The Truth About Wearing A Mask

Roland Stahl
July, 2020

     Wearing a mask in public places, along with social distancing, is the easiest and most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19.  I am all in favor of this practice of mask wearing, and I believe such mask wearing should be mandatory in all public places in this country, at least until substantial progress is made containing the virus, finding a cure, or finding an effective vaccine.  

     However, wearing a mask is horrible for many reasons: it is uncomfortable and it is unsightly.  Someone noticed the irony that you cannot enter a bank these days without wearing a mask!  So, in the face of the widespread resistance to mask wearing, it is understandable that public health authorities will loudly declaim that wearing a mask does not diminish the oxygen available to the wearer or increase the inhalation of carbon dioxide.  I am very sympathetic to these efforts, because this virus is out of control in this country, and any widespread refusal to wear a mask in public will only make the situation very much worse.  

     However, I believe that the truth, will, indeed, set you free, so here are some truths, whether you like them or not.  First of all, while wearing a mask can greatly improve the wearer’s chances of avoiding the virus, that is not the principle reason for wearing a mask.  We wear a mask to prevent the wearer, who might be positive with the virus but asymptomatic, from inadvertently spreading the virus to other people.  

     Finally, it must be admitted as incontrovertibly true that wearing a mask decreases the amount of oxygen and increases the amount of carbon dioxide that would be inhaled without wearing a mask.  Persons who must wear a mask on the job for hours at a time are at a cumulative risk for side effects from diminished oxygen uptake and excessive carbon dioxide.  No, the mask does not “cut off the supply of oxygen,” nor does it assault the body with “toxic poisoning” of carbon dioxide, but to deny the reality that the mask does interfere with oxygen uptake while increasing carbon dioxide is simply “fake news.”

     The proponents of pranayama yoga assert that proper breathing, filling the lungs with “prana” (basically oxygen) will prevent and even cure a wide variety of illnesses.  The best practice is to live in a natural setting in the forest, surrounded by trees, while practicing full breathing techniques of pranayama yoga.  The worst thing you can do is to be in an interior space with inadequate ventilation, where there are many people competing for the available oxygen – say, a meat packing plant, for example, or one of Donald Trump’s political rallies.  

     Here is a clear conflict of interest!  The only appropriate solution, if you must be in a public space, or in a confined interior space with lots of people and inadequate ventilation, is to wear that stupid mask (actually it’s not stupid, but I don’t like it any more than anyone else), to reduce the chance of spreading the virus to others, but to take frequent “oxygen breaks” where you go outside and breathe some fresh air before returning to work.  Just don’t try to tell me that wearing the mask is without any potential health problems!  If the public health authorities were out front and honest about the mask situation, people might be more willing, albeit grudgingly, to wear that mask.  

     By the way, the reason why most patients put on ventilators die is that they basically stop breathing – the ventilator takes over, pushing oxygen into the patient’s lungs.  Once the patient stops breathing on his own, the prognosis plummets quickly.  Better to stay away from a hospital entirely!  Find a place where there is plenty of fresh air, and practice deep breathing.

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