We have the good people (and also the enlightened self-interested)
UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written. Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete. Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.
You know, Good People with capital letters. The sort of people who actually care about other humans. People who do the right thing even if it doesn’t benefit themselves, who give anonymously to orphans and pick up plastic at the beach.
People who wear face masks, even if they’re fit, healthy, and personally unconcerned about catching COVID-19.
Because the word is in, folks. Up to 45% of us may be asymptomatic coronavirus carriers. Granted, the science seems to get updated day by day. But at the time of writing, experts say that some of us can carry and spread the novel coronavirus without showing any symptoms — maybe nearly half of us (though percentages vary quite a bit depending on whom you ask).
That’s enough for me: I’m officially coming down on the Mask Side of the Force. Join me, and we can rule the universe together. Or at least Forcefully prod things in the right direction.
Who Do Masks Protect?
Here’s the thing that confuses the issue: non-medical fabric masks don’t necessarily protect you from catching the virus if, say, someone sneezes in your face. But they are pretty darn effective at protecting other people from you.
To the selfish and short-sighted, this makes mask-wearing pointless. To the aforementioned Good People, it’s all the reason they need to wear masks every single time they set foot outside. But what does this mean to everybody in between?
Now, I’m a misanthropic old bag and a terrible, awful human being who likes dogs and Daleks more than other people. Social distancing is a blessing and self-isolation is just for days ending in “y”. I am not Good People.
But I am a reasonable person from a science background. And as such, enlightened self-interest tells me that I should wear face masks wherever I go, and strongly encourage everyone in the world to do the same, at least until such time as we have a cure or a vaccine in adequate supply.
The Alien Hatchling Analogy
Allow me to explain myself using an absurd, gruesome, and oversimplified analogy. Let’s say aliens abduct a thousand of us, impregnate a few hundred with their parasitic eggs, and release us into a nature reserve. None of us know if we’re egged or not until the moment the hatching alien bursts through our nose. It will then burrow into the nearest uninfected person’s belly, hatch its own eggs through his or her nose, and so forth, until no one’s left alive.
Luckily, we find some helmets lying around. Wearing the helmets won’t stop the egg from hatching if you’re already infected, and they won’t prevent any roaming hatchlings from burrowing into your abdomen. BUT (here’s the important bit) when when the hatchling emerges through someone’s nose, they will get trapped in the helmet and die, meaning they won’t be able to attack anyone else.
So, should we all wear the helmets? Let’s take a vote.
If you’re already infected, the helmet won’t save you. But what if you’re not infected? Then if, and ONLY if, everyone wears one, it will absolutely save your life. Not only that; every single uninfected person will survive.
However, if someone refuses to wear the helmet, that person becomes an active danger to every other person, because if s/he hatches an alien, it can infect anyone, helmeted or not. We can only save everyone if everyone wears the helmet. Remember, the helmet does NOT take away the aliens’ power to infect you — it just imprisons them away from you.
To my mind, it then makes all kind of sense to vote for helmets for everyone, even if I don’t know whether I’m infected or not. I’m doing it to create an environment where the infection is contained within the infected, not because it renders me immune to wandering aliens.
Back To the Present Situation
In the real world, if we can create a scenario where everyone keeps their alien hatchlings (aka virus-laden droplets) contained in a helmet (aka face mask), the lives saved could be yours or mine. Or your child’s, your 93-year-old granny’s, or your immune-compromised cousin’s.
This, friends and others, is why I now wear a mask every time I show my face in public. Not because it will protect me from catching COVID-19 (statistically, there’s a decent chance that I already have and don’t know it), but because it’s the best I can do to promote a practice that means nobody will infect anybody.
Next time you’re in line at the grocery store, take a good look around you, and imagine that nearly half of everyone you see might be carrying alien hatchlings just waiting to burst out and start burrowing. Then imagine that face masks could stop that happening, if only they’d all wear one. Kinda puts things in perspective. I guess we really are all in this together, though maybe not for the usual reasons people say that.
So next time you step outside, put on that mask, set an example, and spread the message far and wide. Until we have a cure and/or vaccine, and even some time after that, it really is our only hope.
P.S.: If you want a custom-designed or themed mask, email us and we can discuss it. I made some of these one-offs because they inject a bit of fun into a grim subject matter, but they’re just too fiddly to mass-produce. I’m still trying to figure out how to do a Dalek-themed one.
NOTE: As always, please remember that correct use is everything when it comes to face masks; improper care and sanitation practices can actually endanger you or others. The wrong fit can make masks ineffective, or just too uncomfortable to wear. Ditto for the wrong style for your facial anatomy. (Read more about proper fit and mask styles for your face here).