If a few more people choose to wear masks, we will increase protection to the immunocompromised person wearing an n95 in our ranks...
And other tall tales
Now that mask mandates are falling across America, a new argument has been offered by the zero covid (zero science) side. The argument is that: I will continue to choose to wear a mask to protect others, despite not having a mandate. This helps the immunocompromised person in our ranks. A very interesting claim. Let's consider it.
First, there are certainly some immunocompromised and vulnerable people. These individuals should discuss with a physician, but many should be advised to avoid all large groups and/or stagnant indoor public air. If you cannot avoid such a situation, then a well fitting n95 or equivalent is indicated, but minimize time. Perhaps even formal fit testing may help (though this can also be explicitly studied).
What additional benefit is there to random individuals choosing to wear a mask? The so called 'polite' choice.
First, depending on where you live this fraction may be as close to 0 as possible (think Texas or Indiana), ranging up to a quarter?, Perhaps a third? in other districts. The speed with which people have discarded masks nationally suggest that there is little appetite to do this.
The follow up question is: what mask will these polite people choose to wear? My survey in America continues to reveal just 10% wear kf94s, 30% wear surgical, and the vast majority wear cloth masks, and this is when they are compelled to. Like airplanes.
The next question is, given the immunocompromised person is wearing the tight fitting mask, and minimizing exposure beyond that, does a marginal increase in the fraction of polite people confer further benefit? There are no relevant population data, but the probability it will help approaches zero. A random cloth masked wearing department store visitor very marginally changes the stores' cumulative risk in a sea of normality. It's not even bioplausible.
So yet again, there is no evidence that this policy will benefit anyone, but is there a downside? A key underappreciated downside is turning us into a nation of panicked people constantly overreacting to cases, and constantly obsessed about one’s covid risk, while ignoring all others. A colleague recent told me he doesn't mask when it is not mandated to “help everyone else relax a little.”
At the end of the day, the idea that some tiny fraction of polite people should choose to mask to protect others, who should (a) not be there or (b) be wearing a tight fitting 95 in a sea of normality is an implausible scientific idea. It is virtue signalling disguised as medical science. Virtue signalling is powerful these days. If anything it may falsely reassure immunocompromised people and lead to worse outcomes for them!