Over and over, everywhere, they’re out in force. “I wear a mask because I care.”
The fact this phrase is always used tells me it’s not original. They heard it somewhere, and it sounded good to them and they’re going to use it buckle and tongue whenever anyone challenges the UTILITY — or the sanity — of their wearing a mask.
In fact their wearing a mask is tying a yellow ribbon in their front yard during the Iran hostage crisis. It is flying the flag after 9/11. It’s a way of showing their feelings, their emotions. It’s also a way of feeling part of a crowd. (Yes, I flew the flag after 9/11. But my dears, I fly the flag all the time, up to and including when I get a wild hair.)
They don’t even TRY to argue it does something useful. They just view it as a symbol to tie to their faces, to show they “care.”
The problem is that it isn’t a gesture without a cost.
Flying the flag or tying the ribbon, or wearing the AIDs ribbon also did bloody nothing, except perhaps lend comfort to other people in the same situation. Like your neighbors who wanted the hostages back already and wanted life back to normal. Or your friends who wanted a cure for AIDS. Or other people grossly infuriated by the attack on the twin towers, who wanted to do something when there was nothing they could do.
Yes, I DO understand the need for solidarity and a psychological feeling of doing something, even if it doesn’t mean much in the real world. I’m a writer. I deal in symbols. Of course I understand.
But wait, there’s a problem with the mask as the chosen symbol of “I care.”
I’ll admit if we’d done it INSTEAD of locking down I’d probably have done it (or tried to do it. For me there are costs greater than for most people. More on that later.)
For now let’s talk about the danger of masks.
No, not psychological dangers, though those exist too.
We’re going to talk about the CLOTH masks most people wear, which someone on facebook was insisting “cut your risk by 25%”. I’m fairly sure those numbers are PFA or refer to the N-95 and surgical grade masks.
Because the cloth masks are about as good for stopping a virus as a window screen for stopping smoke.
You can’t, at the same time, say this virus is so tiny it hangs in the air, OUTDOORS for 10 hours, waiting for people to pass by, and that it is so big that it’s stopped by regular fat quarter cotton weave. Or think that those who refuse to wear the mask are trying to kill you, but advice asthmatics like me, or those who have panic attacks with something in front of their mouth and nose that they must wear it “under the nose” or “really loose.”
It’s one or the other or it’s nothing. In this case it’s nothing. The mask is solidarity, a symbol, a badge of “I wear it because I care.”
But you don’t care. Because what you’re doing when you not only wear the fargin magic mask, or tie it to your poor kids’ faces, or act like anyone not wearing one is trying to kill you is going to make people very sick. Or kill them.
So, let’s talk about what those cloth masks do.
On the PLUS side, they keep you from sneezing at people. I don’t know about you but since the swine flu years ago, I have been sneezing into my elbow and facing downwards. This means any extra particulate is going on the ground. Unless you’re licking the ground, you’re probably safe.
But let’s say you’re a rudesby who likes sneezing in people’s faces. Okay then, the mask keeps you from doing that.
But let’s talk about what the mask IS: a cloth medium that holds on moisture and particles you exhale.
Now let’s talk about cold viruses: you’re full of them. No, not just Coronavirus. LOTS of Corona Viruses. Rhino (from nose, not the animal) viruses too. Even when you’re not sick, a certain amount of viruses live in you. They might just be too few to infect anyone, and besides, your immune system keeps them in check.
I had a friend who used to yell at me that my sons getting soaked to the skin in a snow storm was no reason to be scared they’d get sick, because you “get sick from viruses, not getting cold and wet.”
She was right and also woefully wrong. Her understanding of biology is such that though we’ve not spoken in years I’m sure she’s gone full frontal Karen and yells at people in public not wearing masks.
You see, the reason our ancestors, who weren’t dumb as rocks, called colds “colds” is that they were often brought on by a shock to the system. Like getting soaked and cold. The virus was already there, but not in quantities to cause a horrible illness. Until, of course, your defenses went down.
Also for the record, viruses mutate extremely fast and can interchange DNA and create super mutant viruses. This is why animals and people living in close proximity is a big issue and why we have swine flu, chicken pox, etc etc.
So when you tie a piece of nice — kept moist by your breath — fabric in front of your mouth and wear it EVERYWHERE you’re going to give those viruses an ideal place to grow and mutate.
