Mask-wearing and COVID-19 are complicated.
our understanding of how COVID spreads has been changing. And countries in the West ignored the lessons learned by Asian countries that faced SARS, though all of these things are true. On top of all these masks are also complicated because they fly in the face of our mathematical intuition.
it’s a mathematical certainty that masks are much more effective than you might think
say you have a mask that cuts in half the chance that a contagious person will infect a nearby susceptible person.
In other words, this mask is 50% effective, except this mask is way more than 50% effective, because as we’ll see, when many people were even just a 50% effective mask, you end up with way more than 50% protection, it seems obvious that if no one wears a mask, then no one gets any benefits.
Your first guests might have been that if 50% of people wore 50% effective masks, you’d get a 25% drop in disease transmission because 50% or 50% is 25%. In fact, this intuition would be true if masks were only effective one way like on exhalation only, then there just be two routes.
But in fact, masks can protect you in both directions when you breathe in through them.
And when you breathe out. This means that when everyone is wearing masks, there are in fact two masks between any two people.
No matter what numbers you choose for mask effectiveness and usage. The overall drop in disease transmission is always better than the intuitive guests from just multiplying those numbers together.
So what does this mean for the 2020 pandemic?
Well for COVID-19 epidemiology suggests that each contagious person infects on average 2.5 other people, if you could drop that number to below one a drop of just over 60%, then each contagious person would infect fewer than one other person on average, which would be enough to swiftly halt the spread of COVID-19.
So what would it take to drop disease transmission by 60%?
Well, there are many options, many of which aren’t being taken, but a particularly cost-effective and arithmetically satisfying one is this. If 60% of people or 60% effective masks, disease transmission would drop by 60%. And if we did that we would beat COVID.
If you want a full understanding, pls watch the following video for details:
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