Terence Corrigan

Corrigan's Commentary

Terence Corrigan is editor of the Times-Gazette.


The ice water challenge

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

One of the primary battle lines in the political war over COVID-19 is masks — do they work? Should government be allowed to mandate wearing them?

Some of the sideline arguments are people who say COVID is not real, a hoax dreamed up by Democrats to bring down Trump. Some say mask mandates are a liberal Democrat scheme to gain control over the masses.

(For people in these camps I have no comment for you,. You will never be convinced. You’re are on a political march and the drummer is insane.)

If you believe the few "experts” like the random proctologist or radiologist from California or talk radio hosts that say masks do not prevent spread of airborne disease, and disbelieve Harvard Medical School, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, etc I cannot. offer you any facts. You are basing your “facts” on political beliefs or what you want to believe.

I too hate wearing a mask. I find it hard to breathe with one on, mostly likely due to 30-plus years of smoking, but I do it because I think it's the responsible thing to do.

Anti-maskers, say that if you are afraid of COVID-19 then you should stay home. In the interest of following the spirit of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment perhaps the anti-maskers should stay home once in awhile. We could switch it off: one week, freedom for the anti-maskers to run around breathing freely, openly coughing and celebrating their freedom to infect other people. The next week is for those who are willing to follow health guidelines.

The sticking point in all of this is when a person's choices, or behavior, threatens the health of others. If a person has leprosy should they be allowed to roam around freely? I think society does have the right, even the obligation to stop someone with a deadly disease from exercising their "right" to spread it. We criminally prosecute people with aids who engage in sexual activity without warning their partners. With just a couple of months left until a vaccine becomes available it seems like people could sacrifice their right to pollute the air with the coronavirus for just a little while.

I've come up with a simple experiment you can do at home to see if cloth masks protect you from COVID-19, an airborne infection. All you need is three 5-gallon buckets filled with ice cold water, a couple of bedsheets, a clothesline and a helper. 


Step one: hang the sheet over the clothesline. You stand on one side of the sheet while your helper goes to other side of the sheet with the bucket of icewater. You stand right next to the sheet and you helper moves back 6 feet. 


Step two: Have your helper throw the bucket of water at you. Did the sheet interfere with the water, keeping you mostly dry? You now have proof that cloth will provide you with protection from an airborne assault.

Step three: Hang a dry sheet on the clothesline. Have your helper stand back about six feet from the sheet. You take the bucket of ice water right next to the sheet and throw it at your helper. You’ll see that your helper does not get wet.


Step four: Now, omit the sheet and have your helper throw the bucket of ice water at you. Did you get wet? 


This will test the theory than a fabric mask can prevent at least some of the spread of a virus.

(Note: this test is most convincing when conducted in subzero weather.)