Smoke, Don’t Mask

That recommendation is facetious, but read on. Leslie Fish, long one of my favorite musicians, wrote a thoughtful blog post on COVID-19.

Concerning the ongoing pandemic hysteria:

Depending on which state you live in, you can be arrested if you show up in public without wearing a mask, or you’ll be ignored, or you may even be subjected to protests. Although close to half of all US citizens have now been vaccinated, the federal government claims that isn’t enough for “herd immunity” — especially considering the spread of the new Delta mutation of the Covid-19 virus — which is supposed to justify keeping everybody masked, no matter what. It’s understandable that a lot of people are annoyed and rebelling.

It’s well worth reading. One part, though, caught my attention.

So if you haven’t been vaccinated and haven’t caught the virus naturally, it’s best to catch as few of the viruses as possible — and this is where the masks come in. The virus lives in fluids, and your lungs, throat and mouth are perpetually wet; when you exhale, tiny drops of water vapor are floated out with your breath. If you don’t want to spread the virus, don’t breathe in other people’s faces — and if you don’t want to catch it, don’t let them breathe in yours. Masks, except for the heavy-duty hazmat kind, won’t catch all the water vapor in your breath, or anyone else’s, but they do cut down on most of it — and the more, the better.

Regular readers are aware of the difference between tiny droplets and aerosols, and my take on it. I wanted to leave a comment, but Leslie — like so many folks dealing with mass quantities of comment spam — only allows commenting with a Google login. (Regular readers probably also know my take on Google.)

What follows is the comment I wanted to leave.

Leslie, masks are actually remarkably ineffective at preventing aerosol dispersal; which should not be surprising, because that’s not what they’re designed for (to protect wearer, not other people). There have been many studies over the years that established this, but a recent one, with SARS-CoV-2 specifically in mind, found that different mask types had various degrees of effectiveness.

R95: 60%
KN95: 46%
Cloth (3-ply): 10%
Surgical: 12%

BUT… the kicker is that they tested with 1 micron aerosols. I called out the lead author on that. SARS-CoV-2 itself averages 0.125 microns, and other research showed exhalation aerosols in a range of 0.5 microns to 0.9 microns. It should be noted that 0.5 microns was merely the lower detection threshold for the apparatus they used. But especially note that the LARGER end of the range is still smaller than what cloth masks were only 10% effective on.

If you smoke, you can do your own mask test. Get a mouthful of smoke, put on a mask, and let it out. If you see smoke — 5 micron particles — the mask is useless for stopping viral aerosols.

Anecdote: My niece bought into all the COVID fear porn. She went nowhere without wearing a mask and gloves. She carried and liberally applied hand sanitizer. She was downright fanatical about “social distancing” (which, given the population density here, is kinda redundant). When she wasn’t using sanitizer, she was washing her hands. And she went through a lot of disinfection wipes sanitizing surfaces.

She got COVID-19. Remarkably, no one else in her household did.

Anecdote 2: I know a retired RN who happens to still have a great deal of medical supplies on hand, including boxes of medical grade N95 masks. Lately, she’s been going to some locations that require masks. Bear in mind that this nurse is known to rant about the poor emphasis which hospitals generally give infection control these days.

She doesn’t bother with N95s. She sticks with the cheaper procedure masks she also has, because that’s adequate to meet the hygiene-theater requirements.

Procedure/dust masks for viruses are like everyone using drinking straws as earplugs.

Since I mentioned smoking, I facetiously recommend smoking over masking. When several researchers started noticing that smokers seemed to be under-represented in ChinCOVID cases, I started tracking that in Georgia (DPH includes that in co-morbidity reporting).

Somewhere around 17-18% of Georgians smoke. All else being equal, you might expect that 17-18% of ChinCOVID cases would be smokers. As of 8/31/2021 the number is…


Roughly a third of what you might expect.

The effect appears to be nicotine binding ACE2 receptors before the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins can.

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