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As a Ph.D. engineer, I’m trained to approach every problem or assertion with an open mind devoid of emotion or personal bias. I have also been fully indoctrinated into the process known as hypothesis testing, which uses experiments to test specific predictions, called hypotheses. The five step hypothesis testing process is
- State your hypothesis
- Design an experiment to prove or disprove your hypothesis
- Perform the experiment, i.e., collect data
- Analyze the data to support or refute the hypothesis
- Present your findings
Background and Observations
For months now, we’ve heard “experts” like Dr. Fauci, Director of the NIH, and Robert Redfield, head of the CDC say things like, “we recommend masks for everyone” and “masks are extremely important.” We’ve witnessed many states impose mandatory facemask rules. In Texas, the state once revered for its independent spirit, the head of the state’s Emergency Management Division, went so far as to mandate that people wear facemasks in their homes, “The one thing I want to try to get across today is we need to do that [wear facemasks] when we’re in our homes.”
Apparently Drs. Fauci and Redfield don’t review research results of the people who work for them. According to a peer reviewed article published in the CDC Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Drs. Xiao, et. el., found that masks to not work in preventing the transmission of the coronavirus. Just to reiterate this salient point, this was the findings of a peer reviewed article published in May 2020 in a CDC journal. Excerpts from this paper can be found at the bottom of this post.
But that’s not even the most bizarre thing in our wild ride through Wonderland; in New York, politicians and healthcare professionals, backed by a complicit media, believe that angry rioters can’t contract COVID even though the nationwide spike in infections is predominately among protest aged young adults and the timing of the increase in infections correlates to the riots. NYC continues to encourage rioting while declaring that even the sight of singing sinners wanting to get right with God, or families feeling the need for fellowship around a barbeque grill, cannot be tolerated. California has also instituted a similar anti-religion, anti-family manifesto.
When governmental mandates become so absurd they promote protesters gathering in large groups without facemasks, but threaten to arrest people who worship with facemasks or fine those audacious enough to watch TV at home without a facemask, it begs the question, “What is the true purpose for wearing a facemask, and do they even work?” When governments intentionally infect nursing home residents with COVID, killing thousands of their most at risk citizens, how much can we count on them to have our health as a concern when issues policy edicts?
The scope of this essay is limited to addressing the issue of whether or not facemask protect people from transmitting the coronavirus. To answer that question, let’s start with some observations,
- Facemask specifications do not exist. Anything covering your mouth and nose is approved, from a bandana, to a lace scarf, to a napkin tied to hat (yes, I’ve seen that).
- Very few medical masks are worn in public. Most facemasks are either homemade from cloth or from some fashion firm.
- Facemasks do not seal around the face, which means that when a person exhales and pressure builds up in the mask, the pressure is released by air escaping unfiltered from the edges between the mask and face. When a person inhales, unfiltered air enters from the edges, which means facemasks mostly baffle and redirect unfiltered airflow.
- Facemasks do not cover the eyes, which is the most direct pathway for a coronavirus to enter your body.
- People who wear facemasks are more likely to touch their faces in public than those who don’t wear face coverings.
Step 1: Hypothesis Statement: Wearing a facemask prevents the spread of COVID
This is the assertion made by healthcare professionals and promoted by the media. It’s worth noting that while researching this topic, I found no evidence supporting this assertion, only opinion and conjecture, which are fine for the medical and media communities, but has no place in science. So in order to prove or disprove the hypothesis, we have to perform experiments.
Step 2: Design an Experiment
An experiment can be conducted to test the efficacy of facemasks to contain the coronavirus by using items found in most homes. To do this we first need to know things about our parameters
- COVID-19 virus size = 125 nanometers (0.125 microns); the range is 0.06 microns to .14 microns.
- Size of a water molecule = 0.282 nanometers (0.000282 microns)
- Size of a grain of sugar = .55 mm (550 microns)
- Porosity of cloth facemasks = 80 to 500 microns (based on a sample of 20 common cloth facemasks).
- Porosity of a fisherman’s net = 3 centimeters (30,000 microns)
- Size of a common piece of cereal = 1.5 centimeters (15,000 microns)
A water molecule is 443 times smaller than the coronavirus, which means in a filter finer than 0.06 microns, water can pass while the virus cannot. Many home filtering systems filter down to 0.4 microns. The average hole size, or porosity, of a cloth facemask is 290 microns, which is 2,320 times larger than the size of the coronavirus.
To put this in perspective, suppose you have a jar filled with marbles at the top of a slide that you’re about to tip over so the marbles can roll down. Suppose that throughout the length of the slide a random pattern of holes 2,320 times the diameter of the marbles is laid out. If a marble falls through on of the holes on the way down the slide, it’s analogous to a virus molecule escaping a facemask. Similarly, if a marble makes it all the way to the bottom of the slide without falling through a hole, it’s analogous to a facemask stopping the coronavirus from escaping.
In your mind, how wide do you imagine the slide to be? For this example, if a marble is one centimeter in diameter, each hole in the slide would 23.2 meters (76 feet) in diameter. Let’s pretend you’re a gambler with 10,000 marbles in your jar, how many marbles do you think make it to the bottom of the slide and how much would you wager?
