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Old 04-23-2020, 10:03 AM
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Do masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19?


Harris County (Houston) is going to order the use of face masks while in public - most of the masks will likely be homemade or surgical type. Does wearing a mask help prevent the spread of Covid-19? Common sense tells me it would help, I'm not sure how much, but it would definitely help. I also realize if I can breathe in and out of the mask, it's likely coronavirus particles are going in and out, too.

I realize "mask" can mean many things and "help prevent" can mean many things and I'm leaving that open ended.
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Old 04-23-2020, 11:16 AM
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Two basic benefits of the mask are that they help block viruses from being inhaled and they impede any virus being exhaled. Improvised cloth masks might just block 50% of the virus from being inhaled compared to 95% with an N95 mask. But a simple cloth mask can make a big difference in how far someone's breath is exhaled. Here's a video that helps demonstrate the difference between no mask and with a mask: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYJvU81DKgk In that case they are using a medical mask, but you can see how drastically shorter his breath travels with a mask versus without. The farther the virus can travel the greater chance to infect someone or some surface, so impeding that means the chance of infecting someone else is lower.

If you only have an improvised mask, try to have a gap between the mask and your face so that the exhaled air will be more diffuse. If the cloth mask is tight against your face, the exhaled air can still leave the mask with a lot of force. With a slight gap, the exhaled air is distributed over the whole mask and will leave the mask with less force.
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Old 04-23-2020, 11:28 AM
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The aspect that nobody is paying attention to is risk compensation. When people perceive that something is protecting them, they tend to engage in more risky behavior. The classic example is bicycle helmets. Nobody disputes that if your head is going to strike concrete, it's better that it do so inside a helmet. Yet studies have shown that laws mandating helmets don't make cyclists safer overall. Cyclists are less cautious in traffic when wearing a helmet; it has even been shown that motorists give measurably less room when passing cyclists who are wearing helmets. In other words: a helmet protects you in an accident; but it also increases the probability that an accident will occur.

Anecdotally, I'm seeing this phenomenon every time I go out. I think people are wearing tea towel face masks and then thinking (consciously or unconsciously) that this means that it's not so critical to maintain 6-foot separation. I've certainly noticed that people are more inclined to keep away from me if I'm not wearing a mask.

So the argument that "they can't hurt" doesn't hold up. If they are not really very effective, risk compensation may mean that masks increase the rate of transmission.

Last edited by Riemann; 04-23-2020 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 04-23-2020, 11:34 AM
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You wear the mask to protect others, in case you have the virus. Asymptomatic carriers (having the virus and not knowing you have it) is common. By wearing the mask you reduce the risks that you spread it.

If everyone in public is wearing a mask, then the spread of the virus will be significantly reduced.
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Old 04-23-2020, 11:38 AM
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If everyone in public is wearing a mask, then the spread of the virus will be significantly reduced.
Cite, please. And what type of mask. I have little doubt that this would be true for N95s. But hand sewn tea-towel "masks"?
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Old 04-23-2020, 11:41 AM
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Anecdotally, I'm seeing this phenomenon every time I go out. I think people are wearing tea towel face masks and then thinking (consciously or unconsciously) that this means that it's not so critical to maintain 6-foot separation. I've certainly noticed that people are more inclined to keep away from me if I'm not wearing a mask.
Last time I went into a store I motioned to a young woman that her mask had slipped down, it was no longer covering her nose. She pulled it up slightly but the stiffener to shape it around her nose was just sticking out to the sides leaving a huge open gap on either side of her nose, which she was barely covering with the mask at all. At least everybody was maintaining a reasonable distance. But there are always people who just sort of phone it in, even when lives are at stake.

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So the argument that "they can't hurt" doesn't hold up. If they are not really very effective, risk compensation may mean that masks increase the rate of transmission.
It's not going to be worse than no masks. I think it's very unlikely it would increase the rate of transmission overall compared to no masks, but it may increase it on an ndividual basis for foolish people.

Your point is more applicable to things like bicycle and motorcycle helmets when it comes to prompting risky behavior.

Last edited by TriPolar; 04-23-2020 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 04-23-2020, 11:42 AM
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Yes any type of mask even homemade masks

https://www.livescience.com/are-face...us-spread.html

Again, if you come into contact with someone without a mask and they cough on you, it will not protect you. But if that person is wearing a mask, it will reduce the chance of spread to you.

So you want to be out in public with other people wearing masks. If you choose not to wear one, then you're only thinking about yourself and not others.
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:50 PM
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Your point is more applicable to things like bicycle and motorcycle helmets when it comes to prompting risky behavior.
Why would you think that? It seems like an exact parallel to me. If anything the psychological effect is much stronger in a situation where people are frustrated at being cooped up at home for weeks, unable to work or socialize. If the government is telling people that masks make them safer, do you really think that doesn't increase the probability that will go out, and that they will be less nervous about being close to other people?

And everyone always thinks that the psychological effect of risk compensation only apply to other people, who aren't as smart as they are.

With the type of masks that are typically available to most people, and the limited protection they provide, it is entirely possible that the net effect of advising or mandating the wearing of masks might alter behavior to result in an overall increase transmission rates. It's be a function of the degree of protection, and the size of the psychological effect, and nobody knows if the former outweighs the latter for a typical makeshift mask. Asserting that it's obvious that it does is without foundation.
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:54 PM
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Yes any type of mask even homemade masks

https://www.livescience.com/are-face...us-spread.html

Again, if you come into contact with someone without a mask and they cough on you, it will not protect you. But if that person is wearing a mask, it will reduce the chance of spread to you.

