Coronavirus days: masks

MVIMG_20190908_153753 As I said about a week ago, wearing masks seems like a good idea. It doesn't have to be a real one, just anything that stops your breath travelling quite as far will reduce the risk of you infecting everyone if you're infected-but-asymptomatic.

Now, even the Graun has noticed the bleedin' obvious, and speculation mounts that even the thick-as-pigshit Mango Mussolini might get there eventually1. In which case that clown Bojo will doubtless slavishly follow suit. Some months later the WMO will issue guidance, apparently shielded by that old trick, "new research".

As far as I can tell the problem is that govts - ours in particular, but all of them really - are incapable of thinking or expressing any thought beyond the comprehension level of a six year old.

So the idea that Joe Public shouldn't buy quality facemasks because the govt, the NHS, and most medical practices were all too stupid to get in enough supplies in time and so need all the available ones has had to be expressed as "don't wear facemasks" because adding "but it would be a great idea to wear some homemade barrier" would make the thought too complex. And of course it would spoil our glorious pols dignity to appear with a facemask on.


There's an interesting Twit from AukeHoekstra pointing to EuroMOMO, who publish weekly bulletins of the all-cause mortality levels in up to 24 European countries or regions of countries. Fascinating stuff. I've never heard of them but I'm going to trust their pix, because they say something I want to see. Firstly you can "nicely" see the spikes in winter deaths in previous years. This year seems to have been rather mild. "Week 13" is I think 23-30 March, so nominally includes lots of recent death, but they're not showing up clearly on the graphs, which is odd.

I think the deaths are per week, so I think that in the "bad" year of 2017 there was at worse 10k deaths/week, which by eye lasted for ~5 weeks, so 50k excess deaths. It is estimated by ECDC that at least 40,000 people die each year from influenza in the European Union (EU) so that about fits. So far the EU has about 34k deaths from Coronavirus. That number, alas, seems likely to increase; I'm still somewhat doubtful that the relative responses to the two situations are balanced.

Uupdate: a week later, EuroMomo is a bit more exciting, as James points out. Most countries are now up to previous peaks, but few exceed them (Italy does).


It looks like the USA is winning at the moment: The focus of the coronavirus crisis has switched decisively from continental Europe to the US, with the country reporting the highest daily death toll of any nation so far, sez the Graun.


To the extent practical, without significantly impacting mission, all individuals on Department of the Air Force property, installations and facilities are required to wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of physical distance in public areas or work centers. Meanwhile, The Economist is part of the giant supertanker slowly swinging over to recognise the bleedin' obvious. This is all so Overton-window-ish; what is acceptable to say sloooowly changes. Or the BMJThe suggestion that the public should not wear masks because healthcare workers need them more is valid up to a point, but it is surely an argument for manufacturing more masks, not for denying them to populations who could potentially benefit from them.

2020/04/28: Scotland advises face covering.

2020/05/01: even that dickhead Pence can be shamed into wearing a mask.

2020/05/22: Cloth Masks May Prevent Transmission of COVID-19: An Evidence-Based, Risk-Based Approach.

2020/06/04: Coronavirus: Face coverings to be mandatory on public transport.

2020/07/15: Masks offer much more protection against coronavirus than many think - LA Times.

Update: doctors

I don't see the medical establishment being keen on masks either. An analogy occurs to me: the reluctance of their earlier colleagues to wash their hands.


* James continues his heroic exploits with Lombardy Lockdown is working?!? and Are we achieving suppression in the UK?
* When you gotta go: Ghana's dancing pallbearers
* Our economy will likely reboot too slowly by Scott Sumner
* Economist: How covid-19 is driving public-sector innovation, aka "How an emergency reveals how stupid all your pointless regulation and bureaucracy was".
NHS worker quit when she was stopped from wearing face mask from the Graun; it could have been titled "NHS is a Stalinist bureaucracy".
* Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review; Jeremy Howard et al.


1. The Trump administration announced Friday that the CDC is now recommending people consider wearing cloth face coverings in public settings sez NPR, but in a determined effort to retain that distinctive TaPS moniker, they note There's one big reason for the change: There is increasing evidence that the virus can be spread by presymptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. Which is of course a lie: that evidence has been there for rather a long time now. This is the familiar bureaucratic tactic of making things up in order to cover up earlier indecision. Colorado seems to be sensible too. Trump, who genuinely is a fuckwit, won't take this advice.


Marco said...

Those Euro MOMO numbers don't look quite right. The RIVM (Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment) published a chart that looks markedly different for the Netherlands. You can see it in this piece in Dutch:
Scroll down, first chart. Last date used is March 25 (there's some backreporting in that, meaning a death reported on April 1st that happened on March 25 is included).
Quite the spike, there, well beyond the normal range, but it isn't present in the Euro MOMO chart at all. Maybe their "delay-adjusted" data for the last few weeks is a bit too much modeled on expectations?

Mal Adapted said...

WC: As I said about a week ago, wearing masks seems like a good idea. It doesn't have to be a real one, just anything that stops your breath travelling quite as far will reduce the risk of you infecting everyone if you're infected-but-asymptomatic.

