On wearing masks

By Will Laurance on 07/08/2020

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Wearing a mask or cloth face covering shouldn't be political or up for debate. But, for some reason, it is. To be complete, the government did tell us in the Spring to stop hoarding N95 and other types of masks. They are not effective.

I think the desired outcome was to save these types of masks for medical professionals. Who, if we fast forward 3 months later, so desperately need PPE. And will likely continue to need them for many months and possibly the following year.

But a large undesired outcome is the general public heard masks are not effective. And yeah, a cloth bandana isn't going to protect you in a room filled with aerosolized viral loads like a true particle mask like the N95.

But cloth masks are effectively at keeping the wearer's viral load contained to one-self. So if we all wear cloth masks, the virus has little chance to be floating in the air. Of course at the time of these announcements back in March we didn't have much confidence in the transmission properties of SARS-COV-2.

So now that wearing a mask is what many governments state/local are prescribing, there is no unified message from the top. Some ass hat can always point back to the Commander in Chief and claim they are optional/voluntary/etc.

Anecdotally in my building, I am seeing 1 out of 10 people wear masks while on property in close quarters like parking garages, elevators, stairwells, or common indoor areas. Also my best guess is most fit the 20-40 age range. And at least one staff or resident has tested positive for COVID-19. I will say given the number of cars in the lots, a lot of folks are staying home and have been since end of March and April. That said, we live in some tight spaces and I think we'd all benefit from wearing cloth coverings while on property.

In stores, such as Target, I have observed much higher compliance rates with masks. At the start I'd say it was >= 98%. When the true restrictions lifted I think this number dropped closer to ~80%. Now that Austin + Texas allows enforcement (and our case counts are spiking) I think this number is back to ~98%.

I see the worst compliance at to-go restaurants where you pop-in quickly to grab your order. Folks have an attitude of it being such a short time, it doesn't make a difference. There's no data, but if someone sneezes, coughs, or talks in that time frame, I think viral load will appear.

I went to my gym for the first time in 4 months. Mostly went to enable my 24 hour access pass. Masks are required, but enforcement is nil. Being inside with people exhaling sharply isn't a good plan I don't think :/. I stayed for about 20 minutes but it was too hard to avoid people. Not sure if I'll go back for now. I might try a 2am workout on a sleepless night.

I got my haircut and it was overall safe feeling. Time + data will tell. However they have been open since the Texas reopening ~start of June without any traceable cases. The waiting room is gone. You have to call for access. I promptly went through a COVID-19 screening with a questionnaire and thermal temperature check. From there my stylist asked me from a distance what style I wanted. And once in the chair it's a quiet zone with no small talk. The idea being talking releases viral loads (which I agree with). Each station had a closed one on either side. So the next closest people were probably 8 feet away. I was there for 20 minutes and it felt pretty safe. But time will tell.

If wearing masks is what we need to do to truly reopen, I'm all for it.

One more note: According to Eleven I'm a mouth breather. Slight deviated septum makes it difficult to nose breath often. So covering my nose with a mask isn't a big deal. However I see some of you with your nose sticking out. Please cover your nose! you are so close to having full protection. Thanks!!

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