Thought problem: Would you be willing to stand near a confirmed Covid-19 patient who is coughing but is wearing only a home made, unapproved design, unknown materials face mask made by a stranger that you do not know?

Why not just accept public health recommendations?

Public health recommendations have been inconsistent, contradictory, unclear and sometimes untruthful. Their public messaging has been awful.

An ICL research survey, last week, found about 2/3ds of those surveyed in the UK complained that public health messaging was inconsistent, contradictory, unclear and untruthful. Respondents said they were confused by contradictory statements from “experts”, and vague and unclear directions. Those surveyed wanted clear, consistent, detailed directions and explanations.

On social media, some health officials – even doctors – blame us – the public – for trying to make sense of the steady stream of inconsistent messaging they published. This is their fault, not our fault. They are blaming us for being confused!

They created a situation where they’ve lost trust, leaving us non-experts trying to sort through the mess ourselves. And when it comes to face masks, their public communications have been a disaster.

For over a month, public health officials said the use of approved or certified face masks by the public provides no protection. That’s right – no protection.

It seems kind of intuitively obvious that if you put something—whether it’s a scarf or a mask—in front of your nose and mouth, that will filter out some of these viruses that are floating around out there,” says Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. The only problem: that’s not likely to be effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. If it were, “the CDC would have recommended it years ago,” he says. “It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”

(Read all of this-> )

Then, just like that, they now say using unapproved, uncertified, do-it-yourself ill fitted designs, using unapproved materials will help protect the public. A recommendation that does not appear to be supported by “science-based recommendations”.

That back flip did not inspire confidence. Once again, there are multiple experts saying how this will work – or how it won’t work. So who are we supposed to believe? What are we supposed to do?

We hear that doctors are told not to wear PPE when in the hospital but not directly carrying for patients. Even those doctors who have “at risk” health conditions of their own are told not to wear PPE. Face plant.

I am not an expert – but in the midst of conflicting information from the officials, I went to the peer reviewed literature and other reputable sources. I found scientific evidence for the public wearing DIY face masks is weak.

The published evidence for DIY face masks ranges from:

  • Fails to filter SARS-CoV-2 virus from confirmed Covid-19 patients outbound when they are coughing (April 6, 2020 paper).
  • Provides almost no protection inbound (to prevent picking up viruses from others) in all scenarios (all papers reviewed).
  • May provide limited outbound protection specifically when a sick person is coughing large droplets (Covid-19 is a very small virus).
  • In one study, those using cloth masks were more likely to become ill than those using conventional masks or no masks (likely due to failure to adequately clean the cloth face masks – the test subjects were professional health care workers who were presumably better at this than the lay public).
  • For inbound protection, a face mask needs to be used in conjunction with eye protection, gloves – and procedures for removing your PPE when exiting a potentially contaminated zone (grocery store), then cleaning your PPE, and cleaning your clothing and hair and skin, and wiping down contaminated surfaces (car door handle, car seat, steering wheel, anything you touched inside the car, grocery bags, groceries in the bags, your kitchen surfaces after you’ve moved everything in). If you don’t do this – your inbound protection is no better than your weakest link.
  • For outbound protection, this also applies. Your face mask will become contaminated if others in the area cough, breath, etc. When you remove it, you need to treat it as contaminated – wash it and wash your hands and anything it or your potentially contaminated hands have contacted. You also need to wash your clothes.

There is no official recommended design. Instead, we have random designs, with random materials and construction techniques, many of which are seriously deficient and provide little to no protection. If the recommendation to wear face masks were serious, we would be given approved designs. There are no approved designs. There has been no analysis of DIY designs. Most are not effective. No one has measured their particulate filtering ability nor their virus filtering ability.

In some U.S. states it is against the law to wear a face mask in public. Seriously. Virginia has an exemption for medical masks – but only if you have a written statement from your doctor with you specifying the reasons why and dates that you are required to wear a mask. In New York, yes New York, and Georgia, it is against the law to wear a face mask.

I wrote this post for my own understanding – and as a place to keep notes as I tried to sort out the inconsistent and contrary messages coming from “official” sources.