So you want to be out in public with other people wearing masks. If you choose not to wear one, then you're only thinking about yourself and not others.
That doesn't address risk compensation. If I'm at home and not in contact with anyone in the first place, I can't infect them. So show me a study that looks at how the perceived increase in safety from wearing a mask affects the probability that I will mingle with other people, and how close I will get to them with a mask vs without.

These studies don't exist. But the conclusion that wearing makeshift masks is a net positive is not as obvious as everyone seems to think.

At the very least, government advice should be strongly focused on telling people that masks have an uncertain and possibly very limited benefit, to try to minimize risk compensation behaviours.

Last edited by Riemann; 04-23-2020 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:55 PM
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T... Here's a video that helps demonstrate the difference between no mask and with a mask: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYJvU81DKgk In that case they are using a medical mask, but you can see how drastically shorter his breath travels with a mask versus without. The farther the virus can travel the greater chance to infect someone or some surface, so impeding that means the chance of infecting someone else is lower...
Thanks for the video, it was very effective at getting the point across and confirms my intuition re: masks. I have a question, what exactly am I seeing (ie, the imaging)? The link says, "the visualization of gas motion based on local refractive index variations Background Oriented Schlieren (BOS, also known as Synthetic Schlieren)."

I guess my question is how small can the imaging see...are we seeing 90% - and not see 10% of the small, but transmissible particles? Are we seeing everything. (I honestly don't know how to ask the question correctly).

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The aspect that nobody is paying attention to is risk compensation. When people perceive that something is protecting them, they tend to engage in more risky behavior...So the argument that "[masks] can't hurt" doesn't hold up. If they are not really very effective, risk compensation may mean that masks increase the rate of transmission.
That's a fair point. In Houston/Harris County, and this is me just reading the tea leaves, but it appears the Governor is going to start opening up the "economy" in a way that's going to put people in closer contact with each other. Harris County appears to be anticipating that and if it's going to happen, at least require people to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread. That makes sense.

I guess the question then is, just because we're allowed to go out, doesn't mean we have to...but would I be more inclined to stay inside or 6 feet apart outside without a mask versus wearing a mask. I do think people would get a false sense of security and go out/get closer than 6 feet to people because they are wearing a mask. But I also think they would be outside/close to people without a mask, so better to have one on. Are there any studies/consensus on this?

What made me start this post was people I know saying masks weren't 100% effective, didn't work, etc. I just don't understand why everything has to be so absolute. Some effectiveness is better. There was a poster who said a lady only had her mouth covered, not her nose. To me, that's better. You're still covering one of two ways to spread the disease. And the mouth is blowing forward versus down. Better is good.
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:01 PM
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What made me start this post was people I know saying masks weren't 100% effective, didn't work, etc. I just don't understand why everything has to be so absolute. Some effectiveness is better. There was a poster who said a lady only had her mouth covered, not her nose. To me, that's better. You're still covering one of two ways to spread the disease. And the mouth is blowing forward versus down. Better is good.
But the whole point about the risk compensation issue is that (very approximately) if the perceived increase in safety from a given type of mask is greater than the actual increase in safety then the psychological tendency to engage in more risky behavior may outweigh the physical benefit of the mask. So the "something is better than nothing" argument is wrong.
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:13 PM
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Your point is more applicable to things like bicycle and motorcycle helmets when it comes to prompting risky behavior.
I was just looking at the other thread...

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....Also, I'm not going anywhere near someone who isn't wearing a mask.
The corollary being...?
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:15 PM
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Again, people should wear a mask to not protect themselves, but to protect others from you spreading the virus. We should assume that we are all asymptomatic and that we could spread the virus to others. Yes, staying at home will reduce that risk to near nil, but many of us have to work, have to buy food, etc. So when going in public, we should take steps to reduce the exposure to other people.

It's like the real reason that many people get the seasonal flu vaccine. It's not to keep yourself from getting sick, it's so you don't get it and spread it to someone else that is more vulnerable.

Last edited by Omar Little; 04-23-2020 at 01:17 PM.
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:20 PM
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But the whole point about the risk compensation issue is that (very approximately) if the perceived increase in safety from a given type of mask is greater than the actual increase in safety then the psychological tendency to engage in more risky behavior may outweigh the physical benefit of the mask. So the "something is better than nothing" argument is wrong.
As long as the actual benefit is less. Sure. I don't know that to be true one way or the other. Common sense tells me masks would help prevent spreading (actual outweighing perceived benefit), but I'm definitely open to be proven wrong.

In Texas, the Governor is going to let people go outside and return to normal sooner than he probably should. That is going to happen, people want it to happen. If that's going to happen, then I think it's better (safer) to do it with a mask on.
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:23 PM
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Again, people should wear a mask to not protect themselves, but to protect others from you spreading the virus. We should assume that we are all asymptomatic and that we could spread the virus to others. Yes, staying at home will reduce that risk to near nil, but many of us have to work, have to buy food, etc. So when going in public, we should take steps to reduce the exposure to other people.
And again - I don't dispute that if the psychological effect of risk compensation didn't exist, wearing masks would be sure to make us all at least somewhat safer. But it does exist, it can be very strong, and it doesn't make everyone safer to just ignore it.
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:30 PM
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Why would you think that? It seems like an exact parallel to me. If anything the psychological effect is much stronger in a situation where people are frustrated at being cooped up at home for weeks, unable to work or socialize. If the government is telling people that masks make them safer, do you really think that doesn't increase the probability that will go out, and that they will be less nervous about being close to other people?
Yes, I think in this situation people are still nervous about being around other people, very few people are so foolish to consider any old mask to be a panacea. Motorcycles prompt unsafe behavior in a lot of people, it's the reason a lot of people get motorcycles, they want a thrill and they're often only wearing the helmet because it's the law or they're making someone else happy by wearing it. They don't really belief the helmet is making them much safer. It's just adding a little bit of false sense of safety to something inherently dangerous. Nobody thinks helmets decrease the chance of a motorcycle accident.

