The Asian Way: Let’s Learn from Others and Mask Ourselves

Like Jeremy Jim I joined the Marines at age 17. We’d both go through officer boot camp during the summer breaks while in college. This was at Quantico, Virginia. My first summer there I was out at Camp Upshur where I spent six weeks living in a Quonset hut. I was part of a group of guys from the Boston area who made up about a third of those assigned to that hut. Another third came from Mississippi. We all got along quite well but I had to admit my group and the Mississippi candidates had a hard time understanding each other’s patois.

Entering the Quonset hut from the front for the first time my eyes were immediately drawn to a quite large white sign on the wall over the rear door. Large block black letters spelled out seven words:

”Prior Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

I think of those words when I see our response to today’s crises with the virus.

I would return for my second six weeks at Quantico during the summer between my junior and senior year. This time we were in a building on Main Side. All those with me had already completed the first six weeks. Even so, we started with around fifty guys and ended up with a little over twenty completing the course. The lieutenant in charge of our training was Joseph Waters. He was hard and mean. At that time the song “Waterloo” was popular. We used the tune to sing, “When will you meet your Waters Joe, everybody got a date, etc”

I was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation, sent back to Quantico for another six months, and after a short stint at Camp Lejeune found myself assigned to Marine Air Group 11 stationed at Naval Air Station Atsugi located not too far from Tokyo. I’d spend 13 months in Japan and the Far East.

That’s a very long way to get to my point. I wasn’t in Japan too long when I noticed Japanese people doing things that I never saw anyone in America doing. Some, at times a lot, of them wore white masks walking outside. Inquiring about it I learned that the masks were worn by people who had colds who did not want to infect others. The Japanese people lived in such close confinement it was in everyone’s interest to  respect the others by limiting the spread of their germs

We’ve  seen photos of people in Asia during this time. The use of masks is ubiquitous. We’ve also learned that despite the massive outbreak in Wuhan  China has brought the number of new cases down to near zero. Japan, Singapore, and other Asian countries  also seems to be limiting cases. Doesn’t it make sense that wearing a mask both prevents a person who has the virus from contaminating the air and helps prevents a person without the virus from catching it

An opinion article in the Boston Globe on March 19 advocates that this be done. Another article in The NY Times notes how the Asian countries have done remarkably better than Europe and the US wondering whether it is the result of living in “open, affluent democracies where people are used to free movement . . . .”

Doctor Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization credits the low Asian outbreak numbers with testing,  contact tracing and isolation pointing to the effectiveness of those measures during the Ebola outbreak. He noted a war was ongoing and they were still tracking 25,000 contacts. All these suggestions are good but are they overlooking the most simple explanation?

There’s a Sherlock Holmes story where the answer to the mystery was open and obvious but no one saw it. Isn’t the answer, or at least one of the major answers, to slowing the spread of the virus that we copy the Asians and wear masks whenever we go outside.

Were I in a position of power to do so, I’d prohibit any person going outside without a mask. You say we have a shortage of them. That’s not true. We can make our own. Let’s start doing it.






22 thoughts on “The Asian Way: Let’s Learn from Others and Mask Ourselves

  1. Wa-llahi! Imagine a bank lobby full of people wearing masks. Carpet diem! Counter-jumpers will be vaulting into pharmacies nationwide. Masks mean license. How will society adapt to widespread anonymity?

    1. Khalid:

      It’s not a joke. I made a mask for myself to go out and buy a bottle of bourbon. I was told if I walked into the store with that mask the store owner would be justified in shooting me as a holdup man. I looked in the mirror and agreed. The bourbon will have to wait.

  2. It’s a security issue, eh? Masks lend mightily to the carnival atmosphere of prison riots. Maybe, you’re on to something.

    1. Khalid:

      I don’t understand the reluctance of American, or for that matter all people outside of western Asia, to wear masks. Although I note in the Muslim world the women go around well masked at times so they might be the only ones who survive in the Middle East.

  3. Think: I support all the recommendations from the President and CDC. The advice of the experts. I just ask we objectively consider and weigh the adverse effects (health, socio-economic) of their recommendations. Study.

    MASKS: Vice President Pence just said we’ve ordered “hundreds of millions of n95 masks for health care workers.” These are the only masks that prevent viral-bacterial transmissions. The surgical masks and their substitutes prevent merely droplet transmissions, and only if worn and handled appropriately.