I do not have a problem using an approved, certified mask or respirator. But we can not do that because the experts who planned for pandemics did not plan for sufficient PPE for health care workers.  

Update April 13th

I can support this and plan to start making one of these.

This continues on – click on the link to expand this post to read about:

  • Review of several published papers, including an April 6, 2020 published study that found cloth masks were unable to filter the emissions of coughing Covid-19 patients.
  • what Prevent Epidemics web site says,
  • what Health Canada said on April 3 (“There is no real evidence of the impact of homemade masks in preventing community spread, or in protecting oneself.“)
  • what University of Chicago experts say,
  • a list of bizarre materials people are using to make masks illustrating the pointlessness of DIY face masks with no approved designs
  • Photos of the bizarre masks that people are actually making (such as using plastic soda bottles)
  • What actual bioprotection requires
  • how we are conducting a population wide test of home made masks, without informed consent, and in some cases, without any consent
  • Details of the mask I made – heh
  • Public health’s credibility problem
  • And and answer to: Why are we doing this DIY mask making thing anyway? The answers might not be what you are thinking.

2020 S. Korean study on effectiveness of cotton face masks

Neither surgical nor cotton masks effectively filtered SARS–CoV-2 during coughs by infected patients.

Published April 6, 2020

The sole reason the CDC recommended public mask wearing is to protect others from asymptomatic Covid-19 patients. The above study concludes that cotton masks do not provide outbound protection to others, when masks are worn by those who have Covid-19.

2008 study found “marginal protection”

They tested both inbound and outbound protection. On the inbound tests, the n95 mask was many times more effective than the home made mask, and also far better than the surgical mask. Table 1 indicates an n95 mask was 45 times more effective at inbound protection than a home made face mask.

“In a final experiment, retention of particles expelled inside the masks was studied. Here again, mask type was strongly correlated with (transformed) protection factors. Protection factors for all type of masks were considerably lower than those observed for inward protection. The home-made masks only provided marginal protection, while protection offered by a surgical mask and an FFP2 mask did not differ

In their experiments, home made masks provided marginal protection for outbound emissions.

That study, above, used tea towels, which were shown as more effective than ordinary cotton cloth used in t-shirts (which is what the CDC has recommended using). A pillow case filtered out 22% of particles – meaning 78% of particles went through. How lucky do you feel today?

2013 Study regarding homemade masks for influenza protection

Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: Would they protect in an influenza pandemic?

Their conclusion is in line with other studies regarding the limited inbound protection provided by cloth masks.

A protective mask may reduce the likelihood of infection, but
it will not eliminate the risk, particularly when a disease has
more than 1 route of transmission. Thus any mask, no matter
how efficient at filtration or how good the seal, will have
minimal effect if it is not used in conjunction with other
preventative measures, such as isolation of infected cases,
immunization, good respiratory etiquette, and regular hand
hygiene. An improvised face mask should be viewed as the
last possible alternative if a supply of commercial face masks is
not available, irrespective of the disease against which it may
be required for protection. Improvised homemade face masks
may be used to help protect those who could potentially, for
example, be at occupational risk from close or frequent
contact with symptomatic patients. However, these masks
would provide the wearers little protection from microorganisms from others persons who are infected with respiratory diseases. As a result, we would not recommend the use of homemade face masks as a method of reducing transmission of infection from aerosols.

Their study found some outbound benefit – but principally for large droplets emitted during coughing, much larger than virus particles:

Pearson x2 tests comparing the proportion of particles greater
than 4.7mm in diameter and particles less than 4.7mm in
diameter found that the homemade mask did not significantly
reduce the number of particles emitted (P5.106). In contrast,
the surgical mask did have a significant effect (P,.001).



Results from the cough box demonstrated that surgical masks have a significant effect in preventing the dispersal of large droplets and some smaller particles when healthy volunteers coughed. The homemade mask also prevented the release of some particles, although not at the same level as the surgical mask. The numbers of microorganisms isolated from the coughs of healthy volunteers was in general very low, and it is likely that had we used volunteers with respiratory infections, the homemade mask may have shown a more significant effect in preventing the release of droplets.

