In social media posts by Pacific Palisades residents, the most common source of negative comments and general disagreement has been regarding the wearing of masks.
For example, some people in town wear a mask only to cover their mouth, while others wear one while driving alone in their cars.
Couples can be observed walking down the street, one with a mask on, the other with it around their neck.
Some wear it while hiking, jogging or biking, but more often exercisers forgo a mask.
Walking through Caruso’s Palisades Village, I’ve seen people picnicking on the lawn or sitting in chairs, without a mask on. People picking up food from Blue Ribbon Sushi, Edo Little Bites or The Draycott, or shopping in Erewhon, wear masks.
The California Department of Health’s guidelines on masks, released on April 1, state: “The guidance does not require people to wear face coverings – and is not a substitute for the state’s current guidance regarding social distancing and hand washing. The state also does not recommend Californians use N-95 or surgical masks, which are needed for our health care workers and first responders.
“The use of cloth face coverings could reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by individuals who do not have symptoms and may reinforce physical distancing. “Public health officials also caution that face coverings may increase risk if users reduce their use of strong defenses such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing.” (Visit: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Face-Coverings-Guidance.aspx)
On the California site, there’s a separate page for face coverings. It states: “There is limited evidence to suggest that use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations include “wearing cloth face coverings in ‘public settings’ where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
“This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions.
“A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms. A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people must go into public settings (grocery stores, for example).”
Two readers sent links to stories about the possibility of acquiring Covid-19 from maskless joggers or other exercisers. The first is an article by Erin Bromage, titled “The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them” (https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them?fbclid=IwAR0IpApnLlPhjx4d9OVmTbS4P7UZ-L4s_Yw2S0GjUPL14uoZrGaKotQ3OYI)
Bromage writes that a single cough releases about 3,000 droplets and a sneeze about 30,000 droplets.
A single breath releases 50 to 5,000 droplets. “Most of these droplets are low velocity and fall to the ground quickly. There are even fewer droplets released through nose-breathing. Importantly, due to the lack of exhalation force with a breath, viral particles from the lower respiratory areas are not expelled.”
Bromage notes that to become infected, it’s the exposure to the virus multiplied by the time. “So if you are face-to-face with a person, having a conversation, and that person sneezes or coughs straight at you, it’s pretty easy to see how it is possible to inhale 1,000 virus particles and become infected. This is also why it is critical for people who are symptomatic to stay home. Your sneezes and your coughs expel so much virus that you can infect a whole room of people.
“If I am outside, and I walk past someone, remember it is ‘dose and time’ needed for infection. You would have to be in their airstream for 5+ minutes for a chance of infection. While joggers may be releasing more virus due to deep breathing, remember the exposure time is also less due to their speed. Please do maintain physical distance, but the risk of infection in these scenarios are low.”
Bromage cites an April 24 Vox story (“Why You’re Unlikely to Get the Coronavirus from Runners or Cyclists”). The article disputes a research abstract done by researchers in the Netherlands and Belgium (that was sent to me by a second reader).
In that 12-page paper, researchers note that someone could be infected by a jogger, if the jogger had the virus and the person is in line behind the jogger, i.e. positioned in the slipstream. “This aerodynamics study investigates whether a first person moving nearby a second person about 1.5-meter distance or beyond could cause droplet transfer to this second person.”
The conclusion: This is possible, and one should avoid walking behind a person jogging, or keep a larger social distance. “Further work should consider the effect of head wind, tail wind and cross-wind, and different droplet spectra.”
The Vox article disputes the conclusion of that paper because it “contained no input from epidemiologists or virologists and was not peer-reviewed. Its logic is deeply flawed.
“’I think we should be very careful with making assumptions about transmission based on that ‘study,’ since it didn’t account for any variables related to transmissibility,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University.
“In other words, the ‘study’ failed to consider two key questions: How easy is it for particles traveling in the air outdoors to infect you? And how many particles containing infectious virus would you have to inhale to become infected?”
Maybe Benjamin Franklin already had this figured out when he wrote, “People often catch cold from one another when shut up together in small close rooms, coaches, etc. and when sitting near and conversing so as to breathe in each other’s transpiration.”
Vox mentioned two other studies that are currently under review: “It may also help to know about two new studies suggesting that most Covid-19 transmission happens indoors, not outdoors. In China, a study of 318 outbreaks found that transmission occurred outdoors in only one of them. In Japan, a study found that ‘the odds that a primary case transmitted Covid-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment.’ Note, however, that both of these are preprint papers (not yet peer reviewed).”
Does the type of mask make a difference? N95 masks, which are used by medical professionals, create a tight seal between the respirator and a person’s face that filters out about 95 percent of airborne particles.
Cloth masks may prevent a virus from entering the air. The CDC calls face masks a voluntary public health measure that does not replace self-quarantining, social distancing or thoroughly washing hands.
The CDC recommends how to wear a cloth face covering:
*fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
*be secured with ties or ear loops
*include multiple layers of fabric
*allow for breathing without restriction
*be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
The CDC recommends washing a cloth face mask after each use or at least daily. “If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard cloth face coverings that: 1) No longer cover the nose and mouth; 2) Have stretched out or damaged ties or straps; 3) Cannot stay on the face; and 4) Have holes or tears in the fabric.”