Title text: Haunted Halloween masks from a mysterious costume shop that turn you evil and grow into your skin score a surprisingly high 80% filtration efficiency in R. L. Stine-sponsored NIOSH tests.
This comic is a line from top to bottom explaining how good different types of masks are at preventing respiratory virus transmission. As with many comics in 2020, it is a reference to the 2020 pandemic of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, a virus that primarily transmits through air droplets expelled from the human nose and mouth. This comic may have been inspired from a Polygon article published on May 15th.
Types of masks
- Zorro/Lone Ranger: A strip of cloth around the eye-level. Since it does not cover the mouth and nose, the main ways the virus leaves the body to infect others, or the mouth, nose and eyes, the main ways it enters the body, it is ineffective and no better than wearing no mask at all.
- Batman: Batman's iconic headgear has gone through many revisions, and consists either of a simple cloth cowl or a helmet and visor. Does not cover the mouth, but may cover the nose. However, the mask only covers the top part of the face, i.e., not the mouth or nostrils. This mask might be slightly more effective than the Lone Ranger style mask due to the intimidation effect keeping other people back, and depending on its length, it might help direct air that the wearer breathes out down instead of towards others' faces, which would reduce the risk of spreading any respiratory diseases that the wearer may be infected with.
- Theater masks (Sock and buskin): Traditionally used as a symbol of performance theater since ancient Greece. The eye and mouth holes are often open, thus exposing the wearer.
- Skincare (facial mask): A layer of mud or moisturizer. By nature, it does not cover the mouth or nostrils, but it may keep the wearer from touching their face and is usually worn by someone sitting in a chair or lying back on a bed, not out getting in other people's personal space.
- Scarecrow: A burlap sack. While it provides some cover to the mouth and nose, it is heavily porous. This could also refer to the Scarecrow, a DC Comics villain. If so, the mask would probably be much more effective than an ordinary burlap sack, as that character uses airborne drugs as weapons, and would have to have very good filter ability to protect himself.
- Guy Fawkes mask: A plastic mask that is a stylized depiction of Guy Fawkes (designed by David Lloyd for the comic book V for Vendetta and made popular by its movie adaptation and subsequent adoption by the Anonymous movement). Most Guy Fawkes masks provide small holes in the front for comfort, thus facilitating spread of the virus.
- Cloth: A cloth mask that blocks most large particles, like virus-laden saliva. To be most effective, it must cover nose as well as the mouth. These are much cheaper than N95 masks, and can be reused by washing. Not all cloth masks are created equal, some designs and materials are more effective than others at holding back contagious particles, but Randall lists them under "Effective" on the whole. They are relatively effective at preventing the wearer from infecting others, but are less effective at protecting the wearer from being infected by others, because droplets leaving the body are large enough to block, but small enough to get through cloth after evaporation. The felt-like nonwoven fabric of surgical masks blocks more droplets and aerosols than the same thickness of knit or woven fabric.
- Spiderman[sic]: A full face covering of spandex-like material (Spider-Man comics rarely if ever specify what material Spider-Man makes his costume from). Would block most virus particles. (The correct spelling is "Spider-Man", with a hyphen, and "Man" capitalized.)
- N95: A standard air filtration mask, commonly used in industry but also used in healthcare. The name "N95" signals that it is not resistant to oil, but successfully filters 95% of airborne particles. It has proven to be one of the more successful masks during the 2020 pandemic. N95 masks usually include non-woven filtration material, which while often stiff like cardstock, is more similar to the felt-like fabric of surgical masks than to woven cloth. N95 masks can filter particles much smaller than the gaps between layers and strands in the fabric.
- SCUBA: A Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Most SCUBA equipment used an open-circuit design allowing exhaled air to vent to the atmosphere. Underwater, this would not be a threat to other divers who would also be breathing air from their tanks. However, on land a typical SCUBA regulator would expose others to virus particles. Closed-circuit SCUBA equipment recirculates the user’s gas supply but they still contain a means of venting extra gas into the atmosphere. Neither system contains expiratory HEPA filters making both ineffective at preventing virus transmission. That all said, SCUBA equipment still covers the face and nose, rather than directly exposing others to unshielded breathing and coughing.
- Vader: Reference to one of the main antagonists in Star Wars, in which he wears a suit of armor with a built-in rebreather. Similar to SCUBA gear, it circulates air back to the user, in order to defend against the spread of the virus to the wearer. The question of whether Vader's mask would protect against COVID was implicitly referenced again in 2441: IMDb Vaccines.
- Mysterio: Reference to one of the antagonists in Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man as part of the Sinister Six. He wears a glass helmet. In the comics Mysterio often uses mind-altering chemicals, and his suit is designed to shield himself from his own weapons. By the same design, it would shield himself and others from the spread of viral infection.
Haunted Halloween Masks: The title text is a reference to The Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine, a book in the Goosebumps series. The mask transforms the wearer into a monster, with an open (uncovered) nