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  1. Why don’t we have an ideal mask yet? Global coronavirus deaths have been falling—but scientists are worried that new variants of the virus may reverse those trends. Some of these new variants, like one from the UK, are more infectious and take a smaller viral load to cause a full body invasion. Scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have started researching whether or not wearing two masks may be more beneficial than one alone. Some high-profile figures, including Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are already doubling up. Theoretically, wearing one masks over another could help protect you from incoming droplets, or others from the ones you expel. But there’s a limit to their utility depending on the kinds of masks used for layering. Scientists are working to set global standards for the myriad kinds of masks available to help consumers make those decisions—but until then, here’s what you need to know to make your own masking decisions. Fuller filtration—to a point The added benefit of layering one mask over another is the added filtration potential. The more filters between your airways and the outside world, the less likely you are to encounter a pathogen-containing particle. These benefits are additive. “It’s increasing your protection by the added benefit of that surgical mask,” says Christopher Zangmeister, a scientist who studies aerosols at the US National Institutes of Standards and Technology. Put another way, a double-layer cloth mask with a surgical mask could have roughly the same kind of filtration as a three-layered cloth mask akin to the ones the World Health Organization has previously recommended. Depending on the protection provided by your original mask, it may meaningfully increase your filtration—or it may not. But at a certain point, there’s a tradeoff between more filtration and overall protection. For one thing, more layers may be less comfortable—which could lead to dubious face-touching or adjusting. The more you touch your face, the more likely a particle on your hands could reach its way into your airways. And there’s another problem: too much filtration becomes unbreathable. “Are you breathing through the material, or are you breathing through the gaps in the material?” Zangmeister says. If you’re breathing through the gaps in between the mask and your face, you’re not getting any filtration production at all. In lab settings, Zangmeister and his team have found these areas where air escapes tend to be behind the cheeks, or right above the bridge of the nose, which can look like a droplet exhalation geyser, he says. There’s a simple test to see if your masks aren’t actually working as a filter, Zangmeister says. Go outside on a cold day, and wear either glasses or sunglasses and breathe for 30 seconds. If your breath fogs the glasses, too much air may be leaving (and therefore coming in) above your nose, rather than through the mask itself. Standardizing filtration It’s frustrating that at this point in the pandemic, we still don’t have an ideal mask. Masks vary widely depending on who manufacturers them. Some even fraudulently boast they can filter more than they actually do. The problem is there is no universal standardization for commercial masks. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration approves medical-grade masks while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration certifies and tests professional grade masks for people like firefighters or construction workers. But there’s no single authority that makes an easy-to-read standard for masks for the general public. ASTM InternationalASTM stands for “American Society for Testing and Materials” but the group serves the global community “1”, a global regulatory agency that comes up with all kinds of guidelines, is currently working on these standards. Zangmeister, whose current research could support their ultimate decisions, says the group could release a set of standards by mid-March. They’d appear like a simple number or lettering system on mask packaging to guarantee a certain level of protection. It may feel late in the pandemic for a set of global, commercial mask standards, but normally this process takes years, not months. When making these considerations, scientists have to consider the diversity of face shapes as well as mask materials. All those differences mean there’s no easy way to determine exactly which material will offer what specific level of protection. Source: Why don’t we have an ideal mask yet?
  2. An oncology nurse in Oregon has been placed on administrative leave after posting a video on social media showing disregard for COVID-19 restrictions. In the video, uploaded Friday to TikTok, the nurse, identified by Salem Health hospital officials as Ashley Grames, says she doesn't wear a mask in public outside of work, continues to travel and allows her children to have playdates. Grames' original post, on her account @loveiskind05, has been taken down, but a "duet" recorded by another user includes the original footage. The video shows the nurse mocking her coworkers' response to her lack of COVID-19 precautions through a lip-dub of Dr. Seuss's The Grinch from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." User @loveiskind05's account has been deleted from TikTok. The video sparked controversy and swift outcry in the community. Marion County has had among the highest number of cases in Oregon, and Salem Hospital has been on the Oregon Health Authority's list of workplaces with the highest number of employee-related cases since May. According to the state's latest weekly report, Salem Hospital has the highest employee-related count of any hospital in the state. Salem Health officials addressed the video on Facebook, calling it a "cavalier disregard for the seriousness of the pandemic." They thanked community members who brought the video to their attention. "This one careless statement does not reflect the position of Salem Health or the hardworking and dedicated caregivers who work here," officials said. Hospital staff has strict masking, social distancing, screening and infectious disease protocols in place, officials said. "These policies are strictly enforced among staff from the moment they leave their cars at work to the moment they start driving home." An investigation is pending while Grames is on leave. There are more than 800 comments on Salem Health's post — most scolding the nurse's actions, many calling for her to be fired and her license to be revoked. One comment read: "She is putting her patients at risk- CANCER patients. Unacceptable behavior. Firing her is the only acceptable response. People could lose their lives/their loved ones because of her carelessness. I hope you value your patients enough to rid your environment of those who don’t care for their safety. Some applauded the hospital's response. "I know everyone is upset and wants her fired, but be patient," one individual wrote. "Salem Health is following protocol and going to investigate the matter...as they should. While we want justice quickly and swiftly, we all do have to remember that justice often requires patience. At least she’s not working while the administration completes its investigation." Multiple community members took to the hospital's Facebook to write negative reviews. One person wrote: "Ashley Grames should have her nursing license revoked for bragging about not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing while being an oncology nurse — exposing some of the most immunocompromised people is absolutely disgusting and embarrassing behavior for a medical professional." "Who would ever go to a Hospital where their nurses don't understand basic public health protocols?" another reviewer wrote. "If your staff doesn't 'believe' in science how can you be a medical facility. Wonder how dirty this place is." Source
  3. A Chicago artist has created a cheap, effective way for the public to fight back against the growing profusion of security cameras – rubber masks which make the devices unable to identify people by making everyone look the same. The URME device works very simply – everyone who wears the mask has the face of creator Leo Selvaggio, so biometric software is fooled into thinking the streets are filled with copies of the same person, according to CNET. CNET describes concept images of same-faced clones walking together as “like Matrix 3.” Selvaggio says, “I have an overwhelming urge to protect the public from such surveillance. Everyone has a right to privacy.” Selvaggio says, “Our world is becoming increasingly surveilled. For example, Chicago has over 25,000 cameras networked to a single facial recognition hub. We don’t believe you should be tracked just because you want to walk outside and you shouldn’t have to hide either. Instead, use one of our products to present an alternative identity when in public.” His company URME – “You Are Me” – already sells a limited range of products, but is seeking further funding via Indiegogo. Selvaggio says, “URME represents artist-driven, anti-surveillance devices made for the public. As such, all our products are sold at cost. This means that there is no profit made in selling these products. All proceeds are used to sustain our ability to provide you with services. We believe everyone should be able to afford protection from surveillance.” The product is made from a 3D scan of Selvaggio’s face, 3D-printed over a mesh by That’s My Face. The company seems to share URME’s libertarian views: they also sell a 3D action figure of Edward Snowden. Speaking to We Live Security last week, Phil Zimmermann, inventor of the popular email encryption service PGP said, “We are living in a golden age of surveillance.” Concern has grown over companies’ such as Facebook’s use of biometric data. Facebook has invested heavily in artificial intelligence software – which can recognize if two human faces are the same person with near-human accuracy. One AI company, Vicarious Software, bought by Facebook, whose software specialises in “deciphering” photographs, described its software as “like a human that doesn’t have to eat or sleep.” Source
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