I have two masks for use in limiting the spread of COVID. I sewed them both. I have fabric for more but I need more elastic. I wear one of those masks whenever I might expose others to any theoretical undiagnosed infection in the droplets of my breathing.
So this is in no way an attack on mask wearing.
However I am increasingly alarmed by the fervour with which people, having latched onto the idea of masks, are willing to persecute others about them.
So let’s look at what masks are for and what they might do. When you breath or talk or any other gross function of your face holes, air comes out. Moist air, with which you may be “speaking moistly.” Tiny droplets that may contain virus spread out from your face. It is not impossible for some of those to get past a metre in front of you, but most will blow away or settle out or evaporate in less than a metre. And taking into account viral loading, if you are infectious, even if not obviously symptomatic, and another person is trapped in a confined space with you or within that 1m for long enough, generally 15 minutes or more, then you could pass that infection on to them.
Therefore, it seems reasonable that wearing a mask, when you are confined in poorly ventilated spaces with other people, is likely to restrict your face spray and possibly reduce your infectivity, if you are infectious.
More or Less yesterday, was discussing why fears of spikes in infections have not been realized following bank holidays and Black Lives Matter protests in the U.K. And the answer seems to be that along with warm weather, which SARS CoV2 apparently does not prefer, being outside in well ventilated conditions where people are social distancing and washing their hands a lot and using hand sanitizer, that behaviour does not constitute the same risk as getting to work every day spending 35 minutes on a crowded bus.
It is entirely possible that in particular circumstances everyone having the courtesy to wear a face mask may very well help limit the spread of COVID19. But calling for everyone to always wear a face mask if they are outside their home is unreasonable. If you are not in close proximity to others, not in enclosed spaces, not passing enough time to meet the requirements of viral loading, then there is not a transmission risk path that a mask can limit.
And some jurisdictions and many zealots are intent on people being fined or charged for not always wearing a mask. What this indicates to me is a clear lack of understanding of what the masks do and how they might help. A policy based more on desperation than understanding.
And I understand that people are feeling desperate. We all want there to be some way we can return to normal. And I think the ‘common sense’ idea that universal mask wearing will give us that is alluring. And I also recognize that there is a weakness in human nature that tempts many to the delights of persecuting others with enforcement of strict unconditional rules, whether those rules effect anything useful or not.
Masks may help limit the spread of the virus. If people are infectious but asymptomatic, or more likely if they are presymptomatic, them having the decency to wear a mask in confined spaces with other people for lengths of time will likely help. But requiring everyone to always wear a mask absolutely misses the point of masks and indulges a persecutorial impulse which we can ill afford to have compounding our problems right now. So stop it.