To Mask or Not to Mask

There are many reasons now to err on the side of more precaution than less. Masks will bother you; they won't harm you. And they might save your life.
Facing the Enemy: Cover yours

If you don’t already have a supply of facemasks, it might not be the right decision to even bother to find them. But if you have them on hand (say, from previous work in health care) then I’m starting to think it makes sense–especially in those instances when you might not be able to control social distancing or might have contaminated hands that go to your face–to wear the cussed things.

They may not be fashionable; and they may not be attractive; but they sure as heck are an unavoidable, uncomfortable, inconvenient necessity just now, if you happen to have one.

And read the last article I pulled from–regarding reuse after UV decontamination. To research based on this: could hanging a mask after use on the clothes line in the SUN for a few hours help kill remaining viruses? I don’t see why not.

Blocks below are all pulled directly from articles referenced. FF

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â–º More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection – The New York Times

There is very little data showing that flat surgical masks, in particular, have a protective effect for the general public. Masks work by stopping infected droplets spewing from the wearer’s nose or mouth, rather than stopping the acquisition of virus from others.

But studies of influenza pandemics have shown that when high-grade N95 masks are not available, surgical masks do protect people a bit more than not wearing masks at all. And when masks are combined with hand hygiene, they help reduce the transmission of infections.

they found that washing hands more than 10 times daily was 55 percent effective in stopping virus transmission, while wearing a mask was actually more effective – at about 68 percent. Wearing gloves offered about the same amount of protection as frequent hand-washing, and combining all measures – hand-washing, masks, gloves and a protective gown – increased the intervention effectiveness to 91 percent.

Classified data from the Chinese government that was reported in the South China Morning Post indicated that up to a third of all people who tested positive for the coronavirus could have been silent carriers.

What we do know is that individuals can shed virus about 48 hours before they develop symptoms and masking can prevent transmission from those individuals.”

Wearing a mask can also reduce the likelihood that people will touch their face,

In many Asian countries, everyone is encouraged to wear masks, and the approach is about crowd psychology and protection. If everyone wears a mask, individuals protect each other, reducing overall community transmission.

Masks are also an important signal that it’s not business as usual during a pandemic. They serve as a visual reminder to improve hand hygiene and social distancing. They may also serve as an act of solidarity

â–º Live Coronavirus News and Updates – The New York Times

The World Health Organization asserts that masks should only be worn by people who are sick and those who are caring for them, and that there is little data showing that they protect the general public in everyday life. But some experts and government officials say they could offer some protection.

some places that adopted nearly universal mask-wearing and intensive social distancing early on, like Hong Kong, were able to contain their outbreaks. George Gao, the director-general of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has called not wearing face masks “the big mistake in the U.S. and Europe.”

â–º As Coronavirus Looms, Mask Shortage Gives Rise to Promising Approach – The New York Times

Masks are certified for one-time use only. But on Thursday, the center began an experimental procedure to decontaminate its masks with ultraviolet light and reuse them. Administrators plan to use each mask for a week or longer.

That change would seem to mean it is now acceptable for hospitals to decontaminate and reuse masks during the coronavirus pandemic, said Shawn Gibbs, a professor of environmental health at Indiana University.

Doctors and administrators at the University of Nebraska Medical Center calculated that if they continued to use masks only once, they would run out of masks in just weeks.

“The data is very clear that you can kill and inactivate viruses with UV germicidal irradiation,” he said. “It is also very clear that you will not damage the respirators.”

Researchers have tested a variety of methods – ultraviolet light, bleach, ethylene oxide gas, moist heat – and have concluded in published papers that decontamination can work.

UV light was the Nebraska hospital’s choice because it is effective and convenient. Hospitals already use UV light to decontaminate rooms after patients with dangerous infections, like C. difficile, are moved.

“We bring in large UV lamps, hit ‘start’ and leave the room,” Dr. Lowe said. “We let it shine for three to five minutes. It disinfects anywhere it can shine.”

the protocol Dr. Lowe designed uses three times the concentration of UV light needed to kill coronaviruses.

For now, staff members will use each mask for a week before disposing of it. But the medical center may decide to keep using the masks for 10 days, or even two weeks, Dr. Rupp said.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I just started wearing a mask yesterday when I walked to a takeout store. I was given a half dozen when I left the assisted living center. I forget now why I asked for them, but I guess the virus in Asia must’ve had my attention.

  2. There are masks and then there are masks. I’ve been told that anyone who is not a first responder or a healthcare worker who has an N-95 mask should donate it to someone who is a first responder etc. OTOH: Granddaughter (RN) and her fiancee (LPN) in skilled nursing homes that have been locked down have asked me to make them some surgical masks for their staffs to wear for general duty around, as far as they know, non-infected residents.

    After reading “What Mask Does What?”, I’ve decided that our wearing surgical masks are trendy, but not helpful.