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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Masks, COVID, the Great Outdoors, indoors and Reinoculation

Updated: Mar 14

Old man in a mask

An Article by Philip Hayward

McCullough et al are an important resource for "early treatments of Covid" but what is not so often noticed about their important first paper, is their very first-line recommendation, up there with neutraceuticals. They say:

Reduction of Self-Reinoculation

It is well-recognized that COVID-19 exists outside the human body in a bioaerosol of airborne particles and droplets. Because exhaled air in an infected person is considered to be “loaded” with inoculum, each exhalation and inhalation is effectively reinoculation.

In patients who are hospitalized, negative pressure is applied to the room air largely to reduce spread outside of the room. We propose that fresh air could reduce reinoculation and potentially reduce the severity of illness and possibly reduce household spread during quarantine. This calls for open windows, fans for aeration, or spending long periods of time outdoors away from others with no face covering to disperse and not reinhale the viral bioaerosol.

Something is up with masks, in that so many studies purport to show they "work" and yet meta-studies of mask mandates in real life cannot show any reduction in spread or mortality. The disconnect is due to the difference between testing in a lab, the measurable reduction in expelled particles somewhere in front of the face of the mask-wearer; and what happens in real life when millions of people wear a mask for a prolonged time. It is of prime importance to understand that spread of this pandemic has always been by virus aerosols building up indoors - the WHO and the official bodies that follow it have been catastrophically wrong in insisting that spread is by contact, large droplets, and surfaces. Aerosols are the small enough particles of water vapour, containing viruses, that float in the air rather than fall to the ground. Mitigation policies have been wrongly targeted and have failed to protect lives and have incurred much more collateral damage than necessary. As I suggested in a previous posting, bad advice could now cause deaths in NZ's new significant outbreak.

To focus on the role played by mask mandates; firstly, the most commonly worn cheap disposable masks leak around the edges all over the place where they do not fit to the wearer's face (some of us have more interesting facial shapes than others, too). Secondly, small enough particles like aerosols are no more caught in the mask fibres than mosquitoes are caught in a chain-link fence. Thirdly, in so far as vapor is absorbed by the mask and it becomes noticeably damp, viruses are temporarily halted in this moisture barrier, but any damp fabric will be shedding its moisture into the surrounding air anyway, and there is a forcing effect too. Exhalation is forcing it outwards and inhalation is forcing it back inwards. So anyone who is shedding SARS CoV 2 virus on their breath and is wearing a mask, will be re-inhaling some virus-laden aerosols that they would not have otherwise; and will still be shedding virus-laden aerosols into the surrounding air, perhaps at a delay of half an hour or so. If the mask was replaced with a new one every time it becomes moist, it might be effective; the moist mask must be sealed in a plastic bag for disposal or drying outside in the sun later. If it is merely dropped into a rubbish bin it can still shed virus-laden aerosols as it dries out.

Then there is the unfortunate effect at the margin, that should you actually cough or sneeze into the mask fabric, the big droplets that would have gone 6 feet if you didn't catch them in a handkerchief, add to the moisture load in the mask fabric, and ultimately shed out into the environment as aerosols rather than the large droplets that would not have floated in the air for a prolonged time like aerosols do. Or they shed backwards into your own lungs.

Another factor is that people presume they are safe because of their mask, and spend time in high-risk environments that they otherwise might not have. If you are wearing a mask in an indoors environment that is aerosol-laden, for an hour, the mask may well reduce your inhalation of aerosols to some level where it is like having spent "only" 55 minutes there, or 45, or perhaps even, according to some optimistic studies, half an hour. That is still nowhere near as effective as not being there at all, or making sure the environment is de-risked with ventilation and air treatment or limits on the numbers of people allowed to be present. This is why outbreaks resume when high-risk environments are allowed to re-open and no advice has been given about de-risking those environments. Of course rest homes are the worst "killing environment" of all because people are not just there for an hour or two, they are there 24/7, and they are not ever "closed down for safety's sake" unlike restaurants, theatres and churches. "Protecting" rest home residents with the orthodox measures to date has been a mass-tragedy "fail", all over the world. Rest home workers often live in crowded rental accommodation and are at high risk of picking up an infection there from co-inhabitants. Contact tracing with a virus like this one is always running behind infection by an unfortunate few days.

I bought a box of N95-standard masks a year ago so that in the event I believed I was going to be exposed to aerosol risk somewhere, I would have something a bit more effective than the cheap cloth or disposable-fabric strips that do almost nothing in real life apart from satisfy lab tests that they stop sneeze and cough droplets from being sprayed 6 feet in front of you. After use, I put the mask in a plastic bag until I can get to peg it outside for a few hours, preferably in the sun. Even in overcast conditions, UV rays will kill viruses trapped in it.

Of course SARS CoV 2 is not the only pathogen that ends up in a moist mask, so there are other negative health impacts:

"...Masks provide a warm, moist environment for bacteria (and fungi) to grow..."

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