September 30, 2020

Why I'm on Team Mask.

A LOT is being said by people I usually agree with and even look up to regarding the oppressive tyranny of having people wear masks, and how this is an unnecessary and useless annoyance, a violation of our civil rights and a sign of submission to a tyrannical state 

I disagree.

If we're going to open up (and I think we should have done so before now) we need to do everything in our power to slow the transmission of this bug. It may be less lethal than it was earlier in the year due to improved treatments, but it is still very lethal to the elderly and the vulnerable. 

While it is true that masks (other than N-95, N-99 and equivalent) provide very incomplete protection, they do provide some, and if everyone is wearing them their aggregate effect is substantial. We've seen this demonstrated in places like Japan, Korea and Singapore where they have been quite effective. 

There is an anti-mask meme going around about a fellow using a chain link fence to stop mosquitoes. This is...flawed.

The virus itself is indeed tiny enough to avoid most facemask fibers, but is generally attached to water droplets and dust particles that are much less so, and thus a significant percentage of viri can be caught by less effective coverings.  Also, the purpose of the mask is not necessarily to protect the wearer, but to prevent spread, with lower grade masks this is to prevent the wearer from transmitting the disease and thereby protect those most vulnerable. If an asymptomatic person and a vulnerable person nearby are both wearing masks, the chances of transmission to the vulnerable individual are significantly reduced. 

A good analogy is the "Duck and cover!" drill that scared so many of us as children during the cold war. That desk we were hiding under (or a convenient ditch) was not going to provide any great protection against an atomic explosion. However, it was one of the few measures that was demonstrated to work...albeit on a macro scale. Ducking and covering, would, in a statistical sense increase ones chances of avoiding injury by an amount that was statistically significant in the aggregate. A, let's say, arbitrarily, 2 percent increase in chance of survival is of no great significance to an individual. However, in a nation of 300 million, that's six million more people alive than there would be otherwise. These macro trends are how public health decisions have to be made. 

I find it amusing that the sneering douchebags who poo poo'd the duck and cover drills as futile are draconian about the masks, and those who understand the grim and desperate calculus behind the old cold war drills and who arm up and  prepare for all manner of catastrophe, won't wear them.

Increasingly the retort to this from the right is the libertarian principle of "Why should I give a f**k about the vulnerable?...I don't like it...ain't gonna do it"

Well, there are counterarguments to that, but as a conservative, I'm unpersuasive by association, so I'll let Karl Kasarda, one of the more Libertarian Libertarians that have Libertarian'd on Gun Tube to explain almost exactly how I feel. 

This is part of an unrelated Q&A session, if for some reason, it doesn't queue up to the right point, the relevant bit is at 39:50

He is kinda wrong about herd immunity being unachievable without a vaccine. In the early 1600's the Natives of North America achieved herd immunity to chicken pox without a vaccine, (but that was a sub optimal outcome for them). Now, the Chi-Com bat-soup-pestilence is nowhere near as dangerous a disease as that, but it has killed almost half as many people as flu1918 did in about one third the time. 

Kasarda also at one point suggests that those not on team mask are sociopaths, but I don't think that is either helpful or even correct. I think most of them are just either autistically oblivious, or fed up with being pushed around.  And in fairness, they do have some completely valid points that don't involve masks. 

The lockdowns seemed like a good idea with the info that was available (particularly the calamity that was befalling Italy) at the time but the implementation in many locales WAS tyrannical. 

The restrictions ARE likely to be a template for any oppressive measures to control the citizenry.  
The masks ARE seen by certain of our leaders as a symbol of which they ditch as soon as they think the cameras are off
The examples of political targeting with and selective enforcement of the restrictions ARE numerous. 
Perhaps the most worrying trend was the snitch lines reminiscent of the East German Stassi. Furthermore, the prosecutions of protestors, in cars, wearing masks who only wanted to open their businesses, and Parishoners in cars, for violating lockdowns which was followed,  by the initial waves of the still ongoing riots  as not applicable to epidemiological precautions...which were being explicitly endorsed  by  the same health care providers who had pushed for the lockdowns...well that did not inspire confidence that restrictions are not politically motivated cruelty. 
Finally, the devastation wrought on small businesses by the lockdowns and the hyper acceleration of worrying trends in retail and real estate by them have done nothing to alleviate the fears of those who feel (rightly to an extent) that the powers that be hate them and will miss no opportunities to screw with them. 

