Again with the Facemask?

What can I as a pediatrician say to you that will convince you that the mask is worthless? I’ve tried, but I have failed, so I have to blame myself. Clearly I’ve taken either the wrong approach, or I haven’t used the right words.

The masks that the majority of people use these days do not filter out the viruses. The viruses go right through the holes of the mask. Imagine if you had a money separator with holes the size of quarters and you were trying to separate out pennies, how successful would you be? Not too successful.

Given that the mask has been in use for well over a year now, why does it seem to be effective? If it’s not the structure of the mask which clearly does not filter out viruses, why do we think the mask has been effective? One, the mask gives us something to do. It makes us feel as if we are in control of our destiny. Two, we want it to work. Never underestimate the power of desire.

Unfortunately desire alone doesn’t do a whole lot unless it’s backed up by science. If desire alone were effective, none of us would be overweight. But we are overweight. We are all overweight because we want to believe that we can keep eating the way we are and not gain weight. So our mind plays tricks upon itself. We run around the track a couple of times in order to a) give ourselves something to do, and b) fool ourselves that a little bit of exercise will take off the pounds. But it doesn’t. What will take off the pounds is to restrict our eating, which we don’t really want to do. So we continue to lie to ourselves until we can lie no more.

Does this sound familiar?

In reality, what will stop the COVID-19 virus is good handwashing before we pick up food that we plan to eat. Handwashing is the most important thing we can do. Handwashing is far more important than the mask. And there is a reason for that.

When we cough or sneeze into the open air, we are dispersing those viruses into an ocean of air. The infectious dose necessary to cause infection in the human body becomes rapidly diluted. In other words, there simply aren’t enough foot soldiers in order to mount an effective attack on our body should these viruses be inhaled into the respiratory tree. Imagine a foreign invading force attacking the United States with only a platoon of people; how effective would this force be? Not too effective. How much more effective would this foreign invading force be if there were millions of people? Much more effective.

Size matters.

Well, when you cough into your hand, those viruses do not become diluted it into an atmosphere of air. They get deposited on your hand. If you then shake someone else’s hand and that person then picks up a donut or a cookie that they plan to put in their mouth without washing their hands first, those viruses in full force then get transmitted into the oro-pharynx of the receiving person. Thus a full foreign invading force in much greater concentration enters the body of your neighbor. It’s not fought off or opposed by defenders in the respiratory tree; it goes right into the epithelium of your neighbor’s throat. It’s like a back door sneak attack.

A virus that is breathed in via respiratory droplet not only is a smaller invading force, it has to go through all the defenses of the respiratory tree. There are many defenses. There are little hairs in your bronchi and bronchioles that move the virus physically away from your lungs. There is also mucus in your lungs which traps the viruses so that they can be chewed up by macrophages. There are also other chemical mediators within that mucus which help to neutralize the virus. This is called non-adaptive immunity and everyone has it. This is why it is so difficult for infection to be spread by respiratory droplet.

In 1918 during the great flu pandemic, the Navy did an experiment where infected people coughed directly into the faces of uninfected people. They couldn’t transmit the infection that way. They even tried putting infected secretions into the nasal passages; no success.

Why would this be? We can only speculate, but dilution of the virus would be a good guess.

Dilution of the virus would not occur through hand to hand contact.

Therefore, if you are getting infected by another person, it is most likely because you have failed to wash your hands. When you fail to wash your hands, you exchange viruses by hand contact, or indirectly through pen or money. If you then pick up food without washing your hands first, you then transfer the virus to the food thus enabling the virus to enter directly into your body through the oropharynx where these defenses do not exist.

Washing hands is what will work in preventing infection. A good hand washing campaign is much more important than a face mask campaign.

A facemask alone can actually cause more disease over time if it prevents people from washing their hands. If the use of a facemask gives people a false sense of confidence, they are less likely to wash their hands. I have seen this personally when I have traveled on a jet airplane. I have seen people wear their masks on the airplane, purchase food from the flight attendant, then pick up that food and put it in their mouth without washing their hands first.

Similarly, if we are trying to lose weight by running around the track once or twice every day, we are actually doing more damage to ourselves if we fool ourselves that this measure can take the place of a real measure, which will work, which is to reduce our intake.

Eventually though, we will all get this virus. We can reduce the chance of us getting this virus though if we allow people to congregate normally as we have done for every other flu epidemic in the past 50 years.

The facemask only prolongs the agony. We want the virus to spread, and we want it to spread as rapidly as possible. The more rapidly we can become immune, the better it is for us.

Our immune systems collectively are the best vaccine factory on the planet. We have beaten down every challenge for the past 100,000 years and more.

The face mask gets in the way. It transforms a quick pandemic into a slow smoldering fire. It gives us that false sense of confidence that we are winning when we are not.


Archer Crosley

Copyright 2021 Archer Crosley All Rights Reserved

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