The main outbound benefit was to droplet emissions caused by coughing. As SARS-CoV-2 is reported to be a very small particle with an average size of 0.1 microns, it passes through these types of filters. Since the purpose is to reduce pre-symptomatic or a-symptomatic spread – people who are breathing and not emitting large droplets (not coughing), the outbound benefit appears to be very limited.

2015 controlled study using professional health care workers

A 2015 BMJ paper found that cloth masks may increase the incidence of infection:

Results The rates of all infection outcomes were highest in the cloth mask arm, with the rate of ILI statistically significantly higher in the cloth mask arm (relative risk (RR)=13.00, 95% CI 1.69 to 100.07) compared with the medical mask arm. Cloth masks also had significantly higher rates of ILI compared with the control arm. An analysis by mask use showed ILI (RR=6.64, 95% CI 1.45 to 28.65) and laboratory-confirmed virus (RR=1.72, 95% CI 1.01 to 2.94) were significantly higher in the cloth masks group compared with the medical masks group. Penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97% and medical masks 44%.

Conclusions This study is the first RCT of cloth masks, and the results caution against the use of cloth masks. This is an important finding to inform occupational health and safety. Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection. Further research is needed to inform the widespread use of cloth masks globally. However, as a precautionary measure, cloth masks should not be recommended for HCWs, particularly in high-risk situations, and guidelines need to be updated.

The “control” group was assigned to use “standard practices” regarding face covering. This meant that some used surgical mask, an n95 mask, or no mask, depending on the situation.

What was surprising was that those using cloth masks had a higher infection rate than the standard practices group – meaning cloth masks had a higher infection rate than a group that, at times, used no masks. They believe this occurred due to inadequate cleaning of the cloth masks.

This study was summarized in the news at the time:

The widespread use of cloth masks by healthcare workers may actually put them at increased risk of respiratory illness and viral infections and their global use should be discouraged, according to a UNSW study.

Prevent Epidemics web site summary of the literature

The Prevent Epidemics web site is operated by a global health group, funded by the Bloomberg, Gates and Zuckerberg foundations.

Read their summary regarding cloth face masks here.

In the current context of a global shortage of both respirators (e.g. N95) and surgical masks which are needed for healthcare workers and the sick, the only reasonable recommendation that can be made is for those without symptoms to wear cloth masks, scarves or homemade masks. There is variation in the community in the quality of these facial coverings, material used, fit, and how and how often they are cleaned. There is very limited data on the efficacy of cloth masks. There are some small studies (1,2,3) showing that cloth barriers provide some level of marginal protection against particles which can contain viruses. If they are worn regularly, they must also be changed and washed often. And if a covering gets wet, even from the moisture emitted when a person exhales, the fabric could be more likely to transmit the virus. One  randomized trial  compared medical masks, cloth masks and usual practice in 1607 hospital health care workers over a 4-week period. Cloth masks were 2 layer cotton masks which participants were asked to wash daily with soap and water. They found that the highest rates of influenza-like illness were in the cloth mask group (Relative Risk 13.0 (95% CI 1.7-100.1) compared to the medical mask arm. They were also higher in the cloth mask group compared to the usual practice group. Cloth masks also had higher rates of laboratory confirmed virus in participants (RR 1.72 95% CI (1.01-2.94) compared with the medical mask group. Lastly, penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97% compared to 44% in medical masks. The authors cited moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration as potential reasons for this observed increased risk of infection.

There is  no new strong scientific evidence  that they are useful.

Health Canada – April 3, 2020

Health Canada released a notice on homemade masks on Tuesday, warning that because of the loose fit and materials used, “These types of masks may not be effective in blocking virus particles.”


In email Thursday, a spokesperson for Ontario’s health ministry said: “There is no real evidence of the impact of homemade masks in preventing community spread, or in protecting oneself. While masks may reduce the frequency of an individual touching their nose or mouth, this potential positive effect is also tied to good hand hygiene.”

Three days after making the above statements, Health Canada flip flopped and recommended home made DIY cloth masks.

Meta Review of the Literature on Face Masks

University of Chicago Experts on Respiratory Protection and Infectious Diseases

The University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy posted the following press release based on University of Chicago work:

Sweeping mask recommendations—as many have proposed—will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year. Our review of relevant studies indicates that cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as PPE.

Home made cloth masks were recommended and used during the “1918 Spanish Flu” pandemic. They were found to be ineffective.

Kellogg,21 seeking a reason for the failure of cloth masks required for the public in stopping the 1918 influenza pandemic, found that the number of cloth layers needed to achieve acceptable efficiency made them difficult to breathe through and caused leakage around the mask. We found no well-designed studies of cloth masks as source control in household or healthcare settings.

In sum, given the paucity of information about their performance as source control in real-world settings, along with the extremely low efficiency of cloth masks as filters and their poor fit, there is no evidence to support their use by the public or healthcare workers to control the emission of particles from the wearer.

During the Spanish Flu, citizens were recommended to wear cloth face masks – some were provided by the government while others were home made. Were they effective? Apparently not.

They found that the mask wearing led to “a rapid decline in the number of cases of influenza,” (JAMA, 12/28/1918). A study in the Great Lakes, however, did not find such beneficial results.

Mask wearing by hospital corps did not have an effect on the incidence of disease as 8% who used the mask developed infection while only 7.75% of non-mask wearers did (JAMA, Vol. 71, No. 26). Despite these results, the masks were commonly used by many in an effort to avoid the pandemic influenza disease.

Reading histories of the “Spanish Flu” (it did not originate in Spain) is interesting if only because nothing has changed since 1918 in terms of planning or implementing a response to a pandemic. Seriously, what we are doing today is identical to what was done then. There have been no advances in public health strategy in 102 years. (I have posted excerpts of my grandmother’s diary that she wrote during the pandemic in the fall of 2018.)

Some studies found benefits from wearing approved face masks in certain scenarios, such as for in home caregivers taking care of an ill family member with influenza (or having the sick person wear a mask to reduce spread). However, the studies I found either did not say what type of mask was used (presumably a surgical mask or n95 respirator mask) or specifically said they had used an approved surgical or n95 respirator mask.

Some economics studies assume face mask wearing is effective, and then calculate out how much money wearing a face mask will save the economy. But the studies I saw were based on an initial assertion that face mask prevented disease spread – and did not prove that was true.

As shown in the next section, home made DIY masks generally do not meet the standards of surgical or n95 respirator masks.

U.S. Government Recommended Scarves and Bandanas

Are you feeling lucky today? 81% of infectious particles fly right through your bandana:

Yeah, bandannas and scarves (2 layers folded let 79% of particles through…)

I read through the CDC’s guidance on use of home made face masks, and I read each of the cited references on their sub-page. None of their cited references supported use of home made masks.

You can look everywhere and find instructions for making a DIY face mask. Most do not characterize the efficacy of their mask, and the few that do cite particle sizes that are far larger than SARS-CoV-2. One (see paper towel link below) says their mask protects against 1 micron size particles – too bad that the SARS-CoV-2 has an average size of 0.1 micron.

While you might, hypothetically, be able to make a good mask, the reality is various authorities have recommended a wide variety of materials and designs, many of which are known to work poorly. Some have attempted to improve upon their poor effectiveness by using multiple layers, which makes breathing difficult.

Online photos have shown many people making masks out of plastic soda bottles or other plastic containers, cosplay masks, EVA foam, Worbla, etc. Some show people using plastic bags over their heads (what could possibly go wrong with that?)

None of these meet any standards of the ASTM Standards for medical masks.

Look at the photos below – do we really believe all of these are effective?

What do non-expert members of the public do when confronted with such conflicting information? We are completely lost.

Sample masks found using DuckDuckGo Image search on April 8th – really. Click on either image for full size view.

Sample photos from Bing image search:

Back in March, we saw this from a US Army medic:

The DIY masks, albeit creative, are only to serve as a reminder for us to not touch our face,” Doyle said. “The virus can travel up to 6 feet if you cough, sneeze, vape, second-hand vape. Although, when you are out in public, you do not necessarily need the mask, unless you yourself are sick. And if you are sick, it is advised that you do not go out in public.

Homemade masks many are sewing, rather,  resemble loose-fitting surgical masks, also known as facemasks, that do not meet the N95 standards.