Your caring is so GREAT you’re cultivating new viruses, just there for people to catch from you. Isn’t that nice?
On top of which, because the pieces of fabric don’t fit well and are uncomfortable, everyone I’ve seen fumbles with them constantly,thereby bringing whatever viruses they just picked up on their hands or gloves near their faces …. and adding to the petri dish.
This goes double for little kids, who are AT BEST little petri dishes, anyway, and I say this as someone who loves kid. They’re going to lick the inside of that mask, you know they are. And continue wearing it.
A friend who is a nurse says under no circumstances should you wear a mask — the same mask — longer than half an hour. Another friend who is a biologist says no, leaving the mask in the locked car in the sun is NOT enough to disinfect it. You need to run it through a bleach cycle on hot. (I’m not sure about the bleach, but the hot cycle is a good idea, I think. AND loads of detergent. And a hot dryer.)
And guess what? We’re already seeing pneumonias and strange viral things not Winnie the Flu from the mask mania.
In fact, I predict a very hard season ahead. And these people are doing it to themselves, because they “care” so much.
Look, disengaging your brain is always a bad thing. Disengaging your brain and playing with biology is a horrible thing. But go right ahead and tell us how much you “care.”
Oh, and by the way, there are people who simply can’t wear the mask. So when you go on an unhinged rant about how everyone who goes unmasked wants to spit in your face and kill you, not only are you an ignorant moron (being a moron is not your fault, but you could at least inform yourself, assuming a) that everyone is infected and b) that this virus is lethal in every case — which is so far from the truth it’s not even on the same planet. –) you’re also wanting to kill everyone who has asthma. Mine came out of remission with a vengeance within ten minutes of having a mask on. And, yes, asthma CAN kill you. So can panic attacks. So can about a hundred other respiratory illnesses, chronic and not, that say ANYTHING blocking your airway is a bad idea.
And for the love all that’s holy, don’t jog with a mask on. You’re giving yourself hypoxia and brain damage, and trust me, you need every brain cell you have. They’re lonely as is.
Also don’t drive in a mask. You might not notice and depending on what you made your mask of you might become extremely hypoxic and crash.
If you have to wear a mask for work because your governor is a moron (Hi Jared Polis!) change them every half hour, and wash them in REALLY hot water with plenty of detergent when you get home. If you don’t want to bleach them, color bleach might AT LEAST help some. Dry them in a hot dryer. IRON them. Do your best to sanitize them if you can.
Oh, and before you bleat that Asia wears masks, and look how much better….
You know what else Asia, or at least Japan, did? NEVER SHUT DOWN. And as for masks, friends there inform me that they do INDEED wear them: If they’re sick, and are in a place where they might not be able to cover before they sneeze on strangers two feet away. So, if you ride the NYC subway and are feeling punk? DO WEAR A MASK. If not? You’re not doing what they do in Asia. It’s a courtesy thing, not a “this protects me” thing.
Stop taking badly interpreted bits of other cultures and trying to graft them on like magic talismans. It only hurts you. And those around you.
On top of that, btw, since Winnie the flu is asymptomatic in about half the people and MILD in most people under 60 unless there are other conditions present, by wearing the mask, supposing it worked — it doesn’t, but let’s suppose it did — unless you’re one of the at risk, you’d be delaying herd immunity. Which means you’re giving the virus a chance to get to more VULNERABLE people and kill them.
A mask doesn’t show you care. It shows you don’t think. Or if you think, it shows you want to kill asthmatics, those at risk, and want to inflict us with some plague that’s much, much worse than winnie the flu. Your need to belong to the herd will kill people. But don’t let that stop you. Go right ahead. Why not? Evolution finds a way.
Oh,and on belonging to the herd: Masks are apocalyptic cosplay.
One of the earliest needs of humans is to see human FACES. We are in fact programmed to see human faces in everything. Ever stared at a stone wall long enough? the random tracery will become a face.
In public, a smile diffuses tense situations, and strangers often give each other a vague smile meaning “you’re not a threat.”
Instead, we’re going out in public into a faceless landscape, often with angry eyes. It prolongs the sense of fear, heightens the back brain panic, and in general makes everything worse out there. It holds people in terror.
So, go ahead. You want to wear a mask? Wear a mask. But don’t tell me you care. Tell me you want to belong, and are either selfish or a dumb ass.
Because there’s a price for everything. And the price for mask mania is way too high.