Post #655: You want to reopen the economy? Get every US citizen a good mask and mandate their use.

Posted on April 17, 2020

Governors will have to consider face masks in reopening, surgeon general says

That’s from today’s Washington Post.

“Have to consider”?  When the head of the Chinese CDC said that failing to require masks in public was “The big mistake” that the US and Europe were making?  What planet are these people living on?

I guess the Surgeon General gets credit for at least mentioning it.  But this needs to go a lot further than “consider”.

Here’s an extras for experts.  See if you can put this story together with another one in the Post today, about how many meat plants are closing due to coronavirus. 

So, ask yourself, why meat?  Why not vegetable processors, fruit processors, toilet paper manufacturers, and so on.  What’s the common thread?

I mean, if one meat plant has a huge number of cases, OK, maybe they made a mistake.  But plant after plant?  What’s the common thread?

These are noisy places filled with aerosols-sized droplets arising from frequent use of water sprays to keep equipment clean and running.  And cheap masks don’t stop aerosol-sized droplets.  That’s why our healthcare workers need N95 respirators.

Meat plants are going down because they are a perfect storm for short-range aerosol transmission of COVID-19. 

When will the US government finally figure out (or publicly state) that the generic issue with meat-packing plants is short-range aerosol spread of COVID-19?  Aerosols are droplets under 5 microns.  Cheap masks don’t stop them.  And you produce large quantities when you talk, particularly if you talk loudly.  And viruses that get into the air can use existing aerosols, including air pollutants and other small particles, as carriers that help spread the virus around.

Want to get up to speed, read this article, by Lisa Brosseau, ScD, at the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Just look at the pictures at the end.  You’ll get it.

Which gets me back to the title.  If the US wants to hurry the re-opening of the economy, absolutely the best thing they could do is make sure that every citizen has a decent mask.  And require that they wear it any time they share some space with others, outside the home.  That means in public areas, or as with meat packing plants, work spaces.