A reminder why wearing face masks when in public is so important to our community

by Linda Hubbard on April 5, 2020

We shared a laugh with Happy Quail Farms owner David Winsberg aka Dr. Pepper (right) at the Menlo Park farmers market this morning about his latest go-to-market outfit. But we applauded him and the other vendors for wearing face masks.

Most shoppers also had masks, but we recognize there has been some confusion as the CDC initially said that masks were not necessary before reversing that statement last week.

One of our girlhood friends from Hillview Drive days, Janet, posted on Facebook the importance of wearing masks, which was written by one of her friends, Dave Johnson. We realize it is long and ventures a bit out of InMenlo’s normal editorial coverage, but we think it’s a sound and grounded explanation that should be widely circulated.  His words follow.

“Flattening the Curve – Phase 2: Everyone wears a mask. Here is my understanding of why wearing a mask is important.

“The data is clear that regions that aggressively and quickly acted to require social distancing were able to flatten the curve of infections in their area. Within a few months, hopefully the first surge of CV19 illnesses and deaths will be behind us.

“But that doesn’t mean a return to our old lifestyle; it just means that we enter the next phase of containing the spread of the virus. Hopefully much more prevalent testing and contact tracing will play a big role, but almost for sure another essential component will be for everyone to wear a mask when they are around other people outside their home.

“It is important to remember that everyone with CV19 is contagious for 5 days before they show symptoms; and 30% of all people with CV19 will never show any symptoms even though they are contagious for 14 days. Also, just because the current person with the virus shows no symptoms doesn’t mean that the person that catches the virus from them will be as lucky; the next person could easily die.

“The CV19 virus is present in the mouth of a contagious person. When that person sneezes, clears their throat, or breathes deeply the virus is included in the aerosolized particles (very small drops) that come out of their mouth. Given a little space and time, those particles break down into much smaller respirable particles that hang in the air and can transfer the virus to another person when they breath in that air.

“Low tech masks work to stop transmission for two reasons:

“1- When the aerosolized particles leave your mouth, they are relatively large and so most any mouth covering is effective at stopping many of them before they reached our shared airspace.

“2- The mask blocks hand to mouth/nose contact. Since one of the primary mechanisms for virus transfer is from a contagious person’s mouth to their hand to a counter or package, then to another person’s hand that touches the counter/package, which eventually touches their own mouth/nose transferring the virus to a new host where it can thrive.

“So, wearing a low tech mask is indirect protection from the CV19 virus. The low-tech mask will not stop you from inhaling very fine respirable particles containing the virus. But the low-tech mask does greatly reduce the number of aerosolized particles that enter shared airspace.

“So, if most everyone in your community wears a low-tech mask when in public, then there will be a minimum of very fine respirable particles with the virus in the shared airspace. So even if there are contagious people walking around, the disease will only rarely be transmitted to another person and somewhat normal life can resume while we wait for a vaccine and a return to truly normal life several years out.

“Please note: Medical provider PPE needs to be the N95 mask and face shield because they need to be protected from the very fine respirable particles containing the virus that are present in the air within a few feet of a patient that is contagious.”

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