But the main difference is that a motorcycle helmet isn't meant to protect other people, it's just for the rider. Enough people realize masks are more important than that so I don't see the wide spread behavior occurring that would make masks increase the rate of transmission compared to no masks at all, not simply fail to reduce it. I think you have to back up that claim.

Last edited by TriPolar; 04-23-2020 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 04-23-2020, 02:02 PM
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I think you have to back up that claim.
I don't think you're disputing the psychological effect exists, since you yourself in the other thread said you'd be more inclined to approach someone if they are wearing a mask. You've explicitly said that if I don't wear a mask, that's a very effective way of keeping me totally safe from you, because you won't come anywhere near me! And obviously I'm not meaning to pick on you in particular - the psychological effect is obvious for everyone, including me.

So it's simply a question of the magnitude of the effect, and I'm not sure why you think the burden of proof lies on one side only.

The question is: how much physical protection does a mask really grant, relative to the perceived protection, since the psychological effect will be proportional to the latter.

As I've said, I certainly wouldn't dispute that if N95 masks were available in unlimited supply, we can assume that the physical protection outweighs any psychological risk compensation effect. But I'm much more skeptical about the makeshift masks that most people are wearing.

At the very least, I think there should be a much stronger focus in government guidance on trying to limit risk compensatory behaviors by telling people the truth - that we don't have good evidence that makeshift masks are very effective at all, and that wearing them should absolutely not make anyone think that approaching other people is significantly safer.

Last edited by Riemann; 04-23-2020 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 04-23-2020, 02:10 PM
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I don't think you're disputing the psychological effect exists, since you yourself in the other thread said you'd be more inclined to approach someone if they are wearing a mask. You've explicitly said that if I don't wear a mask, that's a very effective way of keeping me totally safe from you, because you won't come anywhere near me!
And I'm not intending to pick on you in particular - the psychological effect is obvious for everyone.

So it's simply a question of the magnitude of the effect, and I'm not sure why you think the burden of proof lies on one side only.

The question is: how much physical protection does a mask really grant, relative to the perceived protection, since the psychological effect will be proportional to the latter.

As I've said, I certainly wouldn't dispute that if N95 masks were available in unlimited supply, we can assume that the physical protection outweighs any psychological risk compensation effect. But I'm much more skeptical about the makeshift masks that most people are wearing.

At the very least, I think there should be a much stronger focus in government guidance on trying to limit risk compensatory behaviors by telling people the truth - that we don't have good evidence that makeshift masks are very effective at all, and that wearing them should absolutely not make anyone think that approaching other people is significantly safer.
I don't disagree with the basic principle, but again, you are saying that so many people will wear inadequate masks and ignore all other social distancing that the transmission rate will be higher than if no one wore masks.

And I'm sure you realize that my caution in staying away from people without masks is not going to apply across the population, and probably doesn't mean anything if no one is wearing a mask.
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Old 04-23-2020, 02:41 PM
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The aspect that nobody is paying attention to is risk compensation. When people perceive that something is protecting them, they tend to engage in more risky behavior. The classic example is bicycle helmets. Nobody disputes that if your head is going to strike concrete, it's better that it do so inside a helmet. Yet studies have shown that laws mandating helmets don't make cyclists safer overall. Cyclists are less cautious in traffic when wearing a helmet; it has even been shown that motorists give measurably less room when passing cyclists who are wearing helmets. In other words: a helmet protects you in an accident; but it also increases the probability that an accident will occur.
(...)
Hi. Iím curious about the evidence for this claim. The best cite I found in 10 minutes of googling was this 2016 article from The Guardian, which discusses a new survey of studies. The conclusion is that wearing a helmet while bicycling greatly reduces serious head injuries. Nearly a 70% reduction.

It touches on an earlier study that emphasized the Risk Compensation theory. That study seems to have been based on a very abstract experimental set-up, rather than real life results. But presumably there are other, better, studies.
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Old 04-23-2020, 02:52 PM
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And I'm sure you realize that my caution in staying away from people without masks is not going to apply across the population, and probably doesn't mean anything if no one is wearing a mask.
I don't follow your reasoning here. You seem to be suggesting a model where you are somehow obliged to closely approach a certain number of people every day, and it's just a question of how you choose them.
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Old 04-23-2020, 03:02 PM
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Hi. Iím curious about the evidence for this claim. The best cite I found in 10 minutes of googling was this 2016 article from The Guardian, which discusses a new survey of studies. The conclusion is that wearing a helmet while bicycling greatly reduces serious head injuries. Nearly a 70% reduction.

It touches on an earlier study that emphasized the Risk Compensation theory. That study seems to have been based on a very abstract experimental set-up, rather than real life results. But presumably there are other, better, studies.
There are numerous references in the Wiki article on Risk Compensation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation

The specific case of cycling helmets is not without controversy, and the effect is probably different in different societies. But the fact that risk compensation can sometimes have a large effect is certainly true. And I think it may well be extremely important with these makeshift masks when we don't really have good evidence about just how effective they are.

