Masks in a Sarcasm Free Zone

A few days ago, I offered a sarcastic post entitled “The Belt Order”.  Most got it, a few thought it was real. In this hysterical environment, that’s understandable. Now, I feel some responsibility to explain.

I object to cities, counties, and states mandating masks because that encourages or requires people to wear masks when they are not necessary and, in some cases, even harmful. I also object to these mandates because they demonstrate an authoritarian impulse which may cross an important threshold of constitutionality.

Surgeons and other health care professionals wear special N95 masks manufactured to minimize the risk of infecting a patient undergoing surgery and in other related circumstances. The patients may suffer an immune deficiency, or they are vulnerable to infection for other obvious reasons. Lots of viruses and bacteria are expelled into the air when these medical professionals breath, sneeze, or cough.

In the first stages of this Covid-19 pandemic, the supply of N95 masks was threatened. Many worried that medical professionals would run out of these protective masks. In hospital environments, they are usually worn once and then discarded, adding to the concern about a shortage should hospitals become inundated with infected patients. The public was told they were not necessary and that simple cloth masks or even scarfs would suffice to limit the spread of the virus. To this day, the CDC recommends masks in some situations, but there is no national requirement.

An N95 mask is designed to remove particulates. It does not block gases or vapors, although it impedes their passage. The N95 designation means the mask would block 95 percent of the airborne particles. The “N” designation means the masks are only effective in the absence of oil droplets or other non-polar liquid aerosols. There are other classes of masks designated with an “R” or “P” for use in certain industrial settings. All of these masks would filter most viruses and bacteria absorbed onto the surfaces of droplets or particles. They will not block airborne virus materials to the same extent. Such free-floating viruses are extremely small and of such a low concentration as to not provide a sufficient viral load to infect someone when emitted from the person wearing the mask.

A cloth mask will block some particulates and droplets, but not close to 95 percent. It all depends upon the fabric. N95 masks are made of a fine mesh of polypropylene. Cloth masks are made of woven threads of various natural and synthetic materials. There is a big difference. There is no research demonstrating the effectiveness of cloth masks. We can assume that an infected person will not pass as much contagious material into the air if wearing a cloth mask, but we don’t know how much or how little. We can guess.

There is no good reason for an uninfected asymptomatic person in good health to ever wear a cloth mask. These masks supposedly limit the possibility of infecting others. Masks do not protect the wearer because viruses are extremely small nanometer sized particles which enter the body in a number of ways such as through the eyes and from our hands that have touched contaminated objects. It would certainly not prevent healthy people from spreading viruses into the air, because they don’t have the virus to spread.

There are important reasons not to wear a mask for an extended period of time. Here are some.

  1. Masks decrease oxygen intake by making it more difficult to breath. Blood chemistry may be affected by rebreathing carbon dioxide normally expelled when not wearing a mask. We need oxygen for our health, including for the immune system to function normally.
  2. Masks may cause the re-inhalation of sulfurous, nitrous, and other substances normally exhaled in our breath. These vapors, particulates, and droplets might be trapped or absorbed by the mask causing it to become contaminated.
  3. After lengthy periods of wearing a mask, the decreased oxygen, increased carbon dioxide, and possible toxin intake may put the body of some people into a compromised state impacting their immune response making them more vulnerable to infection.
  4. Our bodies are loaded with viruses which normally do not affect our health adversely. Rebreathing our contaminated exhalations may concentrate pathogens to a potentially dangerous viral load. If this happens when our immune system is compromised, we may be infected by our own pathogenic viruses.
  5. Cloth masks will not trap free-floating viruses in our breath. Covid-19 viruses are between 75 nm and 150 nm in diameter. The fine mesh of a microfiber cloth mask may be 15 microns wide. A free-floating virus particle would sale right through this cloth mask. In fact, 100 virus particles lined up in a straight line would pass right through the space between the threads of a microfiber mask. A cotton mask would allow a thousand or more virus particles to line up in the space between threads. A single virus going through a cloth mask would be like a mosquito flying through your wide-open front door.
  6. Masks encourage a false sense of security for the wearer and for others in a group of people wearing masks. Because of this, they may put themselves into environments with people who may be infected and sick with the virus thinking they are protected. For a variety of reasons, cloth masks are not effective in protecting a wearer from others who may be sick with the virus.
  7. The likelihood of becoming infected with a virus outdoors is exceptionally low. Wind disperses viruses. Sunlight and heat destroy viruses on surfaces. Sunlight helps us produce Vitamin D which plays a role in our immune response to viruses and other pathogens. Wearing a mask in such an outdoor setting is unnecessary and potentially unhealthy.

Who should wear a mask? If you are sick with this virus, you should wear an N95 rated mask if you must be around other people. If you do not know if you have become infected, but you have symptoms such as a fever and a cough, you should wear an N95 mask when you must be around other people at least until you have been tested. If a store or any facility requires you to wear a mask, I recommend that you do so as a sign of respect for the ownership of that facility. If a government requires you to wear a mask inside government facilities, it is appropriate and smart to put one on to avoid being arrested, fined, or worse.

There are people who should not wear a mask. If you have respiratory, heart, lung, or other related diseases or complications and find it difficult to breath or if you are on oxygen, you should definitely not put on an N95 or cloth mask. Wearing a mask while driving could also be dangerous for anyone because it is limiting your oxygen, possibly affecting your judgement, your response time, or even your wakefulness. Wearing a mask during exercise or running could be dangerous because of the limiting of your oxygen intake and causing carbon dioxide to build up with potential electrolyte imbalance consequences.

I have no problem with people wearing masks if that is what they want to do. If they feel it is a sign of respect to others, that is a good reason to wear one when in a group of people, especially among strangers who may or may not be infected or vulnerable to infection. I strongly object to governments mandating that we wear masks. If they can require this item of apparel, they can require almost any dress code. With good information, we are capable of making decisions about protecting ourselves and others.

The most important reason that I object to governments ordering the wearing of masks is because some people should not wear them, others don’t need to wear them, and some environments are not appropriate for wearing a mask. It is government overreach. Just give us the honest information from reliable sources and let us make up our own minds. These city and county commissioners, state legislators, governors, and other government officials are not smarter than the people they serve.

About DocStephens

Retired college professor of science and mathematics, academic administrator, and president (emeritus).
This entry was posted in Education, health, Human Behavior, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s