Posts by Jim Hines:
Came across yet more anti-mask stuff today, so I figured I’d do a single blog post I could link to rather than trying to have probably-pointless individual arguments and discussions.
I may add more links and research later on…
Do Masks Really Stop the Virus?
Short answer? Like most anything, they’re not perfect. But they help. A lot.
“[F]ace masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus.” (Mayo Clinic)
“Coronavirus is primarily transmitted person to person via respiratory spray. Staying away from people (social distancing) and decreasing the germs being transmitted between people are both ways to decrease the spread of the virus. While high quality research regarding mask use is limited, all of the data supports mask wearing as a key public health measure to decrease viral spread.” (American Lung Association, Emphasis Added)
“One recent study in BMJ Global Health looked at transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in 124 families in which at least one member had COVID-19. The data showed that face masks were ‘79% effective in reducing transmission’ if the person with COVID-19 wore them before they developed symptoms.” (Medical News Today)
“Studies have demonstrated that cloth masks reduce the number of microorganisms that someone releases into the air. So the more people wear masks in an area, the fewer potential viral droplets go into the space, and the less risk that someone will be exposed to the virus.” (Cleveland Clinic)
Do Masks Cause Low Oxygen Levels?
If you have a preexisting lung condition, you’ll want to talk to your doctor. But for everyone else? You should be fine.
“We wear masks all day long in the hospital. The masks are designed to be breathed through and there is no evidence that low oxygen levels occur. There is some evidence, however, that prolonged use of N-95 masks in patients with preexisting lung disease could cause some build-up of carbon dioxide levels in the body. People with preexisting lung problems should discuss mask wearing concerns with their health care providers. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system.” (American Lung Association)
“In the real world, the average mask user without preexisting respiratory illness has nothing to worry about — except COVID-19.” (Hartford HealthCare
“The prolonged use of medical masks can be uncomfortable. However, it does not lead to CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency. While wearing a medical mask, make sure it fits properly and that it is tight enough to allow you to breathe normally. Do not re-use a disposable mask and always change it as soon as it gets damp.” (World Health Organization)
If You Have COVID-19, Won’t Masks Prevent You From Exhaling Viral Particles and Cause Your Disease to Get Worse?
“While it’s true that some studies of health care workers have suggested that the viral dose is an important determinant of infection, it’s different for someone who is already infected. If you are sick, you already have the virus in your lungs; it’s not going to get any worse.” (Amy Price, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at Stanford)
Wearing Masks Will Cause Cancer!
I hadn’t seen this one before today. I wonder if it’s in reference to a study about masks being reprocessed using potentially harmful chemicals…
“Nurses at CHI facilities reported that respirators and face masks were being collected for reprocessing using ethylene oxide to decontaminate. The EPA has concluded that ethylene oxide is carcinogenic to humans and that exposure to ethylene oxide increases the risk of lymphoid cancer and, for females, breast cancer.” (Washington State Nurses Association)
That’s all I could find. If anyone has any information of research about masks posing a cancer risk, please let me know. Otherwise, I’m gonna assume this is up there with “windmill cancer” and other nonsense.
One of the nice things about spending a week up north earlier this month was catching up on a little reading. I’ve had a harder time focusing on novel-length stuff these past couple of years, but being away seemed to help a lot.
The reading has slowed down again now that I’m home and having to do day job stuff and all the rest, but I’m hoping it won’t dry up as much as before.
In the meantime, have some quick mini-reviews of my vacation reads…
Justice Calling [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Annie Bellet. This is book one of Bellet’s Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. It’s quick-paced geek-friendly urban fantasy. The protagonist, Jade Crow, uses role-playing games to help her form and shape her magic, and wears a magical d20. Comes complete with sexy shape-shifters, lots of action, and a dark, dangerous past…
Every Heart a Doorway [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Seanan McGuire. My biggest complaint about this one is that I wish I’d thought of it first. The story takes place at a boarding school for kids who’ve returned from other worlds and yearn to go back. What happens after Narnia, Wonderland, Oz, and all the rest? Apparently, the answer is murder. McGuire is known for fun characters and worldbuilding, and this book is no exception.
Artemis Fowl [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Eoin Colfer. I was curious about the “twelve-year-old James Bond villain” pitch used to describe protagonist Artemis Fowl. It’s a pretty accurate pitch, but you have to add in fairies and magic. Fowl is generally the smartest person in the room, and he’s out to score himself some fairy gold. Lots of fairy “tech” and bureaucracy, lots of clever plans, and lots of action. Fowl has a few redeeming qualities, but it’s interesting to follow someone who’s essentially a MG-aged supervillain.
Emergency Skin [Amazon], by N. K. Jemisin. This was the shortest one I read, a second-person story in which you’ve been sent back to old Earth to track down a strain of cells needed to sustain your colony world. The colony founders were the wealthy elite who left Earth when it became unsustainable. But Earth isn’t what you’ve been led to believe. This is not a subtle story. It’s not supposed to be. I enjoyed it, and it made me want to shoot Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos (among others) into space.
I’ve seen this meme a lot on Facebook, and wanted to take a little time to swat it.
I get why this one is popular among people who don’t believe masks are effective. The comparison is funny enough to be catchy, and the logic is plausible. Viruses are really, really tiny — that’s high school science. The COVID-19 virus is only 125 nanometers.
So it’s fair to ask how cloth masks are supposed to stop COVID-19.
The first thing the meme fails to recognize is that the virus isn’t traveling solo.
“Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 spreads between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions. These include saliva, respiratory secretions or secretion droplets. These are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, for example. People who are in close contact (within 1 meter) with an infected person can catch COVID-19 when those infectious droplets get into their mouth, nose or eyes.” (Source; emphasis added)
The mask’s primary goal isn’t to stop individual virus particles; it’s to stop the droplets the virus is traveling in. Those respiratory droplets are 5-10 micrometers in diameter. That’s between 40 and 80 times larger than the virus itself.
