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A.I. Insight: Masks Work Against Viruses and are One of the Most Effective Tools for Reducing the Spread of Covid-19 (and other diseases/colds/flu). Here is Why.
“The majority of people instinctively believe that the point of wearing a mask is to protect yourself. This is NOT the main reason for wearing a mask! The ultimate purpose of the mask is to reduce the amount of exhausted moisture coming out of your nose and mouth when breathing, or talking.” Masks work against viruses!
*Disclaimer, the human writer of this article has 10 years of experience working in medical manufacturing environments that require empirical validation of protocols and specifications as well as comprehension of biological responses. Working with microns sized sized particles of metal alloy in laser powder bed fusion 3D printers, he is required to be educated, as well as train others on risks and behavior of small particulate and how to mitigate those risks, using PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
It is hard to deny that in order for a contagious virus to spread, the virus is either airborne or they come in contact with people, either directly or indirectly. In other words, the virus must either be breathed, drank, smoked, eaten , touched or ingested in order to spread from person to person. And the best way to reduce the virus level in the air is by wearing a mask. The only question then, is , will the public voluntarily wear masks? It is not a question of whether or not the public will be compelled to wear masks, but rather a question of whether the public will be willing to wear masks.
People don’t necessarily do things just because they are told to do so. They must understand why! There has been much concern that people don’t understand the implications of the masks because they don’t understand that wearing them will not protect them from the virus, but will instead reduce the virus level in the air if they are carrying it unknowingly. Masks are not some end-all-be-all that must be worn, but in some instances it can offer a little extra protection. Our best protection is to use our brains and to utilize better etiquette and avoid areas where we will be in contact with many people. It is better to not go into that heavily populated area rather than just go into it and put on a mask.
There are a few key points to be made here. First, the majority of people instinctively believe that the point of wearing a mask is to protect yourself. This is NOT the main reason for wearing a mask! To fully understand what the mask does and how to apply it properly, let’s take a look at a few of the benefits. In an airtight environment such as an enclosed classroom, with the teacher and students present, the mask will reduce moisture in the air.
There is much evidence to show that COVID-19 can, in some cases be A-symptomatic, but in many cases spread pre-symptomatically which means by the time you discover that you have it, you may have already spread it to others. The mask will cut down on the chances of your spreading it by reducing the amount that you potentially exhaust, but also the trajectory or distance that it is exhausted. It is in tandem with social distancing. Both will effectively reduce the amount of airborne disease you may be introduced to. Masks work against spreading viruses. We just need to know how they do in order to know why to wear them and when. They are not a fool proof method that works completely, but in confined spaces where we have to be around people, they can offer some mitigation at least.
The only way to really know whether you have COVID-19 is to see a doctor, and it should be a doctor who is knowledgeable in this area. You will need to see a doctor if you notice that you have a headache, a fever or a chills, you have chest pains or feel like your chest is getting heavier, or you notice a sore throat or runny nose. But it is important to realize you may have contracted COVID-19 and be actively spreading it before having, or without ever having any of these symptoms.
The erroneous thinking that the mask is to protect against breathing in the contagion, although understandable, leads them to the conclusion that the mask may not be filtering sufficiently enough, which for the most part is actually correct. Studies show that much of the concern is from aerosol exhausted from the mouth and nose which is to blame for much of the spreading. Some of this aerosol is sub micron sized and will indeed pass through the mask, which means the mask will not protect you completely (keep in mind the exhaust is not all uniform particulate but a distribution of sizes). This makes them think that wearing the mask is a waste of time. But, This is why you have the mask covering the nose and mouth and not the eyes or other parts of the face which can contract airborne viruses. It is not a personal protective mechanism, but a protective barrier designed to reduce (although not completely) the spread of the disease from the person to the environment. Catching or redirecting SOME of that particle distribution in exhaust is helpful although hard to pin down statistically how helpful due to varying specifications on masks since there has been care taken not to saturate N95 demand.
