It’s Science, Buddy

If you won’t protect me, I will

I keep finding articles describing why masks are important. This is from more than two months ago but it’s more important than ever.

Why simple cloth masks work best, from the Journal of Aerosol and Air Quality Research1

By donning a homemade mask made of any 2-ply or more dense fabric, [Americans] would be able shrink their inhalation/exhalation radius immensely and help stem the current outbreaks that are ravaging their country. In addition, cloth masks can be tailor made to fit snugly and close the gaping holes created by poorly fitting surgical masks. Furthermore, a cloth mask can be easily decontaminated as it can be washed with over-the-counter disinfectants, heated in an oven or treated by steam sterilization above 70°C for longer than 5 mins, all proven methods to effectively inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Chin et al., 2020). Surgical masks are designed for single-use and can be decontaminated by any of the above methods, including dry-heating in an electric rice cooker (Lin et al., 2017). However, the potential deformation and degraded effectiveness of the mask’s polymer layer after repeated treatments should be further evaluated. With that, the surgical masks are then thrown away and added to the mounting global plastic pollution problem. Thus, the environmental cost of discarded surgical masks is already being outlined and with the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the slow, cautious transition back to normal, this cost will grow unabated unless alternative mask usage is widely promoted.

Still many of the people I see on the street are not wearing masks of any kind. And most of those who do are wearing poorly-fitted disposable surgical masks. Exactly the kind of mask this article is arguing against.

Since people seem unwilling to do anything to protect others, I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands by fully protecting myself whenever I go out using my own home-made PPE. Kind of like Jude Law in “Contagion” minus the oxygen tank.

Jude Law in “Contagion

I’m still waiting for my 3D printed mask fitter to come from Cadmus Dental. When it arrives I believe I’ll be able to sew mask squares composed of two layers of cotton with chiffon or silk in between that will provide almost perfect protection and still remain highly breathable. I also have a yard of meltblown polypropylene fabric to try out. Washing depletes the static charge on the chiffon, silk, or poly but virgourous ironing restores it. I iron all my masks after washing to further disinfect them. Plus putting on a freshly ironed mask is quite nice.

Wearing these masks with a face shield and coupled with apppropriate social distancing and hygiene I might be able to dodge this thing.

My personal protection equipment

Our failed President said yesterday that 99% of Covid cases are harmless. That’s a lie. It is true that the mortality rate may be as low as 1% globally (still that’s 129,000 people in the US alone as of today), but according to the World Health Organization

While the majority of patients with COVID-19 have mild or moderated illness, it is estimated that 20% of affected patients will need oxygen.

Seems serious to me. And we’re only starting to learn of the long-term damage caused by even mild cases.2

Buy or make cloth masks people, and wear them whenever you’re out of the house. It’s the only way through this.

  1. Hsiao, T.C., Chuang, H.C., Griffith, S.M., Chen, S.J. and Young, L.H. (2020). COVID-19: An Aerosol’s Point of View from Expiration to Transmission to Viral-mechanism. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20:905-910. ↩︎

  2. Calculating mortality and risks during a pandemic is hard. But the New York Times has a good article on the subject. And the stories about healthy young people suffuring horrific consequences and even death are very scary↩︎