Note though, that those valid points are about the clumsily targeted lockdowns and not the masks, which are lumped in with them  by a beleaguered and miserable public.

However, if we are to continue to open up again I REALLY don't think that a mask is the hill to die upon. Indeed, to the extent that it mitigates the spread, it will prevent further devastating lockdowns by making them unnecessary and indefensible even to those who gain a sadistic pleasure in inflicting them upon us. 

With regard to those smug nags who look down on those who chafe at the lockdowns as if they were impatient children, I think it was Pete who mentioned in the comments some months back that there are two Americas right now. 

There are those like myself who are unaffected or making MORE money than usual, and those whose lives have been absolutely devastated by the lockdowns. I see little difference in empathy levels between the oblivious libertarians who refuse on "principle" the basic civic duty of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a disease and the contemptuous indifference that those who can continue their jobs via ZOOM have towards those who are loosing everything while those who hold the keys to power keep them imprisoned. 

The minor annoyance of wearing a mask when in a store or using public transit seems like a small price to pay for ending both the economic and human nightmare, and seems like an easy way to give some protection to those who are most vulnerable to this gift from the CCP. 

This being an election year, there are other practical, though less universally appreciated  reasons to wear a mask as well; ones that don't actually involve giving a hoot about anyone else. The vulnerable are largely old people and if they die of the Wu-Flu before November 3rd they will surely (as the dead are wont to do) end up voting Democratic. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 05:35 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 1240 words, total size 12 kb.

1 well said. The sooner we beat this thing the sooner we can quit masking up.

Also, for the "I HAVE ASTHMA I CAN'T WEAR A MASK" people - I have asthma. It's generally well controlled with a daily pill, but I still feel it in allergy season. And I wear a mask. Yes, it makes me sometimes breathe like Darth Vader, sometimes I have a little trouble catching my breath after running up a couple flights of stairs in one....but that's nothing compared to what it would be if I caught the damned virus.

the thing is? the people refusing to mask (there are many in  my town) are likely prolonging the agony for the rest of us. I have not seen my mother since early January, probably will not see her (please God let her live that long) for at least another year, and that breaks my heart. But I am not getting on a plane or a train in this and maybe bringing it to a woman who, while she is otherwise healthy, is in her 80s. I might care less about whether I live or die (I AM GETTING THERE) but I would hate to live with the thought I caused misery or death for another person, especially a loved one.
I know there were fights about seatbelts when they became a thing, but most people wear them now. This is just the seatbelts of 2020. The problem here is if you don't wear one, it's not your life that's most at risk...

Posted by: fillyjonk at Thu Oct 1 09:27:02 2020 (o5UlT)

2 The only place I wear a mask is the only place I need one: stores that won't let me in without one. Since those are the only kind of stores that exist in California at the moment, it really doesn't matter how I feel about it. 

"Whenever the locals rub blue mud in their navels, I rub blue mud in mine just as solemnly." -- Lazarus Long


Posted by: J Greely at Thu Oct 1 10:45:45 2020 (ZlYZd)

3 My mother doesn't have asthma and never has, but she had some kind of lack of oxygenation or overly CO2 attack while wearing a mask. Which was followed by some kind of panic attack or something, with heart palpitations. Even after we got out of the area and my mom was able to take off the mask and breathe, we had to talk her through not gasping for air, and she was somewhat weak for days after.
Thank God, it has not recurred.
My father fell and broke his finger while adjusting his mask to go into a store. Then he lacerated another finger while doing yard work, and then he had to repeatedly go back to the doctor to have the wrappings fixed from cutting off his circulation or the cast not keeping his finger rigid. Finally everything healed up.
And again, I suppose that only breaking a finger once is a negligible consequence. But my dad has balance problems that went untreated for months because no appointments for no elite threatening stuff during COVID, and now it turns out he has a neurological problem.
I had COVID back in December, before all this, and I didn't die or pass it to others, despite not wearing a mask. But I did spend time with my parents, albeit being careful to keep myself away from them. So either they caught it and got over it without symptoms, or they never caught it despite sitting one chair away from me. And I am glad, because it was unpleasant to have a mysterious crud and find it more dangerous than anticipated; but I have gotten much closer to death from bronchitis and pneumonia strains that were well understood. (And they won't let me get vaccinated against pneumonia, even though I have historically been susceptible. Fortunately I have caught it less in middle age.) 
We do not shut down commerce and breathing for the sake of pneumonia or other deadlier diseases. Somehow we mostly live.
If wearing a mask was a free choice, like in Japan, and if masks were better fitted to those of us with weird European nose shapes that promote congestion and lack of oxygen, big deal. 
But I get to wear a mask for hours every day, while doing manual labor, when I have already had it and cannot pass it to others, and when I am the kind of person who feels faint easily. (Luckily we all know that singers train so they don't need oxygen. See the "singers' mask", which is like oxygen deprivation in a bag.)

