We’re now several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and one thing has become crystal clear to me: This crisis has been mishandled in just about every way imaginable.
And I have questions for anyone who still thinks that the continued lack of Federal response is anything short of reprehensible.
No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, answer me this: Are you prepared to keep riding this runaway train while every other wealthy nation in the world has things under control? Because let’s be clear—that’s exactly what you’re being asked to do.
How about this: Are you willing to keep your kids and grandkids out of school just so a bunch of people can resume “normal” pre-pandemic activities, like eating out at a restaurant or getting drunk at a bar?
Because in the midst of all this noise about re-opening non-essential businesses, we still haven’t come to a consensus about what parents and children can expect in the fall. Nor have we even skimmed the idea of ensuring we have a safe election this November.
These are all very basic considerations in the effort to manage the fallout from this pandemic. But what is perhaps the most basic—and the one way we can join the ranks of every other civilized nation in this fight?
I’ve said it before, but allow me to say it again…
WEAR A MASK!
Willful ignorance heightens the consequences
It pains me to see this simple mandate being ignored. It pains me to witness people believing non-scientists when it comes to their health. And it pains me to see the President of the United States setting an example of contempt for standard medical procedure.
I always wear a mask in public, and I urge each and every one of my patients and readers to do the same.
Because the fact, is when it comes to reducing the spread of coronavirus, masks work quite well. (And as a reminder, you don’t need to have symptoms to spread COVID-19.)
Of course, there hasn’t been much guidance in regards to which mask materials and designs work best. But there has been some research on this topic. So let’s take a closer look…
Droplets can carry twice as far as current social distance recommendations
Recently, researchers took to the lab using mannequins to simulate and visualize how COVID-19 is expelled during coughing and sneezing. They tested the efficacy of basic, readily available masks. (Not the medical-grade masks and respirators reserved for healthcare workers.)
Among these was a single-layer bandana-style mask, a homemade stitched mask that used two layers of 70-thread-per-inch cotton fabric, and a non-sterile cone-style mask that you can find at most drug stores.
Not surprisingly, the loosely folded and bandana-style face covers did the least to stop the spread of the smallest droplets—while well-fitted and layered homemade masks and off-the-shelf drug store masks performed best.
But the real takeaway here is that any covering was better than no covering at all.
Case in point: Uncovered coughs sent droplets way farther than six feet (the current social distance recommendation). In fact, without a mask, droplets were able to travel twice as far—up to 12 feet, within less than a minute.
With a bandana, that distance dropped to three feet and seven inches. With a folded cotton handkerchief, it dropped to one foot and three inches. A cone-style mask restricted droplet spread to eight inches. And with a stitched and quilted cotton mask, the droplets only made it two and a half inches.
Now… wouldn’t you say this is information worth sharing?
Especially since, at this point, COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon—at least, not here in the U.S.
Once again, this concept is not unique to coronavirus. The common cold and flu both transmit via droplets from coughing and sneezing—even talking or breathing. That’s just how respiratory viruses work.
This virus might be novel, but the way it spreads surely isn’t.
So in case I haven’t been clear enough, let me say it as strongly as possible: If you don’t wear a mask in public, you are endangering yourself and everyone around you—and not least of all, the future health and security of this nation.
That’s not patriotism. It’s stubborn selfishness, pure and simple.
Verma S, et al. “Visualizing the effectiveness of face masks in obstructing respiratory jets.” Physics of Fluids, 2020; 32 (6): 061708