• Coronavirus tips can be found all over the web right now and many of them are quite useful, but there are really only two things that you should be concerned with more than anything else.
  • First, you need to wear a face mask at all times when you’re not inside your home. Second, you need to practice strict social distancing and stay far away from other people when you’re out and about — even if you’re wearing a mask.
  • These two pieces of advice have been shared time and time again based on anecdotal evidence and common sense, but there’s also science to back them up.

As the novel coronavirus death toll in the United States passes 100,000 and states across the country continue reopening their economies, most experts seem to agree on two things. First and foremost, there will be a second wave of novel coronavirus infections. This is unavoidable, even if lockdown and shelter-in-place orders stay in place for several more weeks or even months. But second, the premature reopening of nonessential businesses and the easing of lockdown restrictions will lead to a second wave of COVID-19 infections that is much worse than it would have been otherwise. What’s more, it will begin much sooner than experts had initially thought, likely in the next month or two rather than sometime in the fall or winter.

The bottom line is that the novel coronavirus isn’t going anywhere for a very, very long time. We’re probably about a year away from seeing the first COVID-19 vaccines become available to the general public, and then billions of doses need to be distributed around the world. Even then, not everyone will have access to vaccines and not everyone with access to vaccines will actually get inoculated. Long story short, we’re in for a years-long battle that is going to be emotionally and economically draining. The most unfortunate thing about it, however, is how easy it would be to avoid if people would just do two simple things.

You know all those people you see on the news and on social media who refuse to wear face masks and stay away from people in public? You know, the either because they’re not manly or because face masks somehow encroach upon their freedom. Well, those people are idiots. Whiny, sniveling, entitled idiots. This is obvious to any rational person, of course, but not it’s not just a matter of opinion. Now, it’s a scientific fact.

That’s right, we now have scientific evidence that shows us what would happen if 80% to 90% of the US population wears face masks and practices social distancing. Face masks cost just 70¢ each on Amazon right now, and social distancing literally could not be any easier. That’s it. If everyone did those two simple things, life could get back to normal so much faster than it will at the rate we’re going now.

Dr. De Kai Wu of UC Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute saw that Japan’s death rate following the novel coronavirus outbreak is a mere 2% of the astronomical death rate we’re experiencing in the US right now. He also saw that Japan never had the strict lockdowns that we had stateside. So how did Japan keep its rate of infection and death rate so comparatively low? As you surely guessed, it boils down to two simple things: Almost everyone wears a face mask, and almost everyone practices social distancing.

As covered in a recent article by Vanity Fair, De Kai and his team built a forecasting tool called the masksim simulator that shows us what the spread of the novel coronavirus looks like when different percentages of the population wear masks and use social distancing. The team also published a paper on the matter. The conclusions couldn’t be more clear: When the majority of the population wears face masks and practices social distancing, the spread of the novel virus can be slowed dramatically or even stopped. From Vanity Fair:

De Kai’s solution, along with his team, was to build a computer forecasting model they call the masksim simulator. This allowed them to create scenarios of populations like those in Japan (that generally wear masks) and others (that generally don’t), and to compare what happens to infection rates over time. Masksim takes sophisticated programming used by epidemiologists to track outbreaks and pathogens like COVID-19, Ebola, and SARS, and blended this with other models that are used in artificial intelligence to take into account the role of chance, in this case the randomness and unpredictability, of human behavior—for instance, when a person who is infected decides to go to a beach. De Kai’s team have also added some original programming that takes into account mask-specific criteria, such as how effective certain masks are at blocking the invisible micro-droplets of moisture that spray out of our mouths when we exhale or speak, or our noses when we sneeze, which scientists believe are significant vectors for spreading the coronavirus.

“What’s most important about wearing masks right now is that it works, along with social distancing, to flatten the curve of infections as we wait for treatments and vaccines to be developed—while also allowing people to go out and some businesses to reopen,” said Guy-Philippe Goldstein, a masksim collaborator, and lecturer at the Ecole de Guerre Economique in Paris.

The team’s model has been praised in peer review and it has plenty of science to support it. Unfortunately, it relies on the majority of a population to be responsible and vigilant, and not even the most horrific pandemic of our generation is enough to get many Americans to act responsibly. That said, you can still protect yourself and your family by always wearing face masks outside, and by practicing social distancing and good hygiene.

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.