“The role of facemasks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes,” the CDC said on its website. “Patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear a facemask until they are isolated in a hospital or at home. The patient does not need to wear a facemask while isolated.”

The CDC further advises that individuals who are not sick do not need to wear a facemask unless caring for someone who is ill.

Did you know that for many of mask types, you cannot have a beard? They told you that, didn’t they? Here is the official guidance graphic from the CDC:

So What Are We To Do?

From the above, you have seen experts telling us that approved masks do not work and home made cloth masks do not work and home made cloth masks may lead to other problems. Then look at the example materials, above, that are being used to make DIY masks – and look at the sample photos. Good grief.

Public health “experts” told us home masks did not work – right up until the day they flip flopped.

DO NOT BLAME THE PUBLIC FOR BEING CONFUSED. Yet this is what various “experts” have done on social media, to the point of implying that doubters are stupid (or disrespectful for not believing the “experts”).

We have no idea who to believe. Do we believe public health “experts” who flip flopped without evidence? Do we believe peer reviewed published studies? Do we believe health care experts? Do we believe government agencies? Do we believe politicians?

It is logically impossible to believe all of them simultaneously as they contradict each other. We are left with picking and choosing which “expert” to believe, which means we, the lay public, are left in the dark.

And they wonder why no one believes anyone.

What Actual Bio Protection Requires

  • A face mask that is capable of filtering very small particles (0.1 micron) for inbound protection, eye protection, and a host of protocol/procedures. Outbound droplet protection is less strict but SARS-CoV-2 is so small that as an aerosol, it can go through most masks and nearly all home made masks.
  • You need to protect your eyes.
  • You need to be aware of contamination of clothing and your hair.
  • You need to be constantly cleaning your PPE.
  • The moment you begin wearing your PPE, your PPE is subject to contamination on the outside (and inside).
  • As soon as you move to a new environment, you need to replace or thoroughly clean your PPE (gloves, face mask, eye protection, your clothing or covers, your hair if not covered) and every object you have touched while wearing your PPE. Did you open a door knob? That is now contaminated.
  • After removing your PPE, you need to thoroughly wash your hands and other parts of your body that may have been exposed.
  • The above list is for inbound protection; outbound protection, as documented above, is limited to covering your mouth or nose (mostly), and primarily protects others if you are coughing large droplets (not fine aerosols).

Population Wide Test Without Consent

When medical experiments are conducted on people, researchers submit their test plan to an Institutional Review Board for ethics approval – and then solicit informed consent from all test subjects.

From the above, cloth mask efficacy ranges from worthless to marginal for inbound protection, to limited usefulness for outbound protection, and have no protection for outbound coughing Covid-19 patients. There is weak evidence to support these population wide measures and evidence that it may cause harm (increased in infections, or using DIY materials that may be harmful to breathe).

When the government recommends everyone wear a home made face mask, of unapproved design using unapproved random materials, the government is conducting a population wide medical experiment without informed consent. As long as mask usage is voluntary you may choose not to participate.

In some jurisdictions (Laredo, TX, Riverside County, CA, Washington, D.C., New Jersey), “officials” have made it mandatory that home made face coverings be worn at all times when away from the home. In these cases, officials are conducting a population wide experiment without consent of the research subjects.

This seems to be a violation of U.S. Federal law.

Furthermore, the FDA (and probably other agencies – I have not checked) are prohibited by Federal law from approving the use of medical devices without supporting evidence. This is Federal law. Obviously, a homemade mask is not for sale and does not need a Federal permit, but the same principles apply – supporting evidence is needed.

(2) Valid scientific evidence is evidence from well-controlled investigations, partially controlled studies, studies and objective trials without matched controls, well-documented case histories conducted by qualified experts, and reports of significant human experience with a marketed device, from which it can fairly and responsibly be concluded by qualified experts that there is reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of a device under its conditions of use. The evidence required may vary according to the characteristics of the device, its conditions of use, the existence and adequacy of warnings and other restrictions, and the extent of experience with its use. Isolated case reports, random experience, reports lacking sufficient details to permit scientific evaluation, and unsubstantiated opinions are not regarded as valid scientific evidence to show safety or effectiveness. Such information may be considered, however, in identifying a device with questionable safety or effectiveness.