    If you required all adults (say 250 million Americans) to wear surgical masks whenever outside (say 4 times a week for groceries, gas, drug store, etc.) then you’d need a billion masks a week . . . . the masks are not reusable. To order Americans to wear masks is an order incapable of being complied with. You say people can make their own masks. How effective are they? Who has tested them?

    RECREATION: And yes, the gyms, recreational facilities and libraries I used to frequent are now CLOSED or their hours truncated. I’m not necessarily against these closures. I just ask we objectively assess the adverse effect on mental health and physical health caused by these closures. The adverse effects of putting millions out of work should also be assessed.

    HOPE: The hope is in the anti-malarials, chloroquine, derived from the bark of cinchona tree, and in developing a vaccine, and in this scourge passing within a few weeks. After an accident, the speed limit is sometimes temporarily reduced; let’s hope these restrictive measures are merely temporary, too.

    JOY: The joy is in living and loving and playing and thinking and debating and learning and educating and doing our best to overcome, and supporting our president and vice president, AND FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT, ESPECIALLY AGAINST LIBERALS.

    1. William – You support the experts. Here’s what one says: “Please can someone show this to the government? As some of us have been saying for over a week LOCKDOWN now. Massive testing, isolate all cases and contacts. Stay inside, support the vulnerable.
      What do you not get @CMO_England @uksciencechief?”

    2. “If you required all adults (say 250 million Americans) to wear surgical masks whenever outside (say 4 times a week for groceries, gas, drug store, etc.) then you’d need a billion masks a week . . . . the masks are not reusable. To order Americans to wear masks is an order incapable of being complied with. You say people can make their own masks. How effective are they? Who has tested them?”

      So 250 million Americans will go out four times a week and get gas and food and to the drug store and will wear masks that are not reusable. Where do you come up with this shit? I’m sure I can make a strong case that if you stub your toe you will eventually get brain damage. I recommend that you go out and get yourself a big bottle of your favorite adult beverage and drain it.

      1. Honest:

        You know I did stub my toe a few weeks ago. Some would suggest your mentioning the relationship between stubbing the toe and brain damage may be proven by some of my posts recently.

        I agree with you. Some responses make no sense.

    3. By the way, Bill. There are 126 million people in Japan and as of today they have recorded 36 deaths.

  4. Trump continues to pander to the base by opening his daily news conference by calling it the “Chinese virus.” He needs to step up his game by inviting economic experts to the daily briefing. We need a much clearer picture of the likely damage to the economy.

  5. We don’t want to become a germo-phobic society. Part of the joy of life is seeing human faces, human interaction.
    We are in a crises, and in the short term are taking very drastic steps. But in the long term, we want to return to normal social functioning.
    Yes, we could save lives annually if everyone wore masks. So, too, if we lowered the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, if we banned cigarettes and alcohol, if we mandated daily exercise, if we took guns away from everyone, if we banned certain sports, skiing, scuba diving . . .think of all the lives we’d save by making everyone’s life miserable. If we banned sex, they’d be no sexually transmitted diseases. If we banned contact sports, tree climbing, ladder climbing, think of all the broken bones we’d prevent.

    No, I wouldn’t mandate everyone wear masks. I’d follow the CDC’s advice; masks for the infected and health care workers.

    2. Masks give a false sense of security: They don’t prevent transmission through the eyes. It the wearer touches the front of the mask, droplets, bacteria and virus can be transferred to his skin, and then transmitted to the face or other surfaces. Only the fine mesh masks prevent transmissions of viruses and bacteria. Surgical Masks prevent droplets only. Both are effective, if only used properly and disposed properly.

    3. 2009 Swine Flu: “60.8 million cases, 274,000 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths (0.02% case fatality rate) in the United States due to the virus.” Even if coronavirus is ten times more lethal, expect 120,000 deaths. And for this, we shut down society, we shut down the economy? Compare that projected 120,000 with the annual 70,000 drug deaths. Think about it. We socially and economically bankrupt America over a potential 100,000 viral deaths, and spend a relative pittance to prevent 70,000 annual drug overdose deaths.
    The virus kills mainly the elderly. Drugs mainly the young.

    4. Who is going to calculate the mental health and physical health costs (via stress and social isolation which themselves cause physical illnesses) of becoming a completely germo-phobic society? Of shutting down gyms, skating rinks and other recreational and social activities.

    5. Should we ban dating? Maybe that’s why Japan has such a low birth rate. All those pretty faces are unnecessarily hidden behind masks.