(For comparison, mosquitoes average about 0.4″. Now imagine a mosquito two feet long. Or don’t — the last thing we want to do is give 2020 more ideas…)
Going back to the chain link fence, it’s not that we have individual normal-sized mosquitoes trying to fly through. (Viruses generally don’t have wings!) Instead, our wingless COVID mosquitoes are hitching rides in respiratory water balloons.
That’s what masks help to block. Just like a water balloon has a hard time getting through the fence, those respiratory droplets have a hard time getting through a mask.
The primary benefit here is to protect others. COVID-19 is highly contagious, and people can be infected without realizing (pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic). Wearing a mask reduces the chance of your droplets infecting other people.
The mask can also help reduce your chance of inhaling other people’s droplets. And of course, the mask can serve as a reminder to avoid touching your face and to take other precautions, like hand-washing/sanitizing.
Are masks perfect? Of course not. And it’s true that some types are more or less effective than others. But a “less effective” mask is still a heck of a lot more protection than nothing at all. Two sick hairstylists in Springfield wore cloth masks while interacting with 140+ customers, all of whom were also required to wear masks. None of the customers caught COVID-19.
I understand some people don’t want to wear them. I get it — I don’t like wearing them either. But a large body of scientific evidence shows that they do work. So wear the damn masks. You could be saving someone’s life.
Here’s the official summary:
At thirteen years old, Abigail Rath knows she is a lean, mean, monster-hunting machine, just like her mom and dad. After all, she’s learned everything she knows from the horror movies her dad has starred in. When her best friend Vince comes to her with news he’s being stalked by a vampire, her professional opinion is they should go out and stake him.
It turns out that Abby’s monster hunting parents haven’t been entirely straightforward with Abby about what being a monster hunter means. Alarmed at Abby’s behavior, Abby is grounded and both Abby and her parents try to introduce more normalcy into Abby’s life. At the same time, odd things start happening at school to Abby’s friends. What should Abby do about the new supernatural creatures in her life, now that she doesn’t know exactly what the rules are? How can she protect her friends and her family without continually getting detention? And how will she survive her mother taking her to the mall?
It took me a chapter or so to get into the voice and the tone — I’d just finished an epic fantasy, so switching to a first-person middle-school monster-hunter was a bit of a jolt. But the book drew me in and kept me reading.
It’s a fun, light story, which is the sort of thing I need these days. I like how the book builds from more “normal” conflicts — popularity, limbo contests, field hockey, bullying (admittedly, it’s all messier with vampires) — to more serious stakes and consequences. Abigail grows a lot as she learns the difference between her movie-informed ideas about what it means to be a monster hunter and the risks and dangers of the real thing.
I also liked Abigail’s family. Both parents are in the picture, and she also has a bit of an extended supernatural family. It’s nice to read about that kind of love and support, as well as the inevitable conflicts that come with family 🙂
Book two in the series, Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science, comes out on July 7.
Amazon has a “Look Inside” preview if you’d like to check out a bit of book one.
These links are for the ebook only. The print edition is coming, but it will take longer to get those links ready.
For everyone who backed the Kickstarter, my plan is to get your rewards out before the official release date. I’ve got the Smudge stickers, and the bookmarks have been ordered, so all I really need is the finished book and lots of envelopes.
The manuscript and cover art are pretty much finalized. Leanna Crossan is working on the interior artwork, which will take a little more time. While she does that, I’ve started sending out a few review copies. (So if you happen to be a SF/F MG reviewer, let me know?)
I’ve got one more announcement, but I’m waiting for contracts on that piece before I share the details.
I think that’s it for Goblin Queen news. Which means I should probably get back to work on Terminal Peace…
This past week or so has been rough.
Some of that was expected. We’re planning to head up north in a few weeks, and one of the things we’ll be doing is spreading Amy’s ashes. That’s stirred up a lot.
What wasn’t expected was the results from some of my bloodwork. I get blood drawn several times a year to help monitor and control my diabetes. This time, the labwork came back with low hemoglobin, low white blood cell counts, and a few other irregularities.
My doctor immediately called about setting up an appointment with a hematologist. Which they scheduled at a local cancer center. The same group that treated Amy…
Intellectually, I didn’t think I had cancer. I suspected iron-deficiency anemia. Partly because of my diet. Partly because I’ve been donating blood and giving double-red donations.
(Spoiler: I was pretty much right.)
But intellect didn’t do much for the fear, or for the gut-level reaction when the paperwork arrived in the mail a few days later with the cancer center’s logo right there on the top. It didn’t make things easier when I drove to the appointment this morning. It didn’t erase the fact that there was a chance — even if it was a small one — that the abnormalities could have been caused by something cancerous in the blood/bone marrow…
The thought of having to face something like that again. The thought of putting the kids through that, of what it would do to them and to my parents and to everyone else. I just couldn’t.
My appointment was at a different building than the one Amy went to for treatment, which is good. But I was right across the road from the hospital where she was first admitted back in late 2018. More memories, more flashbacks.
Thankfully, the doctor didn’t think it was anything to be too worried about. I was able to get additional bloodwork done this morning, and the results came back this afternoon. Yay, technology. The doctor called this evening and confirmed I do not need to freak out. Just take some iron supplements and we’ll check in a month to see how it’s going.
But for the past week, I’ve felt completely derailed. This was one of the main reasons I cancelled Storytime last Friday. It’s been rather draining, to say the least.
I am planning to do Storytime tomorrow, though. It might be a little after 8, since I’ve got another online meeting at 7:30, but hopefully I’ll see some of you there for “The Creature in Your Neighborhood”!