Public Health Credibility is Zero

Public health officials spent over a month telling us the use of approved medical face masks by the public provided no protection to the public.

Just two days before the CDC recommended that people wear random face masks, our local health officials said

do “not wear N-95 masks specifically, because they will not protect you

This message was hammered over more than a month, with variations that they do not work when used by the public, the public will not use them properly or will be ill fitted and will not work, or the public will use them and engage in appropriate close contact (which is dangerous because, they said, the masks do not work).

The reality was that PPE was in short supply, partially due to poor planning by public health officials. But rather than be honest with the public, public health officials lied to the public and made false claims that approved masks would provide no benefits. These were straight out lies.

Two days after the quote above, the CDC recommended that everyone place random bits of cloth over their face (scarf or bandana were specifically mentioned) or make their own face mask from random, unproven designs using random materials, with no information on how to size or fit them. I read the CDC’s guidance page and I read every one of their referenced papers. Not one paper provided any support for the use of random cloth face masks – not one. There is no mention of eye protection or the other steps to minimize virus contact – such as on clothing or hair – or other things you may touch.

After reading the next section, you will see why I have no respect for public health “officials” and will no longer listen to them.

Public Mask Shaming

A side effect of confused messaging is that people are verbally accosted (and in at least 2 cases, physically accosted) for not wearing a mask, wearing a mask, or not wearing a politically correct mask, or merely walking in public areas (which is generally permitted).

This fiasco is the result of inconsistent, contradictory, unclear and untruthful statements by public health officials.

We do not have a shortage of PPE because of people who bought face masks months or years ago. We have a shortage because of massive incompetence by public health and government planners – who now wish to shift blame to allegations of hoarding. (Government secrecy prevented people who needed to know what was in the National Stockpile from knowing.) And the result is assaults on innocent people.

Many people have n95 masks on hand for use in hobby, shop or construction projects. They obtained these masks months and years ago. Many (may be most) have been stored in the open – no longer sealed and sterile. Many have been used on prior projects and cannot be donated to health care facilities. Being in possession of old masks, acquired long ago is not a factor – at all – in the shortage of PPE for health care workers. Yet some are mask shaming people for having purchased and used n95 masks in the past and reusing those masks now. If we were to donate them to health care, these old used masks would almost certainly be thrown away, so that no one would use them and we would, collectively, be worse off. This is assinine.



At the Kaiser Westside Medical Center complex (hospital) in Hillsboro, Oregon, one pharmacy staff member tested positive for Covid-19 four weeks ago. Initially, pharmacy staff were permitted (yeah, “permitted”) to wear a surgical mask but then Kaiser prohibited pharmacy staff from wearing any masks at all. Now, one third of the pharmacy staff have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and the hospital’s entire pharmacy operation is shut down. Surely the lawsuits will sort that one out. How many Kaiser patients contracted Covid-19 because Kaiser prohibited PPE use by their own pharmacy staff?

Public health officials have lost credibility and have only themselves to blame for this fiasco. I have no trouble saying I have no respect what so ever for public health “officials” and government emergency planners.

My Mask

This post explains why I am not playing along. I am not an “expert” – just one very confused individual who gets stressed when bombarded by inconsistent, contradictory and illogical directions from “authorities”.

I am willing to wear an approved, certified mask, but no such masks are available as they are reserved for health care. There are numerous “designs” online – but none have been evaluated for effectiveness and many are insufficient. Would be great if there were an “Approved” design that has undergone testing, but such a mask does not exist.

As numerous home made DIY masks are unfortunately useless, this seems like a game, not something serious. If the CDC were serious, they would post a tested design but they have not done so.

Hence, I am making a mask that makes a political statement.

I 3D printed the pieces to make a Guy Fawkes mask, from V for Vendetta, and which has become the symbol of anarchists. Since there is no specification for a required mask, I can design my own.

Today I glued the pieces together, sanded, then filled the rough spots with bondo, then sanded some more, primed, and put a first coat of paint on the mask. In that we are home bound, I am working with the materials I had on hand.

The bondo and the primer were from some old body work on my car.

The primer was an old can of automotive spray paint I had on hand from the body work on the car. The can said it worked on plastic so that paint became my primer.

The only white paint I had was either some old latex interior wall paint or a can of white spray paint for marking utility lines. (At our old house I had to mark off the area where underground work was to be done, in white, so that the “Call before you dig” utility locators would know where our project was going to be.) The main problem with this paint is that it’s now 2 hours after the first coat and its still not dry; says it will take 8 hours to dry. Tomorrow, I’ll sand some bits of it and then put on another coat of white – and then wait 8 more hours.

I don’t have any black paint for the moustache but will likely just use a black sharpie. (Update: found some black paint. Also glued in lenses from an old pair of reading glasses to give eye protection. Still working on the useless air filtration.)

This is was taken 2 days ago. I’ll get a newer photo later.

So Why Recommend DIY Face Masks?

A big reason is crowd pressure coming from social media. This seems to have originated with a false post on Twitter that claimed nearly everyone in the Czech Republic was wearing a DIY face mask, Czech had only two deaths and there were no new Covid19 cases. Both of the last items were not true on the day they were posted.

You can read the backstory here. As of the day this post is written, the death toll in Czech is now 88 (one day later its 99) and the number of confirmed cases continues to rise (over 5,000 now).

Activist proponents of “Masks 4 All” said this story proved that DIY face masks work. In fact, it appears to prove that DIY face masks DO NOT WORK.

To this day, the Czech story proponents insist DIY face masks work, and explain away the Czech reality with arguments that it wasn’t really 100% mask wearing when it started, but now it is, and the curve will soon bend downwards because of it. They are steadfast in their belief that DIY masks work and the Czech numbers will eventually prove them correct. Except time heals most things anyway – and like a stopped clock being accurate twice per day, when the Czech count reaches zero, they will say the masks worked.

Even though the post was false the day it was posted, it was cross posted to Reddit where it took off like wildfire with near universal, “Yes, let’s all wear home made face masks because they stopped Covid19 in Czech Republic!”. From there it went on to other social media.

Bizarrely, this social media ground swell then became promoted by politicians and eventually the CDC, with some health care “experts” saying it is a “low risk” measure (they apparently never read the published literature). Or, perhaps they did and succumbed to public pressure and just thought “oh, it really will be low risk”. Or, at least its worth doing as a massive population experiment without informed consent!

A related reason is virtue signaling. It promotes the idea that we are all in this together. A corollary is that it is said to remove stigma from someone who is sick and wearing a mask. Therefore, it will encourage people with any degree of sickness to wear masks without fear of being singled out.

To illustrate virtue signaling, Osceola County in Florida mandates under penalty of 60-days in jail for not complying that you cover your face:

The order doesn’t require a specific type of mask, Janer said, noting that t-shirts, bananas and other clothes that can cover a person’s mouth and nose would comply

From the list of suggested coverings, this is not about health and safety but about virtue signaling.

If the CDC were serious about home made masks, they would not suggest random DIY solutions. Instead, they would provide designs that have been tested for efficacy. That they have not done so implies they are not taking their own directive seriously.

Second, it gives people a feeling of control when the world is spinning out of control. People believe they are doing something for themselves and to benefit society – mask making helps overcome a feeling of powerlessness. A possible side effect is that the feeling of asserting control may reduce anxiety levels.

Some believe that wearing a mask reduces how many times they touch their nose and mouth, “but there aren’t any data to support that that’s a useful intervention,” Schaffner says. Other reasons are purely psychological. One stems from the fear of losing control to a virus we know little about preventing. “There’s not much we can do, so we’re all walking around feeling rather victimized by this virus,” says Schaffner. “By using a mask, even if it doesn’t do a lot, it moves the locus of control to you, away from the virus. It gives the individual a greater sense of control in this otherwise not-controlled situation.”

Or may be its just tricking our brains:

Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist and senior director for practice, research and policy at the American Psychological Association, suspects that people are clinging to masks for the same reason they knock on wood or avoid walking under ladders. “Even if experts are saying it’s really not going to make a difference, a little [part of] people’s brains is thinking, well, it’s not going to hurt. Maybe it’ll cut my risk just a little bit, so it’s worth it to wear a mask,” she says. In that sense, wearing a mask is a “superstitious behavior”: if someone wore a mask when coronavirus or another viral illness was spreading and did not get sick, they may credit the mask for keeping them safe and keep wearing it.

Third, it simply gets the public out of the way. When ever there are large disasters, many members of the public want to help. Think of the Cajun Navy that arrived with personal boats to rescue and transport supplies after Hurricane Katrina.

But “officials” generally do not want public assistance, for several reasons.

  • One, the services offered may not be required or appropriate.
  • Two, the skill sets of those offering the assistance is unverified.
  • Three, government officials worry about “liability” created by unknown volunteers.
  • Fourth, it make take away paid overtime hours from paid professional staff (sorry to bring that up but its a real thing). Some do not like that.

So what to do with a public that wants to do something?

Shuffle them aside to what becomes mostly “make work” positions! I have been involved in volunteer disaster services, volunteer fire and volunteer search and rescue – this “what to do” problem occurs in larger disasters. Volunteers end up doing (often) mindless tasks, inefficiently. But they feel good they are helping. The professionals are happy that their work is not interfered with by “do gooders”. Everyone seems happy.

In the end, this is why we are probably recommending unapproved, DIY face masks, from unapproved designs using unapproved materials – which are shown by research to be highly questionable.

It’s about virtue signaling, giving people a feeling of control, and getting people out of the way.

The public health “official” messaging, as documented above, has been all over the map to a level of absurdity. They have all by themselves established they have no credibility – especially on the mask issue.

All of us are confused – probably anxious, possibly depressed, frustrated, angry, scared – and their nonsensical messaging, coupled with other leaders nonsense, has led to no one believing anyone. Public health is not providing useful leadership – only creating confusion.

The last thing we need in a crisis is a loss of trust and confidence in leaders. But they brought this on themselves.

Update April 9

Professionals are pissed at the incompetent leadership and miscommunications too:

STAT interviewed more than a dozen physicians and scientists around the country, and one after another, they leveled strikingly similar critiques at both the federal and local levels: That the Trump administration neglected scientists and public health experts and downplayed the severity of the disease, helping stoke a spread of misinformation. That many state leaders, toeing party lines, were too paralyzed to act in a timely fashion. And that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once a venerable institution, bungled a critical component of pandemic controldiagnostic testing.


Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, said, “The American public doesn’t know that a large portion of this catastrophe was preventable, if not for the sinful incompetence of our leaders. It didn’t have to be like this.”


Kathrotia agreed, saying that the agency’s directives are changing constantly. For instance, it initially advised against the public wearing masks. Now, the CDC has suggested that every person wears a mask when they’re not home.

“I think there’s a lot of mistrust with CDC guidelines, because they seem to be pretty reactionary,” Kathrotia said.


I downloaded and read my state’s pandemic response plan documents. Their primary plan consists of shutting down the state. And that is it.

They have no plan for the economic devastation or the excess health problems and deaths caused by their actions. Since the shut down, alcohol consumption is up by +55%. Domestic violence calls are up by +60% in Portland. Suicide-related calls are up by +41%. None of this was planned for – because their “planning” begins and ends with a shutdown.

Two of the plan documents were not completed – they had “template” fill in the blank sections that had not been filled in.

In my state, public health largely stopped “contact tracing” – as the Oregonian reported. For example, an RN working in hospice care was diagnosed with Covid-19. In spite of her repeated attempts to notify OHA, they never called her back to follow up. And this was when the outbreak was small. Without contract tracing, you have no idea who has spread the disease to whom. Basically, you can’t do your public health job.

Until now, they had not dealt with an “epidemic” that had more than about 500 patients. In other words, the people employed to deal with epidemics were not capable of dealing with epidemics. Face plant.

By EdwardM

7 thoughts on “Would you wear a cloth face mask?”
  1. […] Then in early April, public health official reversed course and now said that the use of unapproved, uncertified, randomly designed and assembled from random materials would protect the public. At this point, a lot of us said – this is utter nonsense. I’ve written a whole post on the face mask issue. There is weak scientific evidence to support their use, actual evidence may not work and may increase infect…. […]

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