But research now suggests that airborne transmission – where tiny droplets of saliva from people talking, calling out or coughing can remain suspended in the air – can be a particular problem in poorly-ventilated rooms.
How can NHS guidelines be so ludicrously far from what we understand? It would be comically far if it wasn’t so serious.
Yesterday I tried removing my taped-on mask slowly, and it was actually much better. So I rescind my advice from the day before about removing it quickly.
Stop Your Glasses Steaming Up by Sticking the Top of Your Mask to Your Face Using Micropore Tape
If, like all sensible people, you wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you go out these days; and if, like me and millions of others, you wear glasses; then you will have experienced your breath causing your glasses to steam up.
The cause is a fundamental flaw in mask design: the mask fabric makes a straight line from our cheeks to the bridge of our noses, leaving a gap between face and mask seam. Most of our out-breaths are directed that way, just by taking the path of least resistance.
Some masks have a wire insert that lets you mould the top section around your nose. I find that improves things, but is still imperfect. There are always gaps.
The Bigger Problem
This means that the masks are not as effective as they should be for their primary purpose. All that warm, damp air that’s condensing on our glasses is also the air that might be carrying virus particles.
So while this solution helps with the steamed-up glasses problem, it also helps to make masks more effective, by ensuring that more of our potentially-poisonous breath goes through the fabric.
It’s quite simple: apply a strip of micropore tape to the section of the mask that goes over the bridge of your nose, and seal it down well.
Micropore tape is normally used for fixing dressings on wounds, so it’s designed to stick to skin and come off with minimal fuss (though see below).
The roll we had when I thought of this is quite wide, so I’ve been folding a piece over and attaching it to the inside of the mask (at @FranChats’s suggestion).
As you can see, it’s not attached very tidily, but we’re not in this for the aesthetics.
And it’s not actually visible when the mask is on.
The New Problems: Removal, and Sensitivity
Taking the taped mask off is the worst part, in my experience. I’ve been doing it quickly: take off my glasses (otherwise they might go flying across the room); unhook the ear loops and take a firm grip of them; close my eyes; then tug sharply forward.1
It can make your eyes water, but honestly, for clear vision outside on these cold days, it’s worth it.
Removing it slowly might be better for some people. And the whole thing will not be for some. If you have very sensitive skin, or get a reaction to the adhesive, then this won’t be for you. But if you can take it, I highly recommend it.
Lastly, my pictures show a reusable mask, but it works for disposables too.
It was good. Nice to be back on the bike. A bit annoying the way the mask makes your glasses steam up, but nothing that a bit of slipstream couldn’t clear.
But it was very disappointing regarding people’s behaviour. I cycled around central Hackney for half an hour or so from about 9-9:30. It was pretty busy.
I counted 11 people wearing masks (and two chin-wearers, so they don’t count). I must have passed about 500 people? 700? That’s just a guess, but it was a lot.
My mask was protecting all of them: why weren’t they protecting me, and each other?
I mainly blame the government, of course. Incoherent messaging and absence of care. But… some of us have learned what’s best, even given the government.
Out to the supermarket today, because we were running low on a few things and our next delivery isn’t arriving till Monday. It’s the first time I’ve been out – except to the back garden – since the bike incident. Admittedly that was only four days ago, but like everything now, it feels a lot longer.
And I felt some trepidation about it. The world’s a dangerous place: the very air is dangerous, depending on who you get close to. And some you can’t avoid, because pavements have a finite width, and some people still walk blithely two-abreast, or on their own but down the middle… honestly, people, keep your distance.
In keeping with my recent exhortation, I wore a mask. Just a bandana, but as I said there, anything is better than nothing. And hey, it reminded me of The Clash in the “Bankrobber” video.
Sainsbury’s was fine. A spaced-out queue of about ten people outside, one-in-one-out, and maybe only five people in the shop at once (it’s one of the small Sainsbury branches, I should note). All very well handled
People with and without masks – some kind of face covering, at least – I’d estimate at around 30/70. Some with were also wearing gloves and looking very overheated.
But there’s a feeling of society – there already, and that I think might grow – when you’re masked: you see someone who isn’t, you shy away; while when you see another mask wearer you make eye contact. A small nod passes between you: we’re different. We’re connected. We’re doing something they’re not. Or maybe just, we have the same fears.
On the way back I passed a bus stop, where the only person waiting was an NHS worker on her way to a shift at Homerton Hospital (I assume, because that’s where the bus goes). A month ago I’d have wondered why people wear their staff passes outside of their work. Today it’s a badge of honour.
Wear a Mask! And Celebrate Your Immune System
Yesterday’s XKCD “Pathogen Resistance” turns things round and shows the current crisis from the point of view of the virus. It is genius. And even has a Watchmen reference in the mouseover text.1
But more importantly, and unrelated: it turns out that wearing a mask — any kind, even just a scarf– will help to reduce the spread of the virus. This is contrary to what we were told initially, but it makes complete sense even without technical analysis. Anything coming between someone else’s droplets and your lungs, or your droplets and someone else’s lungs, is better than nothing coming between them.
It’s like wearing a cycling helmet: I’ve always thought that something between my head and the ground, should I come off, is better than nothing.
On the question of masks, though, something has been confusing me since this all started. And to an extent, before that, really, when I’d occasionally see people out and about wearing what appeared to be a hospital-style mask. Which is, where did people get such things? How did they come to have what looked like professional medical supplies in their private possession? Aren’t these things controlled?
Clearly not, for the last one. And I wondered why? Why did people have them? Now, that seems like a foolish question. And it ignores the cultural differences, whereby in parts of Asia it’s considered rude not to wear a mask if you are sick. Makes sense, though I always wonder how horrible it is if you sneeze while wearing one.
“We’re not trapped in here with the coronavirus. The coronavirus is trapped in here with us.” ↩