of masks. There’s a lot of opinion out there and most of it is based on very little science.
Why do I say that? As Courtney points out, this virus is new to all of us, that’s why it’s been known as the novel coronavirus and scientists around the world have been attempting for months now to define the basis of transmission as well as those that may be more susceptible to the harsh effects of this virus than others. It can be said that people with other conditions (heart disease, diabetes, etc.) if they contract the virus, are liable to suffer more than those without those conditions because their immune systems are already compromised.
So far, children, those under fifteen, are not readily affected by the virus but that doesn’t mean they are immune to it, just that they seem to be mostly asymptomatic, some with mild symptoms. But our schools remain closed, mostly, to in-person classes.
We’re in uncharted territory though, We have no idea of any long term affects on anyone. We can’t even say, for sure, if someone contracts the virus, and survuves, are they forever immune to it, temporarily immune, or, possibly, not immune at all? We’re not even sure how people may or may not contract the virus., other than airborne. Even then, we’re unsure how long virus shed by someone survives in the air. Seconds? Minutes? Here’s a pretty good article out of Harvard that discusses basics (updated just this month). To get an idea of what is known about transmission though, the consumer has to go near the end of the article. Here’s a quote from the article about how long the virus, if airborne may survive:
A study done by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Laboratory of Virology in the Division of Intramural Research in Hamilton, Montana helps to answer this question. The researchers used a nebulizer to blow coronaviruses into the air. They found that infectious viruses could remain in the air for up to three hours. The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17, 2020.
Okay, that doesn’t seem to be updated. as I recently read that the airborne virus may survive for up to 15 minutes. But Harvard has not changed the above to indicate anything else.
How about surviving on surfaces? This has gone back and forth for months. At first we were told to constantly be scrubbing surfaces in out homes, then, not so much, Recently, we’re told again that surface contact is a problem. From the Harvard article:
A recent study found that the COVID-19 coronavirus can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The researchers also found that this virus can hang out as droplets in the air for up to three hours before they fall. But most often they will fall more quickly.
This information seems to change often. Before some say science is useless, let’s stop for a minute and understand, again, this virus is new and we’re going to get a lot of what seems to be conflicting information over time. That’s the frustration. Maybe it’s our fault that we demand too much at once and when we get what we want, well, it’s not what we want to hear. Then we hear, a little later (a week or two) something different, or a change in the original information. Again, frustration. There is such a thing as information overload to the point where people are unsure what to believe at any one point in time as critical information seems to shift constantly.
So will wearing a mask present someone from contracting the virus? To a degree a mask may help but that’s not the reason, from what we’re told now, that we should be donning masks in public: It’s to prevent us from spreading virus to others. If everyone wears a mask, all the time when they’re in public spaces, will that mean no one will get sick? Well, not that we know of today. We’re not even sure if our 6 foot of social distancing is enough anymore. The CDC, according to that link, is now saying that it probably isn’t.
Like Courtney, I do wear a mask in public spaces and I find it curious to see people in those same places, mask less. I don’t consider them stupid or necessarily dangerous, just like many of us, confused. There are a few that refuse just because the government can’t force them. These exist everywhere. We need to stop panicking though as we have industry working on therapeutics as well as vaccines. We need to be sensible as well. If it makes sense to wear a mask, even if it annoys you, wear the mask. If it doesn’t, don’t. An example of the latter is I’ve seen people, in their cars, alone, wearing a mask. I’ve seen people out on the hiking trail, again, no one near them at all, wearing masks. But maybe in the grocery or convenience store?
So, I’ll do my part to help prevent the spread, but it doesn’t mean I’ll just go along with whatever I’m told because next week, they’ll change it anyway. What do birthday cards have to do with preventing the spread of the virus? There’s a state where cards, even flower seeds are illegal to buy because they’re not necessary items. Really. Then these same people tell us to trust them, because they’re looking out for our health and safety.
It’s not just here in the U.S., but around the world. You can’t hold the world population hostage forever. People in other countries (Europe, anyone?) are feeling the same way. Australia has been prosecuting it’s citizens for just going outside, without a mask. Jailing people. That’ll help. Yep, I’m convinced. We want people to be responsible and reasonable, but that means that those who are supposedly looking out for us need to be reasonable as well.