At the very least, government guidance should be oriented toward emphasizing that makeshift masks may only offer minimal protection, to try to minimize risk compensatory behaviors, and I'm not seeing that happening at all.

Last edited by Riemann; 04-23-2020 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 04-24-2020, 01:26 AM
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There are numerous references in the Wiki article on Risk Compensation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation

The specific case of cycling helmets is not without controversy, and the effect is probably different in different societies. But the fact that risk compensation can sometimes have a large effect is certainly true. And I think it may well be extremely important with these makeshift masks when we don't really have good evidence about just how effective they are.

At the very least, government guidance should be oriented toward emphasizing that makeshift masks may only offer minimal protection, to try to minimize risk compensatory behaviors, and I'm not seeing that happening at all.
You have consistently implied that masks offer protection to the wearer. As you have already been told, this is untrue, in fact dangerously untrue. Masks offer protection to other people. By requiring masks in public you are protected in the sense that you won't be forced to be close to someone without one.
All the messages I get in the Bay Area are that masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Are you getting another message?
In my rare visits to stores before and after the mask requirement, I haven't seen any difference in social distancing.
That masks protect others, not you, is exactly why it had to be made mandatory. Not wearing a mask doesn't increase your risk, it increases that of others. Unlike helmets.
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Old 04-24-2020, 01:51 AM
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You have consistently implied that masks offer protection to the wearer.
No, I haven't. Or if I have, it was unintentional. I understand the physical purpose of wearing makeshift masks.

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Not wearing a mask doesn't increase your risk, it increases that of others. Unlike helmets.
That makes no difference to the issue of risk compensation in behavior. It doesn't need to be the person wearing the mask whose behavior is influenced. What matters is that there's a causal connection between mask wearing and riskier behavior.

(1) If I think I may have been exposed, but I'm not sure, without a mask I'd definitely stay home because I'm a good citizen and I don't want to risk infecting other people. But if I'm getting the message that wearing a mask probably stops me infecting other people if I'm sick, maybe I decide to go out anyway. That's risk compensation.

(2) If the fact that other people see me wearing a mask makes them more inclined to approach me, the change in their behavior is also risk compensation.

Last edited by Riemann; 04-24-2020 at 01:55 AM.
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Old 04-25-2020, 07:01 AM
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I recall a study in Japan where condoms are routinely used, they have more than a 99% effectiveness rate. In the West it's dismal with around 75% and it's because of improper usage.

So I see the point where other posters have been asking about usage. I wear a mask and am simply amazed at how much I would've subconsciously touched my face otherwise. So I guess that is something else too.
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Old 04-25-2020, 07:23 AM
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Medical guidance changes all the time based on new research and changing conditions. They change CPR protocols all the time, so it's no surprise that you're hearing changing guidance about masks and gloves.

The thing that prevents masks and especially gloves from being effective is that most people aren't trained to use them, and most people don't have a big enough supply to rotate and dispose of them.

Gloves especially are the worst. If you're not constantly rotating them, then you're just accumulating contamination and spreading it.

Masks are a little more complicated. Like gloves, they're supposed to be rotated. Surgical masks are supposed to protect the patient, not the doctor. If the doctor has an infectious disease, they don't rely on a mask, they simply avoid patients altogether.

But we're not in an operating room scenario here. People aren't trained in mask use or rotation. We don't know who is carrying COVID and who isn't. Essential people have to work, and we have to buy essential things like food. We're also in the midst of allergy season. The rules are relaxed a bit.

In that light, masks are good because when you feel that allergy sneeze coming on, but you can't cover your mouth because your hands are full, then the mask prevents you from spraying a 10-foot plume of sputum across the produce section of the supermarket. If you're carrying COVID, that saves lives.

Last edited by HMS Irruncible; 04-25-2020 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 05-14-2020, 10:35 AM
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I haven't found this anywhere else. If I missed it and people want to link it here, great!

My work is talking about a phased approach to get everyone back to the office at some point. No hard date.

Question from this. Let's say I still wear a mask. Let's say they move people's desk six feet apart and no meetings in conference rooms. Does my chances of catching something increase the longer I'm there? In other words, I'm wearing a mask and being socially distant but then I'm on the same floor for eight to nine hours, breathing the air. Are my chances higher of catching something?

I'm trying to find data on the duration around others because I know wearing a mask cuts it down, when done properly. I haven't seen it on an extended duration, like a work day.

Thanks!
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Old 05-14-2020, 11:16 AM
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Question from this. Let's say I still wear a mask. Let's say they move people's desk six feet apart and no meetings in conference rooms. Does my chances of catching something increase the longer I'm there? In other words, I'm wearing a mask and being socially distant but then I'm on the same floor for eight to nine hours, breathing the air. Are my chances higher of catching something?
Yes, of course. Here is a good link that explains how infection is basically a function of exposure to viral load multiplied by the time you spend in that space, especially if it's an enclosed space.

Viral load accumulates in enclosed spaces. Sustained indoor contact is one of the highest risk factors for infection. Also there are all the high-touch shared surfaces in the office (are you planning on going to the bathroom that day?)

There's nothing magic about the 6 foot limit. You could still get infected by aerosol at 8 or 10 feet. Someone just determined that if we want to do the daily necessities, then 6 feet is kinda manageable and kinda safe.

The mask doesn't protect you at all. All the airborne particles are going to land on your mask instead of your face. You're not trained to treat your own mask as a hazard, so you touch it and touch your face and infect yourself. The mask is only to protect others from your giant sloppy coal-miner sneezes and coughs.

