OK, first off, to let you know that I know what I'm talking about, I put myself through university by working in the medical field, first as a practical nurse (I spent considerable time working in an isolation ward), and later as an industrial first aid attendant. (My required non-physics elective at university was medical physiology.) I've also been an emergency management volunteer for a couple of decades.
Now I've talked about security theatre in regard to COVID-19, and we are discussing other issues related to the coronavirus. But one of the things that has bugged me ever since it started hitting the news is the masks.
Masks won't keep you from getting COVID-19, or any other droplet bourne virus. (At least, they don't reduce your risk very much.) The paper face masks provide next to no protection in this regard, and the N95 masks aren't much better. Droplet bourne viruses will still get on your skin, on your face, and into your eyes, and simple daily activities make you touch your skin and face and mouth and eyes and provide the viruses a path inside. You don't need to inhale the virus to get it, and, if you do get COVID-19, it probably will be from some other pathway than inhaling it. This is why frequent (very frequent) handwashing is important. (Hand sanitizer is good, too. If you use it frequently.)
Masks are useful, if you have the virus, in preventing you giving it to other people. (Not a complete prevention, mind, but useful.) So, if you are wearing a face mask in public during this epidemic, you are making one of two statements:
1) I AM INFECTED WITH THE COVID-19 VIRUS!!
2) I AM STUPID AND IGNORANT!!
This advice, by the way, applies to influenza as well. Which brings up another point: if you are worried about the COVID-19 virus, and still haven't yet gotten a flu shot, you are stupid and ignorant. Even in China, you are much, much more likely to get the flu than COVID-19. Even in China, the likelihood that the next person you meet will have COVID-19 is about .0001. (Probably somewhat less.) But if you go out into a crowd (if you can find a crowd in China these days), you are likely to encounter somebody with the flu. Having a flu shot probably doesn't reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, but it does reduce your risk of getting the flu. If you get the flu, then you may have to get tested for COVID-19, and that puts that much more demand on the system and resources.
Wash your hands.
If you haven't got a flu shot, get one.
Don't panic buy, horde, or misuse masks and gloves. If you need them, you'll get them. (If other people haven't been panic buying and hoarding.)
Now go wash your hands.
And, I've just seen a picture of a dog with a pace mask on ...
(I think I need to go lie down, now ...)
Grandpa Rob @rslade gave sage advice not to bother with masks unless YOU are the one infected with COVID-19 (Type 1 mask wearer). He further stated that if a person is wearing a mask and not a Type 1, then that person is a Type 2 masker ("I AM STUPID AND IGNORANT!!").
First, authoritative folks have been giving the same advice on masks as Rob. MarketWatch reported,
"Though health officials have warned Americans to prepare for the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., people shouldn’t wear face masks to prevent the spread of infectious illnesss, according to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services."
"We do not currently recommend the use of face masks for the general American public. This virus is not spreading in your communities. While it is cold and flu season, we don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness, and we are certainly not recommending that at this time for this novel virus. We understand the recent recommendations are concerning. The actions of the Federal Government – the actions that the Federal Government is taking are science-based with the aim of protecting the health and safety of all Americans. Please do not let fear or panic guide your actions. "
Secondly, I agree with Rob that Type 2 maskers are ignorant, but I believe they are not stupid. They are being wildly misled by a combination of politicians and political hacks (er, commentators) that are trying to use the virus situation as a political bludgeon (never let crisis go to waste). They are further being misled by "news" media who revel in reporting doomsday stories, and also find photos of crowds wearing masks to be much better click bait than a photo of a physician in a white coat behind a microphone giving professional advice and explanation. The news reporting is further compounded by some "reporters" who are trying to support the political goals of the first group.
It is hard for he general public to know when to follow up with questionable reporting by looking for the sorts of references I just linked. In fact, theses days it is hard for the general public to realize they are being confronted by questionable reporting.
Thank you, Rob, for working to spread good advice.
Over on the forum, someone posted that Norton was effective against viruses.
(I think they did it to troll me, since Symantec/Norton has never been one of my recommended AVs.)
So someone else posted:
HA HA HI Is this a self portrait? They have at least plugged you into some security intelligence feeds as well.