Masks can filter what you inhale, what you exhale or both. And they can do so all the way down to the smallest things like PM 2.5 particles or COVID19 virus. But many people do not understand the value of wearing a mask at all times except if you are working in health care system. And some see the requirements to wear mask as an infringement on personal freedom.
Masks are meant to protect each other
A major path of contagion for COVID19 seems to be via:
- asymptomatic virus carriers exhaling viral loads which circulate in enclosed spaces and end up on shared public surfaces where they can survive for hours or even days, and
- other members of the public breathing the same enclosed atmosphere or touching contaminated surfaces and then later bringing the virus to their own respiratory tract (finger touching nose or face or mouth)
This is why when everyone wear a proper mask while circulating around people, viral spread can be reduced dramatically as it protects others from the droplets which may be coming out of your respiratory tract.
Masks can protect you
Once you wear a mask, you also get strong protection from such contagious droplets from others around you. That is important for workers who are overly exposed to the public and for categories of people more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Wash your hands too
In a scientific review of a variety of preventions methods used during the SARS outbreak in 2003, washing hands more than 10 times daily was 55 percent effective in stopping virus transmission, while wearing a mask was actually more effective — at about 68 percent. Wearing gloves offered about the same amount of protection as frequent hand-washing, and combining all measures — hand-washing, masks, gloves and a protective gown — increased protection effectiveness to 91 percent. source
Masks make a difference even at home
Another study of the effect of wearing a mask in households where one child has the flu, shows that wearing a surgical mask or a respirator mask reduce infections for other members of the household by 400%. This study confirms what we have observed in Asia where the public wears masks consistently. source
While the flu virus is not exactly same as COVID19, they are from the same family of virus and are similar in terms of contagion paths.
Freedom is about others
We all accept seat belt and speed limit mandates on the road, why cant we accept mask mandates on the streets and indoors ? Anyone eager to protest against 'red light tyranny'? Anyone advocating removing speed limits in towns ?
Our freedom has always been a shared value. We are only as free as others around us. We have always accepted that freedom is a pact among people to protect each other from tyranny. Not a licence to impose hardship and death on others around us.
So today, in the name of other people's freedom to live without dying from COVID-19, we all must take simple steps to prevent virus spread.
What is the big deal anyway ?
We have let airport security invade our privacy for the last 20 years because one idiot thought he could blow up a plane with explosive hidden in his shoes. Surely we can wear a mask in public for another 6 to 9 months while treatments and vaccines are being developed.