There is no safe way to return to work right now, absent a level of aggressive testing that isn't happening right now.
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Old 05-14-2020, 11:27 AM
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Yes, of course. Here is a good link that explains how infection is basically a function of exposure to viral load multiplied by the time you spend in that space, especially if it's an enclosed space.
I was about to post that same link. See especially the bit about Workplaces.

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Also there are all the high-touch shared surfaces in the office (are you planning on going to the bathroom that day?)
From everything we've read, we still don't know whether shared surfaces are a significant source of transmission. E.g. from the CDC:
Quote:
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
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Old 05-14-2020, 12:02 PM
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All the barriers to viral movement are most effective at the point closest to the source of the virus. Your mask protects everyone else. If you don't have the virus, that protection is irrelevant, and the amount it protects you remains minor. The six foot range protects you more than a three foot range, but less than a nine foot range. The total number of infected people in the building increases the likelihood of infection for all the uninfected people. Most of the infected people don't know they are infected, for at least a week or two. They might never know. Research is equivocal about how long after recovery a person remains infectious, if at all. Similarly, immunity may be conferred on those recovering, and may last for an unknown period. Or, perhaps not, or perhaps for only one strain at a time, or, perhaps. Keep in mind this disease was unknown last year. The entire genus of viruses was unidentified except as "possible agents causing the common cold" a decade ago.
The last time a new disease agent was identified as a threat a lot of very expensive effort was put into creating a vaccine, and then testing it, and the disease (SARS) was judged "no longer a major threat" and no one wanted the vaccine. Yes, it was supported by public funds. No, it was not entirely paid for by public funds, and a lot of careers were left dangling when that happened. MERS followed, and the exact same scenario occurred again. The things that were learned doing those things is the reason that this time a single year may be long enough to get the vaccine ready.
In that case, the entire political momentum of the Anti-vax community will be born again! Think of all the things that the new vaccine can be blamed for! Halitosis, psychosis, neuralgia, and kids not being everything their parents think they should be. But, this time, we can blame it on the Chinese!
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Old 05-14-2020, 12:39 PM
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I haven't found this anywhere else. If I missed it and people want to link it here, great!

My work is talking about a phased approach to get everyone back to the office at some point. No hard date.

Question from this. Let's say I still wear a mask. Let's say they move people's desk six feet apart and no meetings in conference rooms. Does my chances of catching something increase the longer I'm there? In other words, I'm wearing a mask and being socially distant but then I'm on the same floor for eight to nine hours, breathing the air. Are my chances higher of catching something?

I'm trying to find data on the duration around others because I know wearing a mask cuts it down, when done properly. I haven't seen it on an extended duration, like a work day.

Thanks!
  #31  
Old 05-14-2020, 01:53 PM
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Yes, of course. Here is a good link that explains how infection is basically a function of exposure to viral load multiplied by the time you spend in that space, especially if it's an enclosed space.
Hey, thanks for linking that. If credible, it answers another question I have about outdoor exercise in semi-crowded spaces.

I went for a run yesterday, and ended up doing about 3/4 of the outer loop at Green Lake (for those of you familiar with Seattle.) I probably got passed (both by people going faster than me as well as by people going the other way) a good couple dozen times - mostly by runners, but sometimes walkers. There is no social distancing on that path. Almost no one was masked. I still probably won't run there again, but it sounds like the viral exposure was likely low, so hopefully not too much to worry about.
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Old 05-14-2020, 03:03 PM
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Question from this. Let's say I still wear a mask. Let's say they move people's desk six feet apart and no meetings in conference rooms. Does my chances of catching something increase the longer I'm there? In other words, I'm wearing a mask and being socially distant but then I'm on the same floor for eight to nine hours, breathing the air. Are my chances higher of catching something?
Logically, yes, your chances of catching something increases with time spent.

Unless someone is injecting the virus directly into your bloodstream, there is NEVER a way to definitely contract a virus - be it COVID 19, the flu, or the common cold. It ALWAYS is a chance you come in contact with the virus, and it has a chance to multiply before dying. So, the longer you are spending in an atmosphere where the virus might be, the more chances you have of picking up a live one.

One of the problems with infected people out at the bars is that you end up spending several hours there. You might not spend any time directly with that individual, but you might walk past him 3 times or 5 times or 12 times or.... each time, you have a chance of catching whatever he has. Now, it's how many people walking past him 5 times or 12 times or... same thing at work.

Now, by wearing a mask, you limit spreading whatever disease you might have. Every time you go to the bathroom, you wash your hands to kill the germs the last guy left. If you go into the kitchen, I'd wash my hands. Use the copier? use some hand sanitizer when you get back to your desk. These are ways to try to stop the spread, but they're not 100%.
  #33  
Old 05-14-2020, 03:09 PM
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Here is an article that notes that if there is an infected person and a healthy person, and only one of them wears a facemask, that the risk of infection is reduced by 50-90 percent more than if neither wore masks - and that if both wear masks, the infection risk drops down to a mere 1-2 percent.

https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/tai.../04/2003735785
  #34  
Old 05-14-2020, 03:09 PM
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There was discussion earlier in this pandemic that masks might cause people to feel safer and therefore take more risks, and also cause people to touch their face more. I see a ton of people adjusting their masks, removing them to make phone calls, and generally getting it wrong and touching their mask and face much more than they would without the mask. I have heard some public health authorities suggesting limited mask use when in areas where social distancing might be difficult, which makes sense. I don't think the issue is as cut and dried as most seem to think.
  #35  
Old 05-14-2020, 03:32 PM
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Yet studies have shown that laws mandating helmets don't make cyclists safer overall.
Iíve seen studies that show that behavior of cyclists and motorists are different when helmets are involved, but other research shows a substantial reduction in injuries for those wearing helmets.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...97X?via%3Dihub

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.the...70-study-finds

Seems to me it is possible that the increase in risky behavior may not offset the safety provided by bike helmets. It could be the same with masks, too.
  #36  
Old 05-14-2020, 08:11 PM
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The world does not appreciate my humor.