I am prepared to be cheerful about masks, because I am paid to wear one and pretend to be happy about it, and to watch for elderly customers fainting, or toddlers running low on air, and so on. But since almost everyone not paid to wear a mask is routinely exposing noses, and since cases have dropped to negligible levels in most places, it is just kabuki theater at this point. (And frankly, better to have kabuki than toddlers turning blue or red or white.)

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at Fri Oct 2 08:56:48 2020 (sF8WE)

4 I'm really sorry about your mom, and dad that sucks. 
Hearing from people in Japan, I don't think masks are a free choice there on mass transit. Stores can mandate them if they want to and otherwise it is indeed left to the discretion of the public.  I think that Japan's way of dealing with it was pretty solid, Korea too though they had very bad luck early on, getting hit hard before measures could be taken. 
Anything can be made stupid with enough government. 
I thought I'd mentioned in the post (but I didn't) that I think that a lot of the actual mask regs are kind of dumb. Forcing people to wear masks outside is dumb, unless perhaps one is in a densely populated concrete jungle, and there are municipalities that demand people wear them at home which is just bonecrushingly, mind addlingly stupid. 

In fact the draconian, counterproductive dominance displays by the ruling class is why there is so much pushback against the one thing that is the least Kabuki theatre of all the measures proposed. (except for cordon sanitaires around hot zones, which, in addition to being far more worrisome from a civil liberties perspective, are way past the date that they might have been effective.)
 I thought I'd mentioned in the post (but I didn't) that I think that a lot of the actual mask regs are kind of dumb. Forcing people to wear masks outside is dumb, unless perhaps one is in a densely populated concrete jungle, and there are municipalities that demand people wear them at home which is just bonecrushingly, mind addlingly stupid. 
However, I think that masks on mass transit, in stores, and such are the best, least intrusive and most effective way to mitigate the spread.  And yes, if they're going to enforce a mask, they need to enforce the nose being covered up. 
This situation; the mitigation of disease; is one of the few actual legitimate roles of government and stands in stark contrast to the majority of what government does. I know that there are people who have issues, actual medical issues with face coverings, and some consideration of their needs, in an ideal world, would be taken into account...but the government has to look at trends and the needs of the majority of its citizens.....that it cannot deal with every individual case is one of the reasons that we need to keep government small. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Fri Oct 2 11:45:50 2020 (5iiQK)

