Post #586: Housekeeping issues for this website

Posted on March 30, 2020

I’m going to drop some threads here, and emphasize others.  And probably change the splash page, as this blog no longer has anything to do with MAC zoning.

But first, here’s a brief note on temporarily avoiding newspaper paywalls during this crisis.  It is, in some sense, anti-social of me to publicize this, but I keep linking to articles in newspapers that you cannot easily read without this technique.  Here goes:  Disable javascript in your browser.  Many (but not all) newspaper paywalls use javascript to obscure the text.  If you temporarily disable javascript in your browser, then reload a page, you can frequently read the text (but not, e.g., see the pictures).   This is, I believe, why most browsers make it incredibly difficult to disable javascript these days, when it was a common feature in the past.  For Firefox, I use a legacy javascript on-off applet, which I first picked up because javascript is a security hazard.  If you can find a javascript on-off applet, and install it, and use it, you will be able to read paywalled articles on some, but not all, newspaper sites.

And now I return to my regularly scheduled programming.

First thread to drop is the “course correction” (Post #570, Post #571).  I wrote that at a time when the “just let them die” chorus seemed to be gathering momentum.  That now seems to have disappeared from public discourse for the time being.  Moral repugnance aside, it’s an economically inefficient strategy.  I don’t think any more need be said, for the time being.

Second thread to drop is “help local business (Post #578)“.  Absent some grand plan, I think the only thing consumers can do is open their wallets if and as they are able.  That’s simple common sense.  On the large, economy-wide front, I have nothing but doom-and-gloom to offer.  No sense in public display of my private anxieties.  So that whole issue gets the boot, for now, with a couple of caveats.

If I find out about unique buying opportunities (e.g., the poorly-advertised farmers’ market in Post #583), I’ll post them.   For example, if you have no TP, Twins Hardware in the City of Fairfax had little mound of toilet tissue, as of yesterday, and were rationing purchases.  If you’re literally out of TP, and don’t want to ask your neighbors for a roll, you can go there.  They’ll do curbside pickup.  (But, in fact, TP spotting is now a common social media activity, so my value added is small in any case.)

But the fact of the matter is, you should stay out of stores if at all possible.  Certainly based on my last post.

And I think somebody needs to nag the Town about simple steps they can be taking, such as suspending late fees (for tax and water/sewer payments) for the time being.  But I suspect that there are plenty of heavy hitters in Vienna who are already bringing that up.  So no need to do that here.

A third thread that needs to get toned down is the “when will we see the inflection point” thread, e.g., Post #584 and earlier.  Not yet, is the answer.  No need to see that obsessively repeated.  You can check the daily numbers yourself at the Johns Hopkins coronavirus site.  I may post the daily increase graph from time to time, just to keep tabs on it.

I would like to do a thread on what the true mortality rate of COVID-19 is.  But, really, whatever it is, at present, the consensus is that it’s high enough to warrant these extreme measures.  Beyond that, ain’t much point in pinning down just how high it’s likely to be, once the dust has settled.

And all that leaves me with, that is potentially actionable by Vienna residents, is questions about masks.  So, for the next few days, this is going to be the mask blog. Because I have a lot of questions, and I am having a hard time finding answers.  The scholarly literature on mask use and viral spread is almost unbelievably confusing.

I have already arrived at my preliminary opinion as to why everyone should wear a mask — even a cheap mask — when in public.  As they do in many Asian nations.  And it’s not to protect you.  It’s to protect others.  (Unless you have a high-quality (N95) mask, in which case, yeah, it protects you too.)

I’ll say what I’m thinking, right now, even though I can’t back it up, yet, with hard evidence to support it.  And may never be able to. So, at present, this is my guess.  Masks, even cheap masks, reduce the spread of viral disease because they reduce the velocity of air that is leaving your mouth when you talk.  (And they reduce droplet spread by symptomatic individuals, but who in their right mind is going into the public spaces, now, if they have any symptoms whatsoever of respiratory tract infection?)

So, whatever it is that is leaving your mouth — droplets (over five microns in size) or aerosols (under 5 microns) — cheap masks reduce the distance that you project those particles.  NOT necessarily by filtering them out.  (Dust masks don’t filter aerosol-sized particles.)  I bet they work, even on aerosols, by reducing the velocity of the air mass leaving your mouth. Thus limiting the extent to which talking to a person directs a stream of aerosol or droplets at that person.  Total aerosol emissions may remain unchanged, but concentration and directionality of the aerosol portion is altered, even by cheap masks.  That’s my current guess.

So I’ll repeat what I’ve been saying.  If you have a mask, wear it in public.  Despite current CDC advice.  Can’t hurt, might help.  At present, that’s a guess.  I’m going to spend the next few days trying to see if there is any evidence basis for that guess.

Oh, and if you don’t think I’m quite enough of a nut case — or you realize I’ve been ahead of the curve on this for some time now — go ahead and take your flavonoids (Post #552, folk medicine).  Or whatever folk medicine strikes your fancy.  Mostly speaking, can’t hurt, and might help.

But I am not a doctor, and that does not constitute medical advice.

Wash your hands.  And keep your distance.  And avoid crowds.

Masks, folk medicine, and century-old public health advice.  If those are the only tools at your disposal, then use them.