There’s a lot of misinformation going around that spreading the idea that wearing a mask is pointless because it doesn’t significantly reduce your chance of avoiding the disease.

That idea doesn’t address the primary benefit of wearing a mask at all.

Here’s the important thing to understand: One of COVID-19′s major vectors for infecting others is via virus carried on moisture exhaled by infected individuals.

Even a simple mask considerably reduces the range and load you deliver when you breathe out if you have COVID-19. After you’re infected, usually there are 3 to 14 days before you become symptomatic. Not everyone is symptomatic, either; there may be no indication to you that you are infected. When someone is infected, wearing a mask can benefit many, many others while you are infectious and unaware of it, depending on your social interactions, distances, etc. over the course of those asymptomatic days.

If you continue going into situations where others could be exposed after you’re symptomatic and obviously still infectious, masks and social distancing will reduce the rates and severity of infection for others in that circumstance as well. Not that anyone should be out and about when symptomatic if it is in any way avoidable.

The rate of infections is a very important consideration: what we really don’t want is for someone to end up with severe symptoms when the healthcare facilities are operating at maximum capacity as has happened several times already due to people taking insufficient precautions such as masks, social distancing, washing hands, etc. If you need a ventilator, for instance, and they’re all in use, now you are at much higher risk of severe problems consequent to your breathing issue.

Even if everyone will eventually get COVID-19 and have to deal with it, it’s still eminently worthwhile to keep the rate down so those who need care can be certain they will get it.

On the other side of the coin, the higher the load in a healthcare facility, the more at risk the healthcare professionals are; that’s a cycle that even further reduces the facility’s ability to deal with additional cases. Every healthcare professional that cannot work reduces the ability of the facility to care for patients.

Everyone should be wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing. Both significantly reduce exposure of others when COVID-19 is present, and both work to reduce concurrent loading of healthcare facilities. As a bonus, these things also work to reduce the chances of spreading other diseases, such as the flu.

There’s another side to this as well. Although it is true that a simple mask does not reduce the chances of infection for the person wearing it by much, any reduction at all is a very good thing; for instance, if every infected person on average infects one other, and that is reduced to .95, then the disease will slowly recede. That’s enough reason to wear a mask all by itself. Likewise, if every infected person, on average, infects two others, and that can be reduced to 1.95, the load on healthcare facilities drops, which becomes very important when critically ill people need treatment — and that’s true no matter if you have COVID-19 or need your gall bladder removed. There are only so many beds in any one hospital.

  • Always wear a mask when others are present in public
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others as much as possible
  • Wash your hands / use hand sanitizer, break “touching-face” habits
  • Don’t spread misinformation

Comparative Mortality

COVID-19 deaths / year: 219,000 and still counting [As of October 18th, 2020]

FLU deaths / year: around 40,000 to 50,000

What is actually causing these deaths?

The critical question to answer here is “What does death from X” mean?

It means if you hadn’t had the primary infection — flu, COVID-19, etc. — you would not have died from whatever actually killed you.

For instance, you may encounter the argument that “people aren’t dying from the flu, they’re dying from pneumonia.” However, when the pneumonia is a consequence of respiratory difficulties brought on by the flu — that’s when it is accurate to say that it was the flu that caused the death. The same is true for COVID-19.

Trying to distinguish a consequent fatal pneumonia from the flu (or COVID-19) and then saying there’s nothing to worry about is as absurd as saying “jumping off the cliff didn’t kill someone, it was hitting the rocks below, so don’t worry about jumping off a cliff.”

The jump was the primary cause of death; without it, the rocks would not have killed the jumper. You should definitely avoid such a jump.

The flu and COVID-19 are both exactly this kind of killer; if someone becomes infected and dies, then a directly related follow-on effect is very likely going to be what killed them, just as the rocks killed the jumper, but if the flu or COVID-19 is avoided, then there will be no consequent pneumonia to die from, either.