5 All of the discussions of this issue that I've witnessed online always end up frustrating me more than anything. It seems like virtually everyone, on both sides of the issue, agree on some level that the wearing of masks helps to mitigate the spread of the virus. Given that assumption, I can't really sympathize with anyone arguing against wearing one regardless of whether it's uncomfortable to wear or the authorities are being heavy handed in their imposition of mandates.
The thing is, I don't agree with the assumption that wearing masks generally reduces transmission of the virus. First of all, all of the data seems to universally agree with the idea that mask mandates increase the spread, as counter-intuitive as that might be. In the US for example, as of about a couple of weeks ago, I read that there were 30 states with mask mandates and 20 states without, and that both infection rates and rate of deaths per 100,000 population were greatly higher in states with mandates than in states without. Furthermore, the 13 states with highest death rates per 100,000 (55 or more per 100,000) were all states with mask mandates.
I realize that even data like this doesn't absolutely prove anything. It occurred to me that, for instance, the causation might work the other way. Maybe the states with the highest rates of infection and/or deaths are more likely to respond with mask mandates. But still, if masks are such a great idea, and refusing to wear one such a bad one, shouldn't there be at least a few examples of places paying a heavy price for their (assumed) incorrect decision to avoid mask mandates?
Here's what I think is going on: People who are convinced that masks reduce the transmission rate are only considering airborne transmission, as if that were the only way the virus could spread. Furthermore, it's true that microscopic water droplets and dust particles that contain the virus are stopped to some degree by masks, but it's not like they bounce off right? They stick to the mask if anything. Also, wearing a mask is usually less comfortable than not wearing one, this fact combined with the fact that masks frequently become incorrectly adjusted on the face lead most people to touch their face far more often as they're adjusting their masks frequently or else rubbing or scratching where the mask is uncomfortable or itchy. I for one would rather not catch the virus if I can avoid it, and so it makes me feel a little uncomfortable in places like grocery stores where I see many people frequently touching their faces and/or their masks in between touching surfaces that I and others are likely to come in contact with.
So, I am against wearing masks the way I see most people wearing them. I think people just generally wearing a mask on their face all day is likely to actually increase the spread of the disease. I am absolutely against any and all mask mandates. I believe that if you're going to mandate something, you'd better be absolutely positive that it's the best approach, otherwise leave it up to individuals to make up their own mind. Finally, it bothers me when people decide that because I'm generally against wearing masks in public, that it indicates that I must care more about the inconvenience of wearing a mask than about saving lives, when that's absolutely not the case.

Posted by: aboot at Sat Oct 3 16:58:52 2020 (rTAyL)

6 I am of two minds about wearing masks and mandating them, although I do wonder if the real effects of masks is to prevent the undetected asymptomatic infectees of the Wuhan flu who are wearing the masks from spreading it to other people, rather it directly protects the non-infected from the virus.

However, I also live in a state where several days ago, the governor was caught on record as admitting to playing political theater with wearing masks, so I am VERY skeptical of any kind of mandates, especially when the mandates come with the heavy-handed lock-downs that have occurred in far too many places, and done by both those with good intentions and with ill intent.

If the mask mandates had come in with sensible precautions like what Taiwan and Sweden introduced, where the governments did NOT lock down their countries, I probably would be persuaded, especially Taiwan now is more restrictive on where you have to wear masks.  But I am not going to support a masking mandate that comes as part and parcel of a heavy-handed lock down.  

Posted by: cxt217 at Sat Oct 3 17:23:56 2020 (4i7w0)

7 Grumble.  I should have typed out:

"Taiwan is less restrictive on where you have to wear masks," because trying to type out a double negative (i.e. "more restrictive" on allowing the use of a mask mandate, thus not requiring people to wear it as often.) does not work if your mind is on other things.

Posted by: cxt217 at Sat Oct 3 18:19:26 2020 (4i7w0)


  I am not going to support a masking mandate that comes as part and parcel of a heavy-handed lock down.  

I think that's about right.  The masks ought to make the more draconian and intrusive measures unnecessary. I also think they're being over prescribed. The should be used in, basically, mass transit and stores that require it (probably grocery stores especially) ...but there are places that are requiring masks outside, even in cars. That's stupid.

Also, it is true that they DON'T protect the wearer terribly well, but they give some protection to the vulnerable from asymptomatic spreaders. The aggregate effect seems to be noticeable if the apparent experience of the big East Asian cities can be taken at face value. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sat Oct 3 21:04:02 2020 (5iiQK)

9 @aboot says "shouldn't there be at least a few examples of places paying a heavy price for their (assumed) incorrect decision to avoid mask mandates?"
New York City.  

Posted by: Wonderduck at Sat Oct 3 23:19:21 2020 (vNkOW)

10 @Wonderduck New York City has a mask mandate, but maybe they're an example of a place that saw a mask mandate as a response to higher infection rates instead of the other way around. Here's the thing: the common sense assumption that wearing a mask reduces transmission rates only takes into account airborne transmission. After giving it some thought, my common sense tells me that more people wearing masks all the time will increase transmission because of all the increased face touching. As far as I can tell, the data that I'm able to find online supports my idea more than the other.
Bottom line: I'm not on team mask, and it's not because I prioritize comfort or convenience over lives.

Posted by: aboot at Sun Oct 4 12:57:14 2020 (rTAyL)

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