This article was published on June 30, 2020

Just wear the $%#@ing mask

Just wear the $%#@ing mask
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.

Hola pandemic pals,

The whole time this pandemic’s been going on, the world’s been looking to big tech for answers. Technology is always the answer, right?

Sure, but it doesn’t have to be new technology. Our greatest tool in the fight against a disease that’s spread via droplets is clothing, not software. Yes, I’m talking about face masks.

I know a lot of folks HATE wearing them. I’ve seen the videos. They’re uncomfortable. But sometimes comfort is the last thing you should be worried about.

A couple of decades ago I went through US Navy boot camp in Chicago. After a few weeks, me and the other 81 trainees I lived with were issued our secondary gear. This included our MCU-2P gas masks.

Credit: Wikicommons

We had 20 minutes to check out and stow the new gear. Most of us just inspected our masks for damage (they were used) and tried them on.

But about 15 of my shipmates queued up outside the instructor’s office to complain about theirs.

A recruit division commander (RDC, the Navy version of a drill sergeant) came out of the office and asked what the problem was. Each of them explained that their masks were faulty. One said “I can’t get enough oxygen, I feel like I’m going to pass out!”

Rather them help them with their faulty gear, the RDC bellowed “Get back to your bunk areas!” and that was that.

A couple of weeks later we marched over to a special facility to test our gas masks in a live CS gas environment. On the way there we wore our masks (without filters). When we arrived, and the RDCs ducked inside to set things up, about two dozen recruits broke the seals on their masks so they could breathe fresh air. You’d think they’d just run a marathon the way they doubled over frantically sucking in breaths.

The RDCs returned, wearing masks and filters, and led us inside in groups of eight. They lit the CS gas off and told us to recite the Sailor’s Creed.

Credit: US Navy

A couple sentences in and every single one of us was racked over coughing our brains up. But once we muddled through the Creed we were allowed to grab and insert our filters.

After breathing gas, that first breath of air through the mask’s filter was the sweetest, most oxygen-filled, wonderful inhalation I’d ever taken. The relief was instant.

Nobody in my division ever complained about how hard it was to breathe with a mask on again after that.

Point is: just wear the %[email protected]#ing mask. If being uncomfortable and smelling your own breath is the worst thing that happens to you during this pandemic (over 500 thousand people are dead) then you’re pretty %$#@ing lucky.

Still not convinced? This tweet’s for you:

By the numbers

Last week we looked at data from the three nations with the largest single-day increase in cases.

This week we’re going to compare coronavirus numbers to Beyoncé’s career. Why? I don’t know, maybe because it’s still Pride month. Just enjoy it.

  • COVID-19 cases: 10.3 million
  • Beyoncé albums sold: 118 million
  • COVID-19 recoveries:
    5.24 million
  • Beyoncé Grammies: 21
  • COVID-19 deaths: 506K
  • Universes Beyoncé is queen of: ALL

Tweet of the week

What to read

Amazon finds new ways to profit off the pandemic, Facebook pivots away from misinformation, and COVID-19 rebrands itself through mutation…
? If you try to share this article on Facebook in four months it’ll warn you that it’s old.
? This AI can tell if you’re stupid or if you’re a Democrat based on how you talk about COVID-19
? US CDC is giving up on trying to contain COVID-19. (CNBC)
? Here’s what’s going on with the various vaccine trials… not as much as we’d hope at this point. (The Motley Fool)
? Open source COVID data notebooks from IBM? Yes please!
? Amazon wants India to ditch traditional retail and use its shopping solution during the pandemic, because that’s how monopolies work.
WTF? Gilead’s “Remdesivir” branded treatment for COVID-19 costs over $3,000 WITH insurance?? (CNBC)
? Coronavirus is mutating and that’s making it harder to come up with treatments and a vaccine. (SF Gate)
? US expert says we’re unlikely to see herd immunity if anti-vaxxers don’t take their medicine. (CBS News)



We’ve had a TNW writer share something weird they’ve been obsessing over every week during the quarantine, but lockdown is ending in so many places I thought it was a good time to switch things up.

Going forward, we’re going to use this space to talk about the tech that’s getting us through the pandemic. I know I’d be lost without my gaming consoles and guitar rig. I’ll get us started this week with a topic one of our other writers brought up:

Callum Booth (the editor of TNW’s Plugged) wrote a really interesting piece the other day about how he learned to love tablets. Thanks to pandemic-life I’m inclined to agree. I just prefer a different kind of slab.

I have a Wal-Mart Onn branded tablet and a similarly-priced slab from Vankyo. I think they run about $60 US. And if I could, I’d find some even cheaper ones to replace them with.

I’m watching a lot more content (WWE Network and Tiger King, mostly) than I used to when I could go outside and talk to people. I’m viewing content during chores, while I’m working, even when I’m brushing my teeth.

Problem is, I don’t want my laptop anywhere near the kitchen sink when I’m doing dishes (I rage wash) and, during the workday, I need my phone free for interviews and Twitter while I’m working on my laptop.

So I blew the dust off my cheap old tablets.

Now I’m watching Beyoncé videos while the dishes get scrubbed and Joe Exotic TV reruns when I should be coming up with clever one-liners to describe our news links.

And if I accidentally drop my tablet in the disposal or forget that it’s not water proof when I get a Netflix craving in the shower… meh, I’ll just grab another out of the bin.


We’ll be back next Tuesday. And every Tuesday after that until the pandemic ends. Because we’re all in this together.

In the meantime, here’s a few links to help you manage the misinformation as the disease hits its peak:

The Center for Disease Control’s myth-busting section on COVID-19

After Recovering from COVID-19, are you immune?

John Hopkins Univeristy COVID-19 myth vs fact
Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Stay healthy and take care of each other,


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