    1. You bring up and debunk points that no one has suggested. Were you the bailiff at the Nuremberg Trials? You are as joyless as a Japanese soldier being marched out of a cave on Guam twenty years after the war.

      Masks give a false sense of security? Kind of like posting on the internet.

    2. Bill:

      1. We do lower the speed limit to 20 mph when circumstances warrant. The same with banning alcohol and cigarettes. During a crises like this requiring the wearing of masks seems an reasonable and appropriate response. You other examples likewise do not reflect the situation we are in.

      2. Obviously if you wear a mask you will also wear a type of eye wear that would give you protection. You also don’t touch the areas that may have captured the virus. Studies have shown that certain materials are almost as effective as surgical masks.

      3. I’m glad you know so much more than the experts who think otherwise. Your “what’s 120,000 deaths” seems a little out of whack. Italy with one fifth of US population has over 4,000 deaths with 627 coming in the most recent report. It has taken more stringent measures to isolate the population than we have in this country. We’re a couple of weeks behind Italy. It looks like Italy alone will surpass the total world deaths from swine flue.

      4. No one is talking about making this a germo-phobic society. We’re trying to stop a pandemic. The spread of the disease is from person to person. The idea is if we separate then the chances that it won’t be spread increase. You suggest there going to be some mental health and physical health problems by doing this. Does that mean you suggest we go on as usual? Of course, no one is stopping you in Massachusetts from your recreational or social activities if you want to engage in the

  6. It is imperative to call a spade a spade. It is the Chinese virus. Russia, China and Iran are trafficking in the smear that the U S Army started the virus . Just mouthing Russian talking points doesn’t cut it. Clarity is essential. Don’t be dupes of Putin, Xi or Rouhani. The American military had nothing to do with this disease or it’s spread. It originated in China not Canada. The Reds attempt to dispirit the nation should be denounced.

    1. More specifically, we read, the likely vector, the likely source, is the Wuhan food markets where wild animals (ex. bats) are mixed with traditional foods for sale.

      No one doubts that the first cases were in China and Chinese scientists were the first to isolate and identify CoVid-19 early in January 2020. That’s why I’d call it the 2020 Coronavirus; when first identified. (First case was late December, as I understand it.)

    2. NC:

      Chinese doctors are now in Italy helping out the Italians. If China objects to calling it the Chinese virus it seems a simple thing not to call it that. Who knows what help we will need from China? Naming it really doesn’t change the state of affairs. In fat, the Spanish Virus of 1918 was misnamed since it did not originate in Spain.

      What do you mean clarity. If we call it Covid-19 or the coronavirus isn’t that clarity.

  7. I watch the bi-monthly sumo tournament on NHK TV. Year round there are always quite a few people in the crowd wearing masks. A friend spent many years in Japan and went to the sumo all the time. I asked if everyone in Japan were germaphobes. He said no and pointed out that the people with the masks were almost all sick with colds or something that made them feel ill. So the sick people were the first line of defense against disease.

    I’m a contractor and have lots of masks, three respirators and about fifty pairs of surgical gloves. I use them all the time.

    1. Honest:

      The wearing of masks is something I hope to encourage here in America. I think it is going to be a hard sell. I hope at least you with all those masks are wearing them when interacting with other people. Don’t tell anyone about those respirators because they may come and take them from you – Governor Cuomo is looking for them everywhere.

      1. I think you are confusing respirators with ventilators. If I had any ventilators I would have given them to my local hospital.

      2. Cultural norms vary by geographic location. Wearing a mask is illegal in Florida:

        “876.12 Wearing mask, hood, or other device on public way.—No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be or appear upon any lane, walk, alley, street, road, highway, or other public way in this state.
        History.—s. 2, ch. 26542, 1951.”

        Why is this? Some say because of Florida’s experience with the KKK using anonymity provided by masks and hoods while terrorizing segments of the Florida population.

      3. Wa-llahi! You mean President Cuomo? If the NY Guv tossed his hat in the ring, it would be a landslide. What a difference between him, and, Glorious Leader! Cuomo’s a mensch. Trump not so much. Maybe, pinche verga hoto cagon is a better description of him.

        1. Khalid:

          I suggested that Joe Biden drop out and give the reigns to Cuomo. Received a lot of negatives saying Cuomo is not all he is cracked up to be. I don’t know much about him but he seems on the level. I sure would like it if Trump had briefings like he gives – but that’s impossible because Trump is all about himself and lies.

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