That's the gist of Ed Yong's piece in The Atlantic (he cites his sources with links):

There’s still a good case for masks, though, even if they can’t stop viruses from getting in: They can stop viruses from getting out...A few studies suggest that homemade cloth masks are less effective than proper medical ones, but are still better than nothing. In one experiment, a surgical mask filtered 89 percent of viral particles from the air, a tea towel blocked 72 percent, and a cotton T-shirt blocked 50 percent...remember that homemade masks are not fully protective. They’re a last-ditch measure to be used in situations when social distancing isn’t possible.

But save the available "real" masks for health-care providers! Yesterday, for the first time, I wore a disposable dust mask I had on hand in the grocery store. I'm not wearing it outdoors yet, but relying on social distance. If mask-wearing at all times becomes de rigueur, I'll need to run up something that fits better. I've got an old tea towel somewhere.

Yong also says:

In Asia, masks aren’t just shields. They’re also symbols. They’re an affirmation of civic-mindedness and conscientiousness, and such symbols might be important in other parts of the world too. If widely used, masks could signal that society is taking the pandemic threat seriously.

Yup, wearing masks seems like a good idea.

William M. Connolley said...

> Quite the spike, there, well beyond the normal range, but it isn't present in the Euro MOMO chart at all

Yes; I think their data must be more delayed than they think.

Mal: agreed. Although I'm less convinced by the "save" stuff; if people want to wear "real" masks and can get them, that's fine by me.


What need for a mask?

The Presidential combover can be transformed into a full-face HEPA filter with a few strokes of the brush.

Mal Adapted said...

WC: if people want to wear "real" masks and can get them, that's fine by me.

Well, there's a shortage of "real", i.e. N95 and surgical, masks in the US. According to Time yesterday:

What’s not up for dispute is that the U.S. is in the midst of a mask shortage. Health care workers can’t get the personal protective equipment (PPE) that they need to take care of coronavirus patients, including N95 respirators (tight-fitting facial devices that filter out small particles from the air) and surgical masks (loose-fitting, disposable masks designed to block splashes and large-particle droplets that contain viruses and bacteria, but which don’t filter or block very small particles in the air transmitted by coughs or sneezes).

Our media are full of instructions to make your own mask out of whatever's handy. I'd just as soon wear a surgical mask, myself, but I'll let the medical folks have them for now.

William M. Connolley said...

I get the feeling that the medical folk are being rather rigid and unthinking. I'm guessing they are still single-using their masks and then running out, rather than using-and-cleaning-and-reusing them. So if people want to pay whatever the going price for a mask is, that's fine by me.

Phil said...

N95 masks are less effective after cleaning and reusing. Harder to breath through as well. Cousin is a nurse.

With your health and life on the line, would you rather start with a fresh mask?

If not a "medical folk":

Make cloth masks and wash then with soap (kills virus) and bleach (kills virus). Then use a clothes dryer if you have one or hang outside in sunshine. Both of which kill virus.

And also stay home as much as you can.


Betadine ( the film-forming iodine-povidone disinfectant solution applied to patients prior to surgery ) is a highly effective viricide, and vastly more skin-firendly than hypochlotix disinfectants like Chlorox.

A few drops of the luridly orange-brown 10% solution can cover your hands in seconds, or be applied to cloth scarves ,masks, and filters to increase their efficiency in killing airborne virus droplets.

While the stuff rinses clean away in cold water, it has a bad rap because it can turn starched fabrics blue - the iodine starch reaction. But despite forming a colored film, it is not a dye- five successive treatments and washings have not altered the look of a long silk scarf that folds into an effecitve mask.

David B. Benson said...

Ban wet markets!

William M. Connolley said...

People will need to agree what they are first; per wiki "A wet market (also called a public market)[1][2][3] is a marketplace selling fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods as distinguished from "dry markets" that sell durable goods such as fabric and electronics.[4][5][6] Wet markets are common in some parts of the world.[7][8][9] Wet markets include a wide variety of markets, such as farmers' markets, fish markets, and wildlife markets.[1][10]".

Curiously, the headline gets it right and says the clearer "wildlife market", as does some of the article; only the quoted idiot Elizabeth Maruma Mrema using the confusingly broad term.

William M. Connolley said...

> N95 masks are less effective after cleaning and reusing...

That strikes me as what any good bureaucrat will tell you any time you try to innovate.

Reuse N95 masks? Ultraviolet light will do the trick. And that's just the start says the Ottawa Citizen.

Brian said...

I wonder when the medical establishments will decide enough time and "new research" has come to admit that masks also protect the wearer (they touch their face less, inhale air that's closer to them/further from others, and some modest filtering as well). Probably when there are enough surgical masks for everyone to have them.

I like the Mango Mussolini term. I've been struck at their similar speaking styles: saying something they're impressed with, walk away from the microphone to let the crowd roar for a bit, and then come back for more. I'd like to put together a video compilation if I could learn the skill. I suspect Trump is too ignorant to have picked this up directly from Mussolini, but maybe he saw a 30-second clip somewhere and jumped on it.

Phil said...

The lives of "good bureaucrats". My cousin is a nurse. Of course, you know more, you are not on the front lines.


Phil said...

"Forward he cried, from the rear, and the front ranks died..."



William M. Connolley said...

That says (although it doesn't actually do the maths) that a little over 0.1% of USA Covid deaths are healthcare folk. That doesn't sound high.

William M. Connolley said...