19 April 2020
Off the topic of nature and on the topic of science …
Face masks are in style now and in Pennsylvania they’re required, starting this evening 19 April 2020 at 8pm, for employees and customers at essential businesses. That includes grocery stores.
Since COVID-19 was first reported in the U.S. on 21 January 2020, the message about face masks has changed. Back then everyone asked, “What face mask will keep me safe?” Since then we’ve learned that staying safe is a community effort. If everyone maintains social distancing and wears a mask the disease can’t spread easily.
- We don’t know who has COVID-19 so we don’t know who to isolate:
- COVID-19 can wait as much as 14 days to make a person feel sick; meanwhile they’re contagious.
- Up to 25% of those who catch COVID-19 never feel sick but they’re contagious. See Infected but Feeling Fine: The Unwitting Coronavirus Spreaders, New York Times, 31 March 2020.
- There are not enough COVID-19 tests available to find the silent spreaders.
- COVID-19 floats in the air when a contagious person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes.
- Coughing: See video below.
- Singing: When 60 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale met for practice on 10 March someone in the crowd was silently contagious. Three weeks later, two were dead and 45 ill, a more than 75% infection rate. — from CNN, 2 April 2020.
- Talking: “One January  lunchtime in a car parts company, a worker turned to a colleague and asked to borrow the salt. As well as the saltshaker, in that instant, they shared the new coronavirus.” — from Pass the Salt, Reuters 9 April 2020
Face masks capture and divert the coughs, sneezes, and breaths away from the rest of us.
Unprotected coughs really travel far — further than 6 feet — and they linger in the air. Click on the graphic to see a 3-D simulation of this in the New York Times.
Though a few states still haven’t issued stay-at-home orders — let alone mask-wearing — businesses understand the importance of masks. Walmart is requiring their employees to wear masks nationwide beginning tomorrow, 20 April 2020.
I’m happy to participate in this community effort as you can see in the photo at top. I made(*) my face mask from a cloth napkin + elastic earpieces + a plastic twist tie sewn into the top edge of the mask.
Your mask protects me. Mine protects you. Please wear one.
(*) Here’s a video on how to make the face mask plus the PDF of the pattern. I added this feature: I embedded a plastic-coated twist tie inside the top of the mask to hold the mask to my face so my glasses don’t fog as much.
(photo by Kate St. John, video from Wikimedia Commons, screenshot from the New York Times; click on the image to see the 3-D simulation)
p.s. How well are we doing on social distancing? Check out this Social Distancing Scoreboard that tracks trips and rates each state and county in the U.S.