Face Masks Are the New Handkerchiefs, Part II

by: Jack Johnson, Destinations International

Coffee shop barista with face shield

Not long ago I wrote a blog post about Judith Martin/Miss Manners describing the face mask as the new handkerchief. This made a lot of sense to me. The face mask is the new handkerchief in the sense that they are essential these days to reduce the spread of germs when you speak, sing, cough or sneeze. They can be very good for the wearer in the sense that they protect your mouth and nose from particles from other people carrying the COVID-19 virus or from touching your mouth or nose with your own fingers.

But I did point out that they are not fool proof.  They may have side openings limiting their effectiveness. But more importantly, they do not cover your eyes which can be a point of infection just as easily as your nose and mouth.

To me, that was not the point. While wearing masks can be good for you, just like the handkerchief, they are about stopping you from spreading the virus via talking, singing, coughing, or sneezing. They are about you caring about other people.

Well, it turns out that face masks are better for you that I thought. From MarketWatch:

“Do masks really work? Ask the dozens of Starbucks customers who tested positive for COVID-19 in Seoul this month after a woman with coronavirus sat under one of the cafe’s air-conditioners. According to a local news report, at least 56 coronavirus cases have been linked to that one customer. The kicker: The four masked workers avoided infection. The Starbucks...patrons, according to officials, weren’t consistently wearing masks because, of course, it’s hard to enjoy a latte when you can’t access your mouth. “This speaks volumes about the role masks can play,” Ma Sang Hyuk, a pediatric infectious diseases physician in South Korea, explained to Bloomberg News. “Masks may not provide 100% protection, but there’s nothing out there that’s as effective.”

Man wearing face mask

But there is even more information that underscores the importance of face masks in protecting yourself – it turns out the nose is the easiest way for the virus to enter your system. From WEIS Radio (Southern, Country and American Proud!)

“Now a new study is revealing that covering your nose may be just as important as covering your mouth when it comes to protecting yourself from the novel coronavirus. Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill mapped locations in the respiratory tract to see where COVID-19 most likely infiltrates the body and found the cells that line the nose were significantly more likely to become infected and spread virus than the throat or lungs. In addition, they said that part of the reason you could be more likely to get infected through the nose is because COVID-19 infects cells with tiny hairs on them called cilia, which usually helps protects from pathogens.

“The nose is basically the purveyor of all viral ill,” said Dr. Richard Boucher, director of the Marsico Lung Institute/UNC Cystic Fibrosis Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. “The virus appeared to pick the nose as a fertile ground for infection.” Ellerin called the study “important” and explained that the nasal passage has as many or even more receptors that the virus can use to enter the cell than the throat or in the lungs. Which makes it imperative that people cover their noses, he said.”

And finally there is this from Science Daily stressing the need to wear that mask to protect others.

“Density and temperature are intricately related, and coughs tend to be warmer than their surrounding area. Tapping into this connection, Simha and Rao utilized a technique called schlieren imaging, which visualizes changes in density, to capture pictures of voluntary coughs from five test subjects. By tracking the motion of a cough over successive images, the team estimated velocity and spread of the expelled droplets. Unsurprisingly, they found N95 masks to be the most effective at reducing the horizontal spread of a cough. The N95 masks reduced a cough’s initial velocity by up to a factor of 10 and limit its spread to between 0.1 and 0.25 meters. An uncovered cough, in contrast, can travel up to 3 meters, but even a simple disposable mask can bring this all the way down to 0.5 meters.”

So as I said before, wearing a face mask is about you doing something to help another person. It is about you making a positive difference. It is about you taking action to help others and to help yourself. So please wear masks those in public – at indoor and outdoor spaces with other people present – to free up a hospital bed or to save a life. Or just to show you care and have good manners.

About the Author

Jack Johnson headshot
Jack Johnson
Chief Advocacy Officer
Destinations International
Jack manages the overall public policy operations at Destinations International including member advocacy education and training, development of destination tools and best practices, coalition work with peer organizations, industry research and related public affairs activities. Currently, his work around positioning destination organizations as a shared value in each of their communities and speaking with a new lexicon based on the emotion-driven by those values has made him one of the leading voices of the travel industry.