The Simple Solution to COVID

The+Simple+Solution+to+COVID

During these trying times with the Covid-19 pandemic running rampant, there is one thing that has garnered more controversy than most others – masks. Many people think that masks aren’t that effective and that if they aren’t sick, there isn’t any point in wearing it. Both of these are incontrovertibly false.



 
First of all, masks are much more effective than people intuitively believe. It makes sense that if many people wore a 50% effective mask (the mask cuts in half the chance a contagious person will infect another person), around 50% of people would be protected. In reality, the percent protected is much more than this. This is because masks protect both ways – it filters the air that a person exhales as well as the air they inhale. So, if two people wear 50% effective masks and one of them is contagious, the chance of transmission is cut by 50% twice, rather than once. It is first cut down from a 100% chance of transmission to a 50% chance and then cut in half again to 25% which is a drop of 75% for the chance of transmission rather than the intuitive 50%. On a larger scale, if only 50% of all people wore these 50% masks, there would be a 44% drop in transmission. This greater than expected decrease is due to the dual protective nature of masks – even though every interaction might not have two mask wearers, there is still some degree of protection from transmission, whether it’s a healthy person or a sick person wearing the mask. For this same reason, even if you aren’t sick currently it is important to wear a mask to prevent yourself from getting it, then transmitting it. Right now, on average, each person in the United States with Covid-19 infects 2.5 other people – epidemiologists refer to this as the transmission rate. I originally thought we have to cut this down to 0, but if we cut this down to less than one, about a 60% decrease, through mask-wearing, we could quickly eradicate the spread of this virus. This is because if each person infects less than one other person, the number of people with the virus would gradually decrease instead of exponentially increase like when the transmission rate is greater than one. Doing the math, if 60% of people wore 60% effective masks, the Covid-19 transmission rate would decrease by the needed 60%. Since a lot of masks are even more effective than this, such as N95 masks which are 95% effective, the number of people we need wearing it could be even less. (If you want to learn more about mask math and how it works, check out the YouTube video in the sources)



 
Even out of those who have been told of these facts that are strongly supported by epidemiologists, many of them still refuse to wear masks regularly. Why? – because masks have become extremely politicized. Certain groups and parties say that masks impede on individual rights to one’s own body. It is not uncommon at all for at-risk people such as the elderly to not wear masks and even berate others for wearing masks simply due to their political affiliation. But, claiming that the right to put others’ health at risk is a fundamental liberty is difficult to justify. Others don’t wear them simply because they are an inconvenience to breathe through.

 

No matter one’s reason for not wearing them, masks should be the one thing everyone agrees on during this pandemic. It is time to forget about politics or personal convenience. If we are to quickly end the deaths, the heartache, and all the other pain and suffering that is associated with this virus, we all have to make that little personal sacrifice in wearing a mask, so that society as a whole can recover.

 

Britt, Robert Roy. “The Argument Against the Argument Against Facemasks.” Medium, LUMINATE, 18 May 2020, medium.com/luminate/the-argument-against-the-argument-against-facemasks-ae0b78f50789.

minutephysics. “Why Masks Work BETTER Than You’d Think.” Youtube, 8 Sept. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y47t9qLc9I4&feature=youtu.be.