Our local county judge issued an order requiring residents ages 10 and over to wear some sort of protective face covering when in public places. It goes into effect today.
Face coverings may be a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief, as long as it covers the nose and mouth. And there are exceptions for eating or drinking, exercising, or doing physical activities outdoors, and if wearing a face covering posed a mental, physical, safety or security risk.
Still the order raised all kinds of social media chatter and protest. Within the day, a legal challenge was issued. Did she have the authority to do so?
Consensus seems to be a resounding NO. But, so far, there’s been no rescinding.
Which led to this to-be-or-not-to-be Shakespeare question blog and my favorite thing – research.
The answer lies in the reason behind wearing a mask. Is a mask worn to protect the wearer from getting infected or is a mask worn to protect others from being infected by the wearer?
And understanding COVID19.
Research seems to show a key transmission route of COVID-19 is via droplets that fly out of our mouths — when we speak, not just when we cough or sneeze. Coupled with the known fact that people can infect others before they themselves display any symptoms — even if they never develop any illness.
Imagine the coronavirus pandemic like a wildfire. People breathing out invisible embers when they speak, cough, or sneeze. Studies show sneezing spreads embers farthest, coughing second, and speaking least.
That’s a scary image and wearing a mask begins to make sense.
Wearing a cotton mask dramatically reduces the number of virus particles emitted from our mouths by as much as 99 percent. Fewer virus particles floating around means a better chance of avoiding infection. And if infected, a better chance of only a mild illness.
Mask wearing is like the emission filter on car exhausts and chimneys. My mask protects you; your mask protects me.
It’s called public good — something we all do to that eventually helps everyone. But how much public good depends on the level of participation.
In a perfect world there be lots of good mask wearing. Unfortunately, emission filters had to be mandated to cut air pollution. I suspect that’s why our county judge put out her order mandating mask wearing.