//Masks for Dummies pt. I

Masks for Dummies pt. I

By I. smiley G. Calderón | smileygcalderon@gmail.com

You can’t go anywhere nowadays without seeing a multitude of half-covered concerned faces with their big sweaty brows and squinty little eyes moving to and fro. It’s today’s mask culture, and some say it’s here to stay for good.  

Aargh. Really?

Yes, really. And it’s all because of that horrible ubiquitously pernicious novel SARS-CoV-2 virus. This disease has already swiftly killed over 100,000 Americans these past few months. Ordinary daily life, with all of its mundane activities and simple public pleasantries, has become very complicated very quickly.

Now when you’re out in public and hear the guy right behind you cough or sneeze, your fight or flight adrenaline response kicks in. You wonder if he’s spewing coronavirus or not. And immediately, before you even turn around – you’re hoping he’s wearing a mask.


Because despite how stupid that mask makes you feel or look, deep down inside, you know that it is the only effective protective measure against this horrific respiratory contagion when you’re out in public around others. It is. And that’s because we know this coronavirus is actively spread as an aerosol in the air as microscopic droplets that come out of an infected person when coughing, sneezing, huffing, and puffing – or even just talking.

And that’s a fact.

And here’s another disturbing fact: this virus is highly infectious – super contagious – much more contagious than the flu. It spreads like a damn wildfire on a hot scorching summer’s day. But the real tricky deadly part is that some infected people don’t even know they are infected and contagious until they infect others who show symptoms. And by then, it’s already too late. We have no known effective cure for COVID-19; we don’t have a vaccine yet either. If you’re one of the unlucky ones who develop COVID-19 symptoms, your nightmare ensues.

Experts from the WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommend the public use of masks and face coverings in a risk-based approach to contain and prevent coronavirus spreading. Cities, counties, and even some states across the U.S. have made wearing masks in public mandatory (although many have rescinded such orders due to public and political pressure) because it is proven to hinder the spread of COVID-19. And where laws fail to enforce and protect public health and the safety of its citizens, responsible private companies like Costco Wholesale have made wearing masks obligatory – whether you like it or not.

But some people just aren’t having it. They’d rather die than wear a mask. Literally.

That same ‘patriot’ who vows he would do ‘anything’ to protect his country is also the first guy you’ll see refusing to wear a mask. Because ‘it’s a free country’ or because it ‘infringes upon his rights,’ or some other bogus excuse. It’s not about his freedoms or rights – It’s about everyone else’s right to stay healthy and alive.

In a video shared on social media, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, tells viewers that “wearing a cloth-based covering while in public is an important practice to slow the spread of the coronavirus.” He says it simply: “Me wearing a cloth-based covering protects you, and you wearing a cloth-based covering protects me.”

America’s top immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a prominent member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), also emphasized the importance of wearing face masks in a live TV interview: “I wear it for the reason that I believe it is effective…I do it when I’m in public for the reasons: A) I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because [B] I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing.”

So, if you care about your neighbor and your country, wear a mask. If you care about your family and yourself, wear a mask. It’s as simple as that. At this point, if you don’t wear one while you’re out in public, you just don’t care.

And stop with all of the stupid excuses about personal freedoms, too – your personal freedoms end when they endanger others. With this novel coronavirus, you can be infected and contagious at any time without even knowing it. That makes everyone a potential threat – including you – despite how healthy you promise you are.

Dr. Fauci made it crystal clear in his interview about wearing masks in public: “It’s sort of respect for another person and have that other person respect you. You wear a mask, and they wear a mask – you protect each other.” Simple neighborly respect. Why is that so hard for Americans?

Mask-it or casket is what I always say. But, anti-maskers have a million excuses. It’s unhealthy, they say. Well, so is getting infected by a voracious novel coronavirus. They think this whole pandemic is just hype – and they’re not buying it. After all, here in Fresno County, we’ve ‘only’ had some 35 documented COVID-19 deaths out of a population of 1 million. That’s a mortality rate of a mere 0.0035%, right? 

So, why is everyone taking this ‘virus hoax’ so seriously? Pastor Mark Wallace, who spent a month hospitalized with coronavirus at Fresno’s Kaiser Permanente, had this to say to these naysayers when finally leaving the hospital in a wheelchair: “Everyone has to just take a deep breath and realize that …it’s not the government taking our freedom…if they see this side of it, what I went through. They’re just trying to protect as many thousands of people as they can from having to go through the same thing – I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my very worst enemy in the world.”

