An explanation of face masks, and their ratings.

      OK, not very steampunk, but with the current conditions, this may at least be informative for some people.

      Recently, the city council where I live has made the wearing of face masks in retail establishments mandatory.  No definition of what amounts to a 'face mask' was stipulated, so I've been wearing a black bandana so I look like an old west outlaw.   Heh.   But the whole mask business seems to be a big deal, and I've done a fair amount of research into masks as protection dating back at least 15 years (with some recent updates), and I feel like passing this information along.

      It's important to understand that, with respect to biological contagions, a face mask can serve two purposes:  One, to protect the wearer, and Two, to protect others FROM the wearer.  An ordinary 'surgical' mask is intended to fulfill the second purpose.  It offers little protection to the wearer.  But if you're like me, and I know I am, you're more concerned about protecting yourself.  So here's some information that could help in selecting a mask.

      'Filter masks' have an alpha-numeric rating system.  This takes the form of designations such as N95.  There are three letters that I'm aware of.       N means no protection from oil.  R means oil resistant.  And P means oil proof.  This may be significant, since I've read that coronavirus particles have a 'slippery' coating, so a P rating might help.  (Note that this is speculation on my part.)  As for the numbers, the higher the number, the smaller the particle the mask can filter out.  The highest number seems to be 100, which is HEPA filter quality.  Technically, this will NOT filter out flu, or coronavirus particles, BUT, when airborne, these particles are nearly always surrounded by water vapor, which does make them large enough to stop.

      Additionally, it is important that a mask have a good seal around its borders.  This means NO facial hair in these regions for the wearer!

      I'll also point out that these types of masks offer no protection from gasses.  That would require an additional activated charcoal element, or an entirely isolating system, like a Scott air pack, or SCUBA gear.

      This is about as short, and simple as I can make it.  If it helps even one person, I'll be very satisfied.

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Comment by P. Aloysius Regnad on March 30, 2021 at 5:03am

      Oh, and I'm still waiting for someone to start selling Darth Vader looking masks, or at least individuals making something like that for themselves.  Then, if they see someone without a mask, they can walk up to them and say (in a deep voice, of course): "I find your lack of mask disturbing."    Heh.

Comment by P. Aloysius Regnad on March 30, 2021 at 4:52am

      And now it's getting out of hand.  I just read a "comprehensive" description of what constitutes a 'valid' mask.  Part of that states that it should have (at least) two layers of cloth, and light should not pass through it.  My black bandanna, folded as it is, complies completely with that.  But a later sentence states that a bandanna is unacceptable!  Seems hypocritical to me.  Perhaps a conspiracy to sell manufactured masks?  (Don't laugh.  History has shown me that profiteering from anything has gone on for centuries, if not longer!)  In addition, I've seen plenty of 'disposable' masks that aren't even made of cloth (they look like paper of some kind), so these should also be invalid, but I doubt anyone would call them out as such.  This new definition also disallows masks with unfiltered exhalation valves, like my good one, but says nothing about adding something to it that complies with their very unscientific requirements.

      I really don't get it.  Knowledgeable medical people should be responsible for these 'regulations', but if so, they seem as though they still believe in the miasma theory of Galen!  I call felgercarb on it all!

      Straying off a bit, has anyone else noticed that all of this is taking place barely more than 100 years after the last big 'flu virus' epidemic?  That is, the 1917 - 1919 'Spanish flu'?  At any rate, I'm growing tired of the whole business.  But if history repeats itself, we're going to be in for another year of this.  Blah!

Comment by P. Aloysius Regnad on December 29, 2020 at 3:41pm

      I just discovered the following statement(s) on a State of Vermont website:

      Wear a mask.  Your mask protects others. Their mask protects you.

      And although this is absolutely correct (although maybe not, grammatically), it conveys no information about how or why, or the degree of protection one can actually expect.  Sure, it beats nothing, but by how much?  I still haven't found any hard numbers concerning this question.

      And I still don't feel at all like relying on others to protect me, if I can take more direct, and positive steps to protect myself.  With this in mind, I think I'm going to wear my 'real' mask with P100 filter elements (since I finally retrieved it from storage), the next time I visit the supermarket.  I freely admit that it offers no protection to others, since exhalations are just released through a simple flapper valve, but stuffing a piece of foam behind the valve should be just as effective as a piece of cloth, and I will no longer have to deal with inhaling overheated, carbon dioxide enriched air, which I know is not good for me.  All that, and my glasses should stop getting steamed up, which seriously reduces my vision.  I'll be better off all around, and there should be no grounds for complaints from others.

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