To Mask or Not to Mask?

I’m starting to see pleas for a reinstatement of requirements to wear facemasks in public places. As I see it the different reactions are:

  • This is long overdue. Maybe it should be permanent.
  • Hell, no. Masks are useless.
  • Whatever

My own view is that masks, whether ordinary surgical-style masks, KN95s, or N95s have a marginal effect in reducing the spread of viruses in general COVID-19 in particular. They aren’t forcefields. If the margin is small enough and wearing masks leads people to doing things they wouldn’t have done without them, mask mandates could be counterproductive.

I wear a mask indoors in almost all public places. That’s my call. I don’t think it will prevent me from contracting COVID-19. I think that its effectiveness is marginal and small. Even if marginal it’s something and don’t imagine that it will do more.

6 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    N-95s are quite effective. We tracked it among our staff working with covid pts and as far as we can tell we didnt have any staff contract covid during contact with a pt known to have covid and they were wearing an N 95. The new covid variants are so infectious that they will help a little but distancing and good ventilation is better. Still good for flu and RSV. Getting vaccinated helps.


  • Grey Shambler Link

    Must be a reason we both woke up to this today.
    I woke up feeling fluey and feverish. My granddaughter came home from kindergarten with 102 temperature and feeling ill.
    I haven’t masked, and I only worry when I think about it.
    I Really DK if taking what I consider extreme measures to save my life for a limited time is the right thing to do.
    N-95’s are extreme in my mind.
    As there really isn’t an exit date for the danger.
    I saw my woman die of suffocation, (by iPad), and it’s scary.
    I’m going to think about it some more is all I can say.

  • Andy Link

    I think it’s really situational, at least for me. At this point, I ignore that Covid mask hawks and their opposites and take what I think are reasonable precautions.

    Since I work from home, my primary risk comes from my kids, who might bring something home from school, followed by the occasional outing to the store or whatever. As a protection measure, I’m not about to mask at home or force my kids to mask at home, though that would be the “safest” thing to do. Since I have flexibility, I tend to do my errands when stores and such are not crowded because I don’t like crowded stores.

    So I only mask when visiting my sister in memory care. Depending on what the Colorado Health Department is saying, masking may be recommended or required at her facility.

    Anyway, it seems to me this spike was or should have been anticipated. The covid-suppression measures taken in the last few years also suppressed other stuff, which is now reasserting. I expect that to return to normal in a year or two and things stabilize.

  • bob sykes Link

    Most masks are not N-95. So, the chief function of a mask is to contain your own coughing and sneezing droplets. They do not prevent you from inhaling suspended virus particles, nor from picking up viruses by touching things.

    A very large fraction of people do not know how to wear a mask. I routinely see masks below the nose or even on the chin. Even employees of stores that mandate masks for their employees are not instructed in their use.

    Generally, I wander around without a mask, unless the merchant/doctor requires it. I’ve had the shots, and I may have been an early victim of covid. I certainly spent quite some time in bed in November 2019.

  • steve Link

    I think what most people are doing is ok, ie individualizing based upon their own risk tolerance. Remember that the aerosol scientists have done lots of work on all kinds of masks. The standard surgical mask stops droplets but it also reduces aerosols by quite a bit so still very helpful for flu. You will still get some effect with covid but much less than 1-2 years ago.


  • PD Shaw Link

    I’ve been mulling over this again as one of my dad’s closest friends died a few days ago and the visitation is Saturday. His wife recently contracted COVID in the nursing home and will be there, and COVID is at high transmission levels in that county. I’m fully vaccinated (3 doses) and not really worried about contracting it myself other than I’m seeing my parents and my wife’s parents for Christmas.

    My parents and siblings are all making different decisions about this with different reasons. I’m probably leaning towards not going because I live about 90 minutes away, and I can imagine showing up and not liking the feel of the situation and wanting to leave. I don’t think wearing a mask is significant enough to influence my decision.

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