I have not been wearing a mask when going into a retail establishment. Mostly because I didn't have access to pre-made masks and lack the sewing ability to make my own and mask wearing is pretty spotty around here. My employer just got some masks for us, (nobody wearing them at work) but I had mine in the truck when I stopped in at the liquor store tonight. They just went back to letting customers inside, had been curbside service for about a month or so. So I put my new mask on, went in to buy some beer.

Me: "It's been a while since I walked into a liquor store wearing a mask."
Clerk: Blank stare, then "Oh... you would have got in trouble."
Me: (Damn, I thought that was funny!)
  #37  
Old 05-14-2020, 08:41 PM
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The aspect that nobody is paying attention to is risk compensation. When people perceive that something is protecting them, they tend to engage in more risky behavior. The classic example is bicycle helmets. Nobody disputes that if your head is going to strike concrete, it's better that it do so inside a helmet. Yet studies have shown that laws mandating helmets don't make cyclists safer overall. Cyclists are less cautious in traffic when wearing a helmet; it has even been shown that motorists give measurably less room when passing cyclists who are wearing helmets. In other words: a helmet protects you in an accident; but it also increases the probability that an accident will occur.

Anecdotally, I'm seeing this phenomenon every time I go out. I think people are wearing tea towel face masks and then thinking (consciously or unconsciously) that this means that it's not so critical to maintain 6-foot separation. I've certainly noticed that people are more inclined to keep away from me if I'm not wearing a mask.

So the argument that "they can't hurt" doesn't hold up. If they are not really very effective, risk compensation may mean that masks increase the rate of transmission.
Masks are not legally mandated here, but at least one grocery store chain requires them for all staff and now all customers. Others do not, and on average only about half of customers and only some of the staff wear them. Anecdotally, I'm not seeing any difference at all in physical distancing among these stores. All the stores have separation markings on the floor and everyone seems good about obeying them, mask or no mask. Also, every single store that is open for customer entry has large plexiglass shields between the customer and the cashier.

It may be that some ignorant people are under the impression that masks offer total protection, but I'm not seeing that reflected in actual behaviors. I acknowledge that "risk compensation" is a real thing (I see it with morons with 4-wheel drive pickups and SUVs and impressive-looking snow tires driving much too fast in snowy/blizzard conditions and ending up in the ditch half the time) but I think in this case it's a bit of hyperbolic academic pedantry. In any case, I'm not seeing it -- at all.
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Originally Posted by CoolHandCox View Post
That's a fair point. In Houston/Harris County, and this is me just reading the tea leaves, but it appears the Governor is going to start opening up the "economy" in a way that's going to put people in closer contact with each other. Harris County appears to be anticipating that and if it's going to happen, at least require people to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread. That makes sense.
If that's the intent, it's a very poor and dangerous policy, because the benefits of masks are limited. If, just to pick a number out of the air, surgical type masks reduce the risk of transmission by 50% or 60%, then they are well worth wearing, but not a magic solution for going gangbusters on opening up everything. Things are bad enough as it is, with large numbers of people wearing masks; becoming careless about physical distancing will just make things worse.
  #38  
Old 05-15-2020, 08:55 AM
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There is no safe way to return to work right now, absent a level of aggressive testing that isn't happening right now.
That's not true.

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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
Here is an article that notes that if there is an infected person and a healthy person, and only one of them wears a facemask, that the risk of infection is reduced by 50-90 percent more than if neither wore masks - and that if both wear masks, the infection risk drops down to a mere 1-2 percent.

https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/tai.../04/2003735785
The stay at home orders were to reduce the strain on the healthcare industry. We've done that. If the following protocols are met, it should be safe for most of the population to go back to work and living.

The vulnerable should continue to stay at home.
If you are not vulnerable, and you leave your home and are in public are at work, you should social distance. If you are not able to social distance you should wear a mask. You should continue to was your hands or sanitize them regularly.

These steps will significantly reduce the spread of the disease.

The goal isn't and shouldn't be for the world to stay shut down until the virus is eradicated. If we begin seeing the healthcare system being stressed then you pull back.
  #39  
Old 05-15-2020, 09:37 AM
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Part of the problem with trying to resume normal life is the lack of proper masks. Improvised masks are reasonable solutions provided everyone is using them and using them properly. From what I see in public, that's not the case. Only a small number of people are wearing masks properly, improvised or otherwise. The majority of mask use I see is with low-quality materials and/or ill fit, which means filtering efficiency is low. With poor mask use being so widespread, to be safe you really need some kind of X95 or X100 mask since it's totally on you to keep yourself safe. You can't count on your community to help out.

