A Quick case for Masks & What’s Working to Slow COVID 19

Masks May be Key to Flattening the Curve


There has been much confusion around the effectiveness of masks to prevent the spread of COVID 19.  This is partially due to some information disseminated by governmental organizations that discouraged citizens from wearing masks, claiming that it wouldn’t protect you from coronavirus.  Interestingly, these same outlets claimed that masks would be a good idea if you had contracted coronavirus, or were caring for someone who had, which clearly contradicts the idea that masks aren’t helpful in preventing contraction of the virus.  This was likely done to prevent a run on masks and shortage of masks available to healthcare workers who are in most dire need of N95 masks.


The simple case for wearing masks:

The case for wearing masks is fairly simple, and it goes basically like this: in countries where masks are widely used, the spread of the virus has been relatively slow when compared to countries where masks aren’t typically worn by the civilian population.  While there are many other differences between these countries that could explain the varying rates of spread, such as population density, and other measures taken to prevent the spread, the drastically lower rates of spread in Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and other countries with a culture more amenable to don a mask suggests strongly that wearing masks is effective.  The Czech Republic recently began requiring masks be worn in public, starting on March 18th, and since then the daily % increase in cases has fallen dramatically:


It doesn’t have to be an N95 Mask to Be Effective

Don’t be discouraged by an inability to get an N95 mask.  A number of studies suggest a number of more available materials are relatively reasonably hard for the small droplets, which carry the virus, to penetrate.  See the graphic below to see how a number of household materials perform against .02 micron particles:

Note that doubling some materials, such as a typical dish towel, results in huge performance gains, while others, such as cotton t-shirts will only capture another couple of percentage points.


Make Your Own Mask

Here Artificial Intelligence educator and researcher Jeremy Howard goes over some of the evidence in support of #Masks4All and will show you how to make a simple mask out of a t-shirt.  If you know a better way to make a mask, please leave a comment to share.

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