It is amazing how our society is so fragmented and toxic that we can turn what should be a simple discussion about masks into a fight.  And just like our two-party system, we believe the reductive idea that masks are either good or bad.  As in all things, it is not that simple.  Can we all take a deep breath, look at the facts, and be reasonable?

Let’s start with the science.

The recent CDC and Navy report about the USS Theodore Roosevelt is an excellent opportunity to study a lot of aspects of COVID.  It is a rare opportunity where we have a control group to compare results.  In a previous post, I went into more detail about the study.  Here is the chart of those results indicating the reduced chances of becoming infected by different behavioral interventions.

Wearing a mask is the single most effective method of avoiding infection.  Not social distancing, not avoiding common areas, not hand sanitizer, not even washing your hands.  Wearing a mask is the #1 method of avoiding infection and reduces your chances by 20%.  That is not bad.

But remember, the primary reason for wearing a mask is to avoid spreading the infection to others.  Think about people in an operating room.  They do not wear masks to protect themselves; they are wearing masks to protect others.  Here is a doctor who tried to demonstrate the purpose of the mask.

And yes, I realize you cannot trust everything you see of social media.  But the doctor is right about limited the spread.  Here is an example that you should not believe. It is common shared tweet about oxygen levels that is entirely misleading.

She does not say how long she wears the mask, just simplistic pictures to try to make a false point.  Here is someone going into more detail about a lot of the science about wearing a mask.  You can read the entire report, but I will sum up its primary points.

  • Yes, a mask does decrease oxygen levels.

You know what, I have to stop for a second.  Well, no shit, a mask decreases oxygen levels!  Shocking!  Wearing something over your mouth reduces airflow, which in turn reduces oxygen levels, especially over time.  How in the hell did you convince yourself that was stupid?  If you wear something that ultimately keeps out all droplets, like a plastic bag, you will not spread at all.  Of course, you would suffocate FROM A LACK OF OXYGEN, but at least you wouldn’t spread.  Did you think masks were freagin magic and only kept out COVID?  Okay, I am done with my rant.

  • There could be an increased risk of severe reaction for those who are elderly with underlying conditions.

Does the increased risk of severe infection outweigh the 20% reduction in the chance of becoming infected?  I simply do not know, but I do know it is not a simple yes or no.

Okay, so this not a simple masks are good, masks are bad discussion.  But there are reasonable solutions if you will all just stop yelling at each other.  Let’s go through bullet points.

  1. Mask use reduces your chance of infection by 20%.
  2. Mask use reduces the chances of spreading the infection to others.
  3. Extended mask use can reduce the oxygen levels in your blood, which can create other problems. Depending upon your health situation, you may need to consider this issue.
  4. If you are elderly with underlying conditions, you may need to look into the effects of wearing a mask versus not wearing a mask.

So, yes, wearing a mask can be very helpful.  But, it can also be harmful.  It is not a simple issue, no matter how much you want it to be simple.

As a HUGE critic of the lockdowns, I am not a critic of wearing a mask.  It does serve a purpose and is part of an excellent COVID fighting strategy.  Mask use is not about hype, but we do need to be smart and selective.    

The most essential concept is wearing the mask to protect those who are most at risk.  Those people include the elderly and those with underlying conditions.  So at worst, keep a mask with you and pull it up when anyone around you is older or if they are wearing a mask.  If they are wearing a mask, then they may need protection.  Don’t be an arse.

If you are young and healthy, you may not even know that you are infected, so please be careful around those who are at risk.  Again, don’t be an arse just because you are not at risk.

I would suggest not wearing the n95 or higher masks, or at least do not wear them for an extended period of time, mainly depending upon your health situation.

Certainly, where the mask where it is required.

Bottom line, stop yelling at people who don’t do what your reductive thinking believes they should.  The issue is just not that simple, no matter how much you think it is. 

Can’t we all just get along and work together?

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