As an analogy, consider how the Amish work together to pick up and move a barn. If you haven't seen it, lots of people come together to physically lift a barn and walk it to a new location. Since everyone is helping out and giving their full effort, the work for each person is small and they are able to move something as large as a barn on their own. But without the community help, the barn owner would have to use machinery or something since he would have to, quite literally, do all the heavy lifting himself. Unfortunately, community mask usage in America is such that each individual needs to take 100% responsibility for filtering the air they breathe. Encouraging mask use by Americans leads to either haphazard execution or outright defiance, neither of which makes the environment safe enough to try to resume a normal life.
  #40  
Old 05-15-2020, 10:27 AM
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You wear the mask to protect others, in case you have the virus. Asymptomatic carriers (having the virus and not knowing you have it) is common. By wearing the mask you reduce the risks that you spread it.

If everyone in public is wearing a mask, then the spread of the virus will be significantly reduced.
True if everyone is acting as they would if nobody wore masks. Riemann's point is that they might take more risk. I doubt that's enough to offset the benefit in certain situations but I don't know for sure.

It shouldn't generate risky behavior if I realize that (at least) non-N95's masks do little for my safety. The benefit as you say is supposed to be for others if I'm infected. Understanding that, why would I take more risk with a mask on? However it's not clear, even from this thread, how many people understand it's supposed to be to protect other people not oneself. I think the changed tune of the US experts hasn't helped there. Let's face it, if you don't keep it absolutely simple and consistent a lot of the public isn't going to get it*.

Another aspect is 'in public'. I'm willing to wear a mask in *indoor* public spaces, but really doubt it makes a wit of difference outdoors at social distance. It's 'recommended' here outdoors, I don't do it. I carry the mask for when I go in a store or perhaps if I'm going to chat with people at 6', but mainly I do my 8 mile daily walk (to replace the gym), giving everyone a wide berth, speaking to no one. I'd need actual evidence this has any significance in spreading the disease. And back to *, especially given that experts were ambivalent about this, and the change seems to be about messaging, not any new evidence that COVID actually spreads among socially distanced people outdoors.

Although on a another level masks have become social signalling devices, 'I'm with the program' or not, and along increasingly political lines. But that's not my reason, but likely extremely low probability that passing people at a distance outdoors is any risk. In a store perhaps different; on a plane? some science contributor for NBC insisted he did every precaution and still believes he caught it on a crowded flight (there aren't too many but I guess this was one). He figured it might have come into his eyes.

*Originally there was a bit of shading of facts for 'the greater good' I believe. They said 'masks won't do you much good' actually meaning, 'stop buying up N95 masks, which might in fact help *you* if used properly, but front liners need them more than you'. Then later 'OK now you should all wear [non-N95] masks, it's to protect others'. That's not actually contradictory or theoretically that hard to follows, but in reality a large segment of the general public will just see changed shadings like that as inconsistent, order, counterorder, disorder.

Last edited by Corry El; 05-15-2020 at 10:30 AM.
  #41  
Old 05-15-2020, 10:45 AM
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Hi. Iím curious about the evidence for this claim. The best cite I found in 10 minutes of googling was this 2016 article from The Guardian, which discusses a new survey of studies. The conclusion is that wearing a helmet while bicycling greatly reduces serious head injuries. Nearly a 70% reduction.

It touches on an earlier study that emphasized the Risk Compensation theory. That study seems to have been based on a very abstract experimental set-up, rather than real life results. But presumably there are other, better, studies.
The fatal flaw with this study seems to be that it repeats the 1990s Seattle study with the control group being "bicyclist that crashed" and not "bicyclists". From the link

" A total of 43 studies met inclusion criteria and 40 studies were included in the meta-analysis with data from over 64 000 injured cyclists. For cyclists involved in a crash or fall, helmet use was associated with odds reductions for head injuries"

It doesn't say if helmets reduce head injuries for bicyclist as a whole, including those the did not crash, due to risk compensation or the proven deterrent effect on helmets for bicycling which makes bicycling more dangerous because motorists are less used to seeing them. And of course it doesn't' address the problems with lack of exercise that helmets exuberance because people won't go bicycling if they are required of feel they have to wear a helmet.

Any COVID mask study is going to have to look at the population as a whole, not just those that wear masks. As I've stated before I would not feel safe going out with only a cloth mask so I'm not going out until N95 masks are available, but others may go out and expose themselves with a mask when they wouldn't otherwise.
  #42  
Old 05-15-2020, 11:52 AM
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Disclosure: I wear a mask whenever I go out. Even if the efficacy is only 20-25%, it is well worth the effort.

However, when I go to the store I frequently see people who are NOT wearing masks. (And many of them are crowding around me to reach things on the shelves.) Surprisingly, many of them are young mothers with toddlers. Now, when I see these people without masks, I think it's fair to assume that they are just as slack about personal protection in other areas. Maybe they have children's play groups, or visit places where COVID-19 is more common (nursing homes, etc). This may be an unfair assumption, but I'm inclined to be very cautious around them. If they're obviously not concerned about reducing exposure in the store, why would they be significantly more concerned about protecting themselves in other environments? I keep extra distance between us.
  #43  
Old 05-15-2020, 12:19 PM
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Part of the problem with trying to resume normal life is the lack of proper masks.
Not a huge problem - they can be easily made and worn by pretty much anyone. The purpose of wearing a mask is not to protect the individual but rather to protect the public by preventing or greatly reducing the spread of droplets. It's the easiest thing to do as a 'herd' to protect ourselves. Without a vaccine, next to staying indoors and self-isolating, it's probably the best we can do for the time being.