Tammy Wallace, his wife, who contracted coronavirus but only experienced a fever and then fully recovered without any hospitalization, couldn’t agree more: “When it touches someone in your family like the way it touches ours, you can’t wear a mask long enough…”

At the beginning of June, Fresno County had 35 deaths. And, Fresno County has 1 million residents. COVID-19 doesn’t sound too bad when you think of it that way, eh, math major? 0.0035% mortality rate. But, the problem is that that’s the wrong way to look at it. 

Here’s a better way: take the total deaths (35) and divide it by the total number of documented, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Fresno County, which happens to be 1,743 (by the time you read this, this number is likely to have already gone up). So, then, the death rate is 2%, right? Still, that’s not too horrific, I suppose. But we are missing something here. Of the 1,743 total confirmed cases, we know that 542 fully recovered, a 31% recovery rate. 

But what about the other 1,166? 

These are the cases that are ‘still active’ with no confirmed outcomes yet (they haven’t recovered, and they haven’t died to date). In a worst-case scenario, all of these confirmed 1,166 succumb to COVID-19. That would be a total death count of 1,201 (assuming no more confirmed cases or additional deaths). 

This would put the death rate at 69% – the worst-case scenario. Now, of course, this is unlikely, thank God – and hopefully, all of the current 1,166 active cases recover soon. This would be our best-case scenario, 2%.

But, just as it is unlikely for all 1,166 to die by COVID-19, it is also unlikely they will all recover – right? Looking at past European data, which are weeks ahead of us in terms of infection onset, we see in France a death rate between 15-20% (depending on the data source). And so let’s estimate that 20% of Fresno’s active 1,166 unfortunately die. That would be 234 more deceased, for a total of 269 dead. And that would then put the death rate at 15% (assuming no more confirmed cases or additional deaths) in Fresno County. So, forget about a 2% COVID-19 death rate – the exact number will be much higher when the dust settles, sadly.  

Now, do you see why it’s crucial for you to wear a face mask?

At the beginning of June across the U.S., we’ve had 104,383 COVID-19 deaths. And, according to some sources, we have had about 600,000 recovered COVID-19 survivors. We have 1,790,191 in total cases. This means we have about 1,085,808 active, open cases with no outcomes yet. And if we estimate a 15% mortality (again, since we’ve seen this average death rate in other countries that had their onset of infection weeks ahead of us) of these inconclusive cases, that would be about 162,872 additional deaths (assuming no more confirmed cases or additional deaths) – a total of 267,255 deaths – again, about a 15% mortality rate – not the low 5.8% figure that anti-maskers like to point to (and they even say that that number is artificially inflated! Well, tell that to those grieving who suddenly saw their seemingly healthy loved ones become deathly ill and die within just a few days or weeks!)  

Dr. Duc C. Vong, a passionate and popular medical educator who teaches COVID-19 science in a YouTube series, doesn’t sugarcoat it: “You have to know the outcomes to understand the death rate…The correct death rate – the actual death rate if you come down with COVID-19 – the actual death rate is between 18-24%.” 

Vong started his YouTube talks for his patients with multiple comorbidities, which would lead to adverse COVID-19 outcomes, aka death. In no time, Dr. Vong’s ‘classroom’ and his unique style has become a YouTube favorite.

Forget about a ‘Fake Plandemic’ conspiracy – the numbers are serious.  

So, the first lesson in Masks for Dummies: make sure that whatever kind of mask you have, that it covers up 1) your nose and 2) your mouth, pressed against your face so that there are no air gaps around your cheeks.  

The idea is for every breath to come in and out of your mask – NOT through your nose sticking out above your mask or by your mouth scooping up air from the opening below your mask. Find a mask that feels comfortable, breathable, and that does these two things above. 

Anything is better than nothing. 

Let’s take bandanas as an example – if worn tightly, the nose and mouth are covered well, which is good. But, unless the bottom portion of the bandana is tied against your face or somehow tucked into your shirt, there will be a huge air gap below the chin. The gap means your bandana-mask won’t capture all of your inhaling and exhaling. Your breaths will come from below and from the sides instead of through your mask – which is supposed to act as your air filter against breathing coronavirus in and out. The trick might be first to put on any mediocre face mask that at least covers your mouth and your chin and then cover that with the bandana. Doing this will give you better coverage for both your nose and mouth. Thinking outside the box like this and using whatever you have to protect yourself, your family, and your community is critical during this pandemic.  

To slow the spread of COVID-19 – and to protect yourself – you need to wear a mask that fully covers your nostrils and mouth. It’s important because if you don’t wear it right – like an unclipped seatbelt, what’s the point of even wearing it at all? If your nose and mouth aren’t covered, you’re doing it wrong. Simple as that.  

Masks for Dummies can be a little hard, but with a bit of practice, you’ll get it – guaranteed. Tune in next month when I’ll talk about the best kinds of masks, what they’re made of and how you can make your own.  

Stay safe out there…