My Reply To A Contact About Masks

Below is my reply to a person who reached out through my website to explain why he didn’t need to see my video about anti-viral masks because he “already had covid for a few minutes and is immune for life,” and anyway the disease is a hoax, etc., etc. I didn’t write this to address that person (who is no doubt so deep in the cult of political theater as to be beyond all hope) but to address for the greater good his oft-repeated misapprehensions. And now that I’ve done that, it’s off to work I go…’

Hi David:

Thank you for taking the time to write me with your concerns.

First, like most other respiratory diseases, SARS-Cov-2 cannot survive in the form of naked virus particles in dry air, but must be suspended in water droplets, the smallest of which are a thousand times larger, and in order to persist for any time in the air, must be tens of thousands of times larger. Particles of these sizes are easily blocked by almost any tightly-woven filter material.

Second, filters don’t interact with naked virus particles like sand passing through a sieve. When a virion encounters a fiber inside a mask, it will not be swept around it by air currents like a larger particle of smoke or dust would be, but instead will hit it and stick with enough chemical binding force to start pulling the virus apart. The spacing between fibers is essentially irrelevant to the capture of virus sized particles. In a mask of sufficient thickness, a virion that passes between one set of fibers will soon bump into another–and stick.

Third, the fibers in the non-spun fabric filter material used in most modern masks has an electric charge that attracts passing virions, making it much harder for them to pass all the way through the filter material without sticking.

Fourth, viral load matters. The more virus particles you are exposed to, the more likely you are to become sick, and the sicker you are likely to become. This has been suspected for a century, proven for about 30 years, and is now believed to be the reason many young, healthy doctors are falling ill with COVID-19 in spite of PPE use–they work every day in a highly contaminated environment. Wearing a mask is not a garantee of immunity, but it lowers exposure and therefor risk from whatever it would otherwise have been. A mask does not have to be 100% virus proof in order to keep you safe, but when everyone wears a mask, the effectiveness of the masks combine to protect everyone better.

Fifth, empirical studies have shown that masks cut infection by influenza by about 92%, and that standard surgical masks are just as effective as N95 masks for this purpose. The largest study of mask effectiveness in history was published in the September 2019 JAMA. We have every reason to believe this research applies equally to COVID-19.

Sixth, empirical field studies during the current pandemic have confirmed that it does, and that face masks are highly effective in slowing the the spread of the virus, especially where mask mandates or high voluntary compliance rates lead to near universal use. However effective or ineffective a mask might be, if both the infected and the non-infected mask up, the effectiveness is mathematically squared. That is, even if everyone wears a homemade mask that only blocks 90% of virus particles, when everyone wears one, 99% of the virus is stopped.

Seventh, having tested positive for COVID-19 does not mean you are immune. Most testing in the US relies on highly-sensitive PCR amplification, which can detect fragments of viral DNA even in the absence of active virus. You can test positive and not actually be sick. More important, you can actually get sick, have the lab work showing you are sick with COVID-19, recover, and still get sick again enough to require hospitalization. This phenomena is almost unique to COVID-19 and is alarming. There is enough data now to know it isn’t an illusion, but not enough to tell us what impact it might have on the quest for a vaccine. Even if it doesn’t make a vaccine unworkable, no vaccine is 100% effective and fewer are better than 75% effective–again, unless everyone complies. If everyone who can gets the vaccine and wears a mask and takes other precautions, and if the virus doesn’t find a non-human animal host, then the virus will soon be driven to extinction. If compliance is poor, this will never be possible.

Eight, given the unique properties of this virus, you are gambling with what you do not know. You may indeed be “immune for life,” or you may yet suffer lifelong debilitation–in yourself or someone you love–for which you will then have to hold yourself to account.

Nine, none of your complaints about mask wearing actually arise from mask wearing. Thousands of professionals wear masks day in and day out for their entire careers without experiencing headaches, interference in oxygen supply, or as you say, “mutilation of face and mind.” The simple fact is, these are all excuses for not taking the simple, innocuous, and obviously helpful measures for individual and the collective good that any adult can readily see are required in the present circumstance.

Ten, science, which features so prominently in your email address, is a methodology for understanding reality as it is, not for rationalizing faith in political theater. Science reveals reality, and reality tells us that in this instance, mask wearing is a simple and effective mitigation against a dangerous disease for which we as yet have little other defence, and that had the nation embraced it en masse, we might well have saved 150,000 lives and many trillions of dollars.

As you requested, you have been removed from my mailing list. I hope you enjoy the free stories, and that you remain free of ill-health and trouble.


Stuart Hardwick