Quote:
Originally Posted by filmore View Post
Improvised masks are reasonable solutions provided everyone is using them and using them properly. From what I see in public, that's not the case. Only a small number of people are wearing masks properly, improvised or otherwise. The majority of mask use I see is with low-quality materials and/or ill fit, which means filtering efficiency is low. With poor mask use being so widespread, to be safe you really need some kind of X95 or X100 mask since it's totally on you to keep yourself safe. You can't count on your community to help out.
Again, the number one reason to wear a mask is to help reduce the spread of air droplets that you exhale. Data in countries where mask use was adopted very early in the pandemic seem to reinforce the case for wearing masks.

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Originally Posted by filmore View Post
Unfortunately, community mask usage in America is such that each individual needs to take 100% responsibility for filtering the air they breathe. Encouraging mask use by Americans leads to either haphazard execution or outright defiance, neither of which makes the environment safe enough to try to resume a normal life.
I agree that everyone has to buy in to the necessity of wearing them, and that is one of many problems. Too many of us are angling for a way to have the public health response accommodate our individual freedom to move and associate, and to carve out a space to promote economic recovery. But that's not going to work.
  #44  
Old 05-15-2020, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by River Hippie View Post
The world does not appreciate my humor.

I have not been wearing a mask when going into a retail establishment. Mostly because I didn't have access to pre-made masks and lack the sewing ability to make my own and mask wearing is pretty spotty around here. My employer just got some masks for us, (nobody wearing them at work) but I had mine in the truck when I stopped in at the liquor store tonight. They just went back to letting customers inside, had been curbside service for about a month or so. So I put my new mask on, went in to buy some beer.

Me: "It's been a while since I walked into a liquor store wearing a mask."
Clerk: Blank stare, then "Oh... you would have got in trouble."
Me: (Damn, I thought that was funny!)
That was my comment at the bank a couple of weeks ago:

Me: I feel weird walking into a bank with a mask on.

Security Guard: And I'm holding the door for you! Life has changed.
  #45  
Old 05-15-2020, 12:24 PM
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Disclosure: I wear a mask whenever I go out. Even if the efficacy is only 20-25%, it is well worth the effort.
If each person wears a mask, they're reducing the numbers of droplets in the air. Even if someone gets exposed, they're exposed to a smaller dosage of the virus, which makes it slightly less dangerous. Virus contagion comes down to a lot of basic math. Having everyone cooperate by wearing masks protects the herd. It doesn't make us immune, but it reduces the numbers of people who get sick. It reduces the severity of the illnesses. It allows healthcare workers to give patients more attention. It makes the work environment of first responders safer because there are fewer COVID-19 patients. Wearing a mask isn't about you or me; it's about all of us.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZonexandScout View Post
However, when I go to the store I frequently see people who are NOT wearing masks. (And many of them are crowding around me to reach things on the shelves.) Surprisingly, many of them are young mothers with toddlers. Now, when I see these people without masks, I think it's fair to assume that they are just as slack about personal protection in other areas. Maybe they have children's play groups, or visit places where COVID-19 is more common (nursing homes, etc). This may be an unfair assumption, but I'm inclined to be very cautious around them. If they're obviously not concerned about reducing exposure in the store, why would they be significantly more concerned about protecting themselves in other environments? I keep extra distance between us.
I can't get over how many people here are stubbornly refusing to do very basic things to protect not just themselves but others.
  #46  
Old 05-15-2020, 12:32 PM
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Again, the number one reason to wear a mask is to help reduce the spread of air droplets that you exhale. Data in countries where mask use was adopted very early in the pandemic seem to reinforce the case for wearing masks.
I think you'd have to look at how well those masks were worn to compare the benefit to America. In those countries, did people do things like have their nose sicking out of the top of the mask, pull down the mask to talk to people in the store, wear masks of tightly stretched t-shirt material, and so on? Did they use a hand to hold a rumpled up cloth to their face as a mask. Did they act like the mask gave them 100% protection so they could ignore social distance guidelines? That's the kind of stuff I see regularly in public. If the citizens in other countries were properly wearing surgical masks and better, we shouldn't directly apply the benefit they saw with masks to Americans wearing masks.
  #47  
Old 05-15-2020, 12:41 PM
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If, just to pick a number out of the air, surgical type masks reduce the risk of transmission by 50% or 60%, then they are well worth wearing,
Funny you should pick that number. I know that you picked it because it looked absurdly low, but the actual effectiveness of the Mumps part of the MMR inoculation is only about 60% for an individual, but yet it works across society as a whole, and, excepting a few antivax nutjobs, is accepted as working across society. Shows how effective herd immunity is. If only we can convince everyone that even 60% effective, if used across the entire population, is very effective.
  #48  
Old 05-15-2020, 01:01 PM
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You wear the mask to protect others, in case you have the virus.
This information is incomplete. There are masks that can filter the virus. Or at least they decrease the viral load.
  #49  
Old 05-15-2020, 01:07 PM
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This information is incomplete. There are masks that can filter the virus. Or at least they decrease the viral load.
There are not enough of those masks to go around and the should be reserved for our health care professionals.

If we as a society wait until everyone has a supply of those types of masks, and there is a vaccine and mass testing, we will have waited to long to reopen commerce.

The threshold of no one transmitting the virus and zero deaths is too low.
  #50  
Old 05-15-2020, 01:25 PM
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There was a relevant article in The Atlantic last month. It emphasized that cloth masks are not for your own protection, but the protection of others. However, that protection may be better than most people realize.

Money quote:
"Models show that if 80 percent of people wear masks that are 60 percent effective, easily achievable with cloth, we can get to an effective R0 of less than one. Thatís enough to halt the spread of the disease."
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