That was just an analogy to put the problem in perspective. Next we will proceed with an experiment you can perform from the safety of your mask-free home to validate the stated hypothesis.
Step 3: Perform the Experiment – Use a fisherman’s net as a filter to prove or disprove that cloth facemasks protect against the coronavirus
Experiment 1: Use a fisherman’s net to filter granulated sugar. The fisherman’s net used in this experiment has a porosity of approximately 3 cm X 3 cm, which equates to 30,000 microns per side. Granulated sugar crystals are cubes with an average size of 550 microns per side, which means sugar is 55 times smaller than each of the net’s openings. The net in this experiment represents a cloth facemask and the sugar is a pseudo virus. While the coronavirus is 2,320 times smaller than a cloth facemask pore, the sugar in our experiment is only 55 times smaller than the net openings. That means the net is 43 times more efficient at filtering sugar that a cloth facemask is at filtering the coronavirus.
Process 1: Hold the fisherman’s net over a large bowl and pour two cups of sugar into the net. Record the number of sugar crystals held by the net. Since it will be too hard to count individual crystals, we can weigh the sugar captured by the net an compute the number of crystals it equals. This value is an overestimate of the number of coronavirus molecules a cloth facemask would hold (by a factor of 43), which means if the fisherman’s net held back 43 crystals of sugar, a cloth facemask would hold back 1 molecule of coronavirus (not accounting for face mask leakage around the sides).
Experiment 2: Use a fisherman’s net to filter cereal. The same fisherman’s net is used in this second experiment but with a larger pseudo virus. The average piece of the cereal used in this experiment (Captain Crunch, Fruit Loops, and Cheerios), is approximately 1.5 centimeters in diameter (15,000 microns), which means the cereal is 2 times smaller than each of the net’s openings. However, the coronavirus is 2,320 times smaller than a cloth facemask pore, which means the net is 1,160 times more efficient at filtering cereal than a cloth facemask is at filtering the coronavirus.
Process 2: Hold the fisherman’s net over a large bowl and pour the cereal into the net. Record the number of cereal pieces the net held. This value is an overestimate of the number of coronavirus units a cloth facemask would hold (by a factor of 1,160), which means if the fisherman’s net held back 1,160 pieces of cereal, a cloth facemask would hold back 1 unit of coronavirus (not accounting for face mask leakage around the sides). A better method would be to compute the percent of cereal pieces that got past the net and infer that the percent of coronavirus molecules that would be held back by a facemask is 1,160 times less.
To generate a good statistical sample size, each experiment should be repeated multiple times, recording the number of sugar crystals and cereal pieces the net captures each time.
Step 4: Analyze Results: After repeating each experiment multiple times, with different brands of sugar and different types of cereal, the result was consistently the same, the net retained zero sugar crystals or pieces of cereal. However, as a Pavlovian aside, my Labrador lab assistant, whose job it was to scoop up any cereal pieces that accidentally fell to the floor while pouring, felt strongly I did not repeat experiment 2 enough times.
Step 5: Conclusions: 1) The fisherman’s net was 43 times more likely to filter sugar and 1,160 times more likely to filter cereal than a cloth facemask is to filter out the coronavirus. 2) The fisherman’s net filtered out zero sugar crystals or pieces of cereal. 3) We can conclude from these experiments that if the fisherman’s net could not filter out sugar or cereal, cloth facemasks cannot filter the coronavirus. 4)Based on these conclusions, it appears that cloth facemasks provide no protection from transmitting the COVID virus.
The question still remains however as to why the media and healthcare professions promote mandated use of facemasks, even in your home? Answering that is outside the scope of science and more within the domain of conspiracy theory and political science (which ironically is not a science).
Note 1: Should you ever have to filter sugar crystals (550 microns) from the coronavirus (0.125 microns), you can use a cloth facemask (500 microns); the coronavirus will slip right through the facemask like a mosquito through a chain-link fence but the sugar will not pass.
Note 2: In a moment of distraction when his guard was down, the esteemed Dr. Fauci admitted that the only use of a facemask is as a phycological placebo, “wearing a mask is not 100% effective, [you wear it] to show respect for another person.” How come rioters don’t have to show respect for another person but everyone else is supposed to?
“Here, we review the evidence based on the effectiveness of nonpharmaceutical personal protective measures and environmental hygiene measures in non-healthcare settings and discuss their potential inclusion in pandemic plans. Although mechanistic studies support the potential effect of hand hygiene or face masks, evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials of these measures did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza. We similarly found limited evidence on the effectiveness of improved hygiene and environmental cleaning.”
Pages 970-972 of the paper: “In our systematic review, we identified 10 RCTs [randomized controlled trials] that reported estimates of the effectiveness of face masks in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infections in the community from literature published during 1946-July 27, 2018. In pooled analysis, we found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks...”
“Disposable medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are loose-fitting devices that were designed to be worn by medical personnel to protect accidental contamination of patient wounds, and to protect the wearer against splashes or sprays of bodily fluids… There is limited evidence for their effectiveness in preventing influenza virus transmission either when worn by the infected person for source control or when worn by uninfected persons to reduce exposure. Our systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.“
“In this review, we did not find evidence to support a protective effect of personal protective measures or environmental measures in reducing influenza transmission.”
“We did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility…“
The science is in, it really is time to take off your masks.