If the governments let everyone go back to work, then Coronavirus pandemic will kill many people and overwhelm our hospitals ...
But if we keep everyone home, we'll go into a global depression ...
So are we in an impossible situation?
Fortunately, there is a third way which will save both human lives and the economy.
Numerous studies show that "facemasks play a pivotal role in the prevention and control of infectious respiratory disease transmission".
Indeed, a study last year by scientists at the Departments of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Maryland, and the FDA's Division of Applied Mechanics, showed that - if 80% of a population wears masks - it will stop a flu epidemic cold ("essentially eliminated the influenza outbreak"). They found that if half of a population wore masks, it "resulted in a significant ... reduction in risk". (The typical flu virus is between 80 and 120 nanometers in diameter. The Wuhan Coronavirus is on the larger side, at 120 nanometers. So masks should work at least as well on Covid as on the flu).
Dr. Chris Martenson - a PhD in Toxicology from Duke, who has been more than a month ahead of the government and mainstream media in describing how contagious and deadly the Coronavirus is - showed this chart comparing the curves for mask-wearing countries versus mask-shunning countries:
Yet the U.S. government and health authorities have told people not to wear masks.
Because, as Martenson has repeatedly noted, they blew it big time in failing to stockpile masks for an emergency, and they are too embarased to admit that there aren't enough for the frontline healthcare providers ... let alone the normal population.
Professor Tufecki of the University of North Carolina writes in the New York Times:
Many health experts, no doubt motivated by the sensible and urgent aim of preserving the remaining masks for health care workers, started telling people that they didn’t need masks or that they wouldn’t know how to wear them. *** Unfortunately, the top-down conversation around masks has become a case study in how not to communicate with the public, especially now that the traditional gatekeepers like media and health authorities have much less control. The message became counterproductive and may have encouraged even more hoarding because it seemed as though authorities were shaping the message around managing the scarcity rather than confronting the reality of the situation.
First, many health experts, including the surgeon general of the United States, told the public simultaneously that masks weren’t necessary for protecting the general public and that health care workers needed the dwindling supply. This contradiction confuses an ordinary listener. How do these masks magically protect the wearers only and only if they work in a particular field?
Second, there were attempts to bolster the first message, that ordinary people didn’t need masks, by telling people that masks, especially medical-grade respirator masks (such as the N95 masks), needed proper fitting and that ordinary people without such fitting wouldn’t benefit. This message was also deeply counterproductive. Many people also wash their hands wrong, but we don’t respond to that by telling them not to bother. ***
Third, of course masks work — maybe not perfectly and not all to the same degree, but they provide some protection. Their use has always been advised as part of the standard response to being around infected people, especially for people who may be vulnerable. World Health Organization officials wear masks during their news briefings. ***
Even surgical masks protect a bit more than not wearing masks at all. *** In the face of this, publicly presenting an absolute answer — “You don’t need them” — for something that requires a qualified response just makes people trust authorities even less.
Fourth, the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. told the public to wear masks if they were sick. However, there is increasing evidence of asymptomatic transmission, especially through younger people who have milder cases and don’t know they are sick but are still infectious. Since the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. do say that masks lessen the chances that infected people will infect others, then everyone should use masks. If the public is told that only the sick people are to wear masks, then those who do wear them will be stigmatized and people may well avoid wearing them if it screams “I’m sick.” Further, it’s very difficult to be tested for Covid-19 in the United States. How are people supposed to know for sure when to mask up?
Fifth, places like Hong Kong and Taiwan that jumped to action early with social distancing and universal mask wearing have the pandemic under much greater control, despite having significant travel from mainland China. Hong Kong health officials credit universal mask wearing as part of the solution and recommend universal mask wearing. In fact, Taiwan responded to the coronavirus by immediately ramping up mask production.
Sixth, masks are an important signal that it’s not business as usual as well as an act of solidarity. Pandemics require us to change our behavior — our socialization, hygiene, work and more — collectively, and knowing our fellow citizens are on board is important for all efforts.
Finally, providing top-down guidance with such obvious contradictions backfires exactly because lack of trust is what fuels hoarding and misinformation. *** Given that there is indeed a mask shortage and that medical workers absolutely do need these masks more, what should the authorities have said? The full painful truth. Despite warnings from experts for decades, especially after the near miss of SARS, we still weren’t prepared for this pandemic, and we did not ramp up domestic production when we could, and now there’s a mask shortage — and that’s disastrous because our front line health care workers deserve the best protection. Besides, if they fall ill, we will all be doomed.
If anything, a call for people who hoarded masks to donate some of them to their local medical workers would probably work better than telling people that they don’t need them or that they won’t manage to make them work. “Look, more masks would be great. We are doing our best to ramp up production. Till then, if our medical workers fall ill, we will all be worse off. Please donate any excess — maybe more than two weeks’ worth per person — to your hospital” sounds corny, but it’s the truth. ***
Research shows that during disasters, people can show strikingly altruistic behavior, but interventions by authorities can backfire if they fuel mistrust or treat the public as an adversary rather than people who will step up if treated with respect. Given that even homemade masks may work better than no masks, wearing them might be something to direct people to do while they stay at home more, as we all should.
