The use of a face mask in public has become a polarizing issue that is more political than practical. One side, those who support the use of masks, tout that science shows that everyone must wear them and we cannot leave our homes without one. On the other side, those who do not support the mask say that it is being used as a form of control.
The point of this argument is not to tell you what to do. There is no reason for us to care if you want to wear a mask or not. The point here is to provide you with the data from the CDC, Penn State University, and others that show the use of masks are not the best coarse of action and therefore should not be enforced by a government mandate. Especially considering the type of abuse of authority that we have seen to enforce these measures.
How the virus spreads
The first thing to understand is the reasoning behind what we have been told. It has been emphasized repeatedly that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spread by person-to-person contact, which is where social distancing of 6 feet comes into play. These is to compensate for droplets that can spread in the course of regular actions such as talking, coughing etc.
However, scientists have been urging for this reclassification due to evidence that the viral spread is actually airborne rather than limited to person to person contact. What this means is that the virus can spread through small aerosol particles much smaller than the droplets mentioned in social distancing. Science Daily reported:
Public health officials should make a clear distinction between droplets ejected by coughing or sneezing — which have inspired the social distancing mantra of six feet of separation between people — and aerosols that can carry the virus for much greater distances. Viruses in aerosols smaller than 100 microns can remain airborne in a confined space for prolonged periods of time, and accumulate in poorly ventilated air, leading to transmission.
“The balance of attention must be shifted to protecting against airborne transmission,” said the group, led by Kimberly Prather, Director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
In fact, the CDC has updated their information guide for How Coronavirus Spreads to include airborne transmission.
Face Mask Use
Looking at the CDC Outpatient Health Care Patient Study on COVID19, we actually see that most infected patients reported that they had worn a face mask following strict protocols. The report reads:
…for analysis, community activity responses were dichotomized as never versus one or more times during the 14 days before illness onset. For each reported activity, participants were asked to quantify degree of adherence to recommendations such as wearing a face mask of any kind or social distancing among other persons at that location, with response options ranging from “none” to “almost all.”
However, studying cases of coronavirus infection, most people followed the guidelines in the “almost all” category which includes the use of a face mask in public places. In fact, over 70% of patients followed this practices and still managed to get infected.
In the 14 days before illness onset, 71% of case-patients and 74% of control-participants reported always using cloth face coverings or other mask types when in public. Close contact with one or more persons with known COVID-19 was reported by 42% of case-patients compared with 14% of control-participants (p<0.01), and most (51%) close contacts were family members.
In another study done in 2006 on Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, Penn State University hosts the study which actually looked at the use of face masks during the SARS outbreak in Asia.
In Asia during the SARS period, many people in the affected communities wore surgical masks when in public. But studies have shown that the ordinary surgical mask does little to prevent inhalation of small droplets bearing influenza virus. The pores in the mask become blocked by moisture from breathing, and the air stream simply diverts around the mask. There are few data available to support the efficacy of N95 or surgical masks outside a healthcare setting. N95 masks need to be fit-tested to be efficacious and are uncomfortable to wear for more than an hour or two. More important, the supplies of such masks are too limited to even ensure that hospitals will have necessary reserves.
So what has changed? You can’t argue the difference between the spread of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 as transmission is the same, coronavirus is in fact a cold virus, and the study looked at a SARS outbreak. It is directly related, regardless of the COVID19 origin. In fact, the study recommends against quarantine as well.
Quarantine. As experience shows, there is no basis for recommending quarantine either of groups or individuals. The problems in implementing such measures are formidable, and secondary effects of absenteeism and community disruption as well as possible adverse consequences, such as loss of public trust in government and stigmatization of quarantined people and groups, are likely to be considerable.
So I ask again – what changed? If we have all of this information that contradicts the public health practices enforced by politicians, why are we ignoring the science?
In fact, we are told that we are to wear masks because we don’t know if we are infected without symptoms – or asymptomatic – so the mask is to protect others and not ourselves. This logic has to be questioned too, as even the NIH has a study posted on pubmed that looked at this possibility and found it to be unlikely.
Results: The median contact time for patients was four days and that for family members was five days. Cardiovascular disease accounted for 25% among original diseases of patients. Apart from hospital staffs, both patients and family members were isolated medically. During the quarantine, seven patients plus one family member appeared new respiratory symptoms, where fever was the most common one. The blood counts in most contacts were within a normal range. All CT images showed no sign of COVID-19 infection. No severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections was detected in 455 contacts by nucleic acid test.