“The physics of exhaled air and flow physics have generated hypotheses about possible mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 transmission through aerosols.(13-16) These theories suggest that 1) a number of respiratory droplets generate microscopic aerosols (<5 µm) by evaporating, and 2) normal breathing and talking results in exhaled aerosols. Thus, a susceptible person could inhale aerosols, and could become infected if the aerosols contain the virus in sufficient quantity to cause infection within the recipient. However, the proportion of exhaled droplet nuclei or of respiratory droplets that evaporate to generate aerosols, and the infectious dose of viable SARS-CoV-2 required to cause infection in another person are not known, but it has been studied for other respiratory viruses.(17)“https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/transmission-of-sars-cov-2-implications-for-infection-prevention-precautions
To really drive home the main purpose of the mask is the fact that the CDC does not recommend N95 masks with exhaust ports. This is ironic in some ways because the N95 actually is capable of filtering 95% of particulate measuring 0.3 microns or larger; That’s 0.0003 millimeters. For reference, the width of a human hair is roughly 70-100 microns. But the CDC doesn’t recommend these because you wouldn’t be absorbing or “masking” the exhaust and so would be putting others, not wearing an N95 (which we cannot produce enough to supply everyone) at risk. If everyone could have an N95, it may be recommended, but it is more pragmatic to have everyone wearing simpler, easier to produce masks.
Masks are considered PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), when their purpose in this application is not “personal”. The public discourse around “personal protection” is in many ways a misnomer, and masks serve a very different function, from what people are currently thinking about when they hear it being discussed or enforced.
Interesting fact: Inoculation is an old technique practiced in many parts of the world. It formed the foundational strategy behind vaccines. Witch doctors, shamans and alchemists were consulted to introduce patients to disease like small pox and bubonic plague by using sores from an infected person and introducing it into a healthy persons body. Sometimes by rubbing it into the skin, or by blowing it into the nostril. Whether a patient was infected and killed by the disease or effectively inoculated was a matter of the experience and discretion of the practitioner. Choosing the proper initial viral load was the key.
Most people are not qualified to explain some of the details of these matters to someone when they think that it is important for everyone to be wearing a mask. Unfortunately these people still feel urged to lecture others, in pursuit of their own safety, and can be doing more harm than good. This clouds, distorts, and alters the comprehension of the application of masks in a public setting and makes it more of a political conversation than fact based. It often leads to back and forth bickering, with erroneous points being thrown out although in good faith and attempted logic, but still erroneous. Ultimately, both sides leave thinking the other side is stubborn, ignorant, or just a plain old idiot. But with some of the points described in this article, hopefully we can all learn the real reasons why, and explain them better to others so we can all be on the same page and have more coherent discussion to mitigate the spread of this virus, and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, to those of you who don’t have a personal experience with and knowledge of PPE or the impact it has, but still think it’s important that others use it, please consider this article and consider putting a little extra thought into your decision to address this issue with others.
Ask yourself, why do you “cover your mouth” when you cough or sneeze? This is a simple talking point to explain to someone that is not wearing a mask. You learned this as a child. This is what the mask is doing, not trying to filter the air that you are breathing in, but “muzzle” or absorb some of the exhaust that you are breathing out, TO PROTECT OTHERS! Staying 6 feet away, or social distancing, becomes much more effective when there’s a “muzzle” on the person talking really loud also. But, critically in tandem with this point is that much of this virus spreads pre-symptomatically (potentially %50 of cases) which is a a very important part of this explanation!
An add on point here is that ventilation is a big consideration as well as time spent in poorly ventilated areas. The mask will help to cut down on how much and how far potentially contaminated aerosol particulate can travel. If 5 people are in an unventilated room wearing masks, it will take longer for the room to become saturated then if they were not wearing masks, but it would still become saturated eventually. If there are 10 people, that makes it happen even faster, even with masks. With mild to mediocre ventilation, it now takes longer to saturate the room. If there is great ventilation, and even outside fresh air being circulated back in, then the room may never become saturated.
This is some of the reason a venue like a casino, with a moderate amount of people, is actually potentially safer than a small room with few people (casinos usually have excellent ventilation, ironically because of indoor smoking usually). This is also why outdoor activities have been opened up and indoor ones still locked down in some areas. Ultraviolet light does in fact have sterilizing properties but the ventilation feature of being outdoors is the main reason why being outdoors is safer.
He is required to work at the highest level of safety in regard to end use medical device customers and with respect to exposure and exposure avoidance practices for laser powder powder bed fusion 3D printers, to provide all necessary support for his own safety and well being and ensure that all members of the team are protected.