Doctors and nurses are dying from Coronavirus all over the world because their hospitals don't have enough masks. Yet hospital administrators throughout the U.S. - including Kaiser in California, hospitals in New Jersey, and many in between - are telling their frontline healthcare workers that they will be fired if they bring their own masks to work.
And the same thing is happening with prison guards.
Again, cut the bullshit. The sooner we all start wearing masks, the sooner we can go back to work while staying safe, stop the Coronavirus pandemic, and rebuild our economy.
But It's Not COOL
Unlike Asians - who had to deal with the SARS epidemic - Westerners aren't used to wearing masks. Indeed, as Americans, this is a foreign concept culturally.
But would you rather:
(1) Suffer through a Great Depression;
(2) Suffer hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths; or
(3) Adjust a little culturally?
I'm not kidding or being overly-dramatic ... this is literally the choice.
If we Westerners don't start wearing masks, we will have to decide between going back to work to save the economy and suffering a prolonged pandemic, or staying home and slaughtering the economy.
It's literally our choice.
Masks Are Reusable
Obviously, homemade masks are usually less effective than respirators or even surgical masks ... but it all depends on how they're made. (Respirators - i.e. masks which are built to protect you from airborne threats - are rated as follows: they start with a letter, N, R or P. N stands for "no protection against oils". R stand for "resistant to oily substances". And P stands for protection against particulates. This is followed by a number: 95 means filters 95% of viruses. And 100 actually means filters out around 97% of viruses.)
Luckily, respirators can be reused if care is used. Specifically, Dr. Michael Lin of Stanford University told me that respirators can be sterilized without destroying their integrity using ultraviolet light, or by leaving them in a warm place for a couple of days:
[You] can just let [the respirator] sit for 3 days in a warm place and the viruses will have died. [Note: leave it in a paper bag, so the moisture can evaporate.] But if you have UV-C [a type of ultraviolet light], per the article at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781738/, a 40W [i.e. 40 watt] bulb 30 inches away for 15 min worked. A 3W bulb would need to be 8 inches away for the same amount of time, or 15 inches away for 53 minutes.
(The reference to a 3 watt bulb is in response to my asking Dr. Lin about this cheap UV-C bulb. Important note: UV-C can damage your eyes; so ideally, put UV lamp on a timer, and disinfect your mask when you're out of the room.) Dr. Lin tweeted additional guidance today.
In any event, anything - even a bandana - will provide some protection against airborne Coronavirus droplets. There is some minimum number of virus particles you have to be exposed to before you might get sick (called the "infectious dose"); so the more you filter, the better your chances of avoiding getting it.
And remember, a substantial percentage of people who get the virus show no symptoms during at least part of the time they are contagious. So wearing a mask around others who don't act sick will help protect you ... and protect others from you in case you're an asymptomatic carrier.
In any event, there's no excuse ... the government should be using WWII levels of effort to make or buy millions of top-quality masks. We're paying a lot of hard-earned money in taxes ... the government should be doing something useful with that money!
(Update: Masks are starting to be located. For example, Buzzfeed reported yesterday that a health care workers union found a supplier with 39 million masks for doctors and nurses fighting the coronavirus, and another who said it can make 20 million more masks per week.Apple is donating 10 million masks (stockpiled for the California fires) to healthcare workers, and Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are also donating large numbers of masks. )
Testing is also crucial. It is inexcusable that the Western governments and healthcare systems have not made a moon-shot level effort to test most of their populations.
If there was widespread testing, the elderly, those with medical conditions which make them vulnerable to coronavirus, and those who get Covid could be protected, while everyone else goes back to work (wearing masks in public).
Sound extreme? It's your choice: Hundreds of thousands or millions dead, an economic Depression ... or a smart approach!
Postscript: I'm not saying we can go back to work today if we put on masks. But we'll be able to go back to work a hell of a lot faster if we wear them than if we don't.
Reclaim Our Power from the Tyrants
Some say that the Coronavirus pandemic is being blown out of proportion, and is really a power grab to take away our liberties. Personally, I don't believe that (although the politicians' cynical ploy to "never let a crisis go to waste" is real).
But - even if those who say that the risk is being overblown are right - wearing a mask helps us take back our power.
Why? Because it takes away the tyrants' all-or-nothing approach (total lockdown versus runaway pandemic).
The more of us wear that masks, the less excuse the politicians have to "mismanage" their way into dictatorship.
Get it? Indeed, wearing some kind of mask is an assertion of your personal sovereignty, ignoring the fake messaging coming from Washington that we can't take any affirmative steps other than staying home to protect our health.