• The coronavirus pandemic is completely out of control in the United States, and there are two main reasons why.
  • First, the White House has been completely and utterly useless where planning and guidance are concerned.
  • Second, many people aren’t wearing face masks — either because they don’t think COVID-19 is as serious as everyone says, or because they’ve been convinced that face masks are a health hazard.

The United States is doing a worse job than any other developed nation at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. People in the Northeast got a harsh dose of reality early on when new case numbers and deaths were spiking back in March and April. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the country didn’t get the message. As soon as economies began reopening prematurely, millions of Americans let down their guard and tried to go back to their normal routines. Needless to say, this was an enormous mistake. New COVID-19 cases are now skyrocketing all across the country and imminent school reopenings are only going to make things worse. Much worse, in fact, since there is still absolutely no guidance from the White House. Just look at Georgia’s school reopenings, which are already an unmitigated disaster after just one week.

We now know that the novel coronavirus is transmitted from person to person mainly through the air. We know that infected people can shed infectious amounts of the virus by coughing, sneezing, singing, yelling, or even just by talking. We know that people with COVID-19 can spread the disease even when they’re presymptomatic. We also know that asymptomatic cases can spread the disease as well — read about how one asymptomatic person spread the virus to 69 other people she never even came in contact with, just by using the elevator.

Even though it has only been about seven months since the novel coronavirus began spreading, we know so much about it — including the knowledge that people can dramatically reduce their chances of catching and spreading COVID-19 by doing a few simple things like practicing social distancing, washing hands often, and wearing face masks. Remember the hairstylists with COVID-19 who didn’t spread it to any of their 140 clients because everyone was wearing masks?

Despite everything we’ve learned, all the studies, and all the anecdotal evidence we’ve seen, there are still so many people out there who don’t wear face masks. They generally fall into two groups that are very different but equally dangerous: People with pandemic fatigue who are just too lazy to put on a mask all the time, and “anti-maskers” who actively go out of their way to make sure everyone knows they refuse to wear face masks.

The first group of people is often a bit easier to work with. People with pandemic fatigue might not always wear a face mask, but they typically wear one when they have to or when asked to. It’s the second group that’s truly frightening. These people don’t just refuse to wear face masks, they want everyone to know that they refuse to wear face masks. Why? Well, that’s a good question.

Many coronavirus deniers and anti-maskers have taken their lead from Trump. It might sound insane, but they actually think that COVID-19 isn’t a being deal or isn’t real at all.

Some of Trump’s followers believe the virus is overblown because of the president’s laissez-faire attitude toward the pandemic. Others actually think it’s a hoax. We recently told you about coronavirus denier who really, truly believed that COVID-19 was a hoax that “the mainstream media and the Democrats were using it to create panic, crash the economy and destroy Trump’s chances at re-election.” The whole world was in on it, apparently. This Texas native ended up spreading COVID-19 to his entire family and at least one of his relatives died as a result. It’s a sad story, but it could have been easily avoided.

Anti-maskers and coronavirus deniers always seem to come around once they catch the potentially deadly disease, or once someone close to them catches it. In the meantime, they put themselves and everyone else around them at risk. Their logic for this intentional negligence is often baffling.

Some anti-maskers don’t want to wear face masks because it’s a matter of “freedom.” That’s right, freedom. In their eyes, face masks are being mandated by liberal democrats who want to take away our freedom. What’s the endgame? How exactly do these evil liberal democrats benefit? In what way is their master plan realized when you wear a face mask? Your guess is as good as ours, and these people often cannot be reasoned with.

The other group of anti-maskers is made up of people who refuse to wear face masks because they think masks are dangerous. This, at least, is something we might be able to work with.

The specifics of the dangers involved vary from one argument to the next, but the gist of it is that face masks limit the wearer from inhaling enough oxygen. Instead, the wearer ends up breathing in too much of the carbon dioxide they have been exhaling, and this could lead to health problems.

Hey, at least this argument is more plausible than coronavirus being a global conspiracy aimed at unseating Trump.

There are two main things to consider here. First of all, doctors, nurses, construction workers, and people in many other professions have to wear face masks all the time. Last I checked, there hasn’t been a global wave of brain damage among nurses. The other thing to consider is that it’s quite easy to tell if face masks do indeed starve the lungs of precious oxygen. All you need is a $20 gadget called a pulse oximeter to monitor your blood oxygen saturation, and you can easily see if wearing a face mask has any meaningful impact.

So, I decided to conduct an unscientific experiment.

Anti-maskers seem to think it’s dangerous to wear any face covering, including simple cloth masks and those blue 3-ply face masks you see all around. I decided to take things a step further and test face masks that are orders of magnitude more effective. I chose three different masks to test with, in fact: a 3M N95 face mask (model 8210Plus) that filters approximately 95% of small airborne particles, a Moldex N95 face mask (model 2600N95 Special Ops) that’s also around 95% effective, and a 3M N100 face mask (model 8233) that filters a whopping 99.97% of tiny airborne particles like viruses. All of these masks filter far more efficiently than reusable cloth masks and 3-ply face masks, so they should be much more dangerous if anti-maskers know what they’re talking about.

To monitor for any adverse effects caused by wearing these face masks for an extended period of time, I used two different top-rated pulse oximeters. The first was the Wellue Oxygen Saturation Tracker Ring, which continuously monitors blood oxygen saturation and records the data on your smartphone. The second was the Innovo iP900AP fingertip pulse oximeter, which is sold in drug stores all across the country.

I decided to dive right into my test and began with the best of the best: the 3M N100 face mask that filters better than anything else on the market. I slid the Wellue ring onto my finger and ensured that it was getting a good reading — 98%. Then I sealed off the valve on the 3M N100 mask and put it on securely. The mask stayed on my face for the next four and a half hours, with the pulse oximeter ring monitoring my blood oxygen saturation and pulse the entire time. I only removed the mask from over my mouth and nose once about two hours after putting it on so that I could drink some water.

Did I die? No. Am I brain-damaged? That’s debatable, but it seems fairly evident that if I am, the damage was not caused by the face mask. Here’s the data from that first four-and-a-half-hour test:

As you can see in the screenshot above, at no point did my blood oxygen saturation dip below 95%. It averaged 98%. The Mayo Clinic states that the healthy range for blood oxygen saturation is between 95% and 100%. Anything below 90% is considered problematic.

For the next phases of my test, I switched to the fingertip pulse oximeter. I wore the Moldex N95 mask first for two hours and then the 3M N95 face mask for two hours after that. I checked my blood oxygen saturation every 10 to 15 minutes while wearing the face masks, and I never got a reading below 96%. Finally, just for the heck of it, I put on three of those standard blue 3-ply face masks at the same time, one over the other. I kept them on for an hour and took blood oxygen saturation readings every 10 minutes. Once again, the readings never dipped below 96%.

In the end, it became beyond apparent that face masks do not starve your brain of oxygen. I was testing some of the best and most effective face masks on the market, and my blood oxygen levels never dropped below 95%. Doctors have performed similar tests with similar results — one doctor even wore six face masks at once to debunk this ridiculous myth. Long story short, face masks are perfectly safe to wear, and you absolutely must wear one anytime you’re outside your home around other people. You’ll protect yourself, you’ll protect your family, and you’ll protect other people around you if you do happen to be infected.

Wearing face masks saves lives. Literally. And as we just demonstrated yet again through nearly 10 hours of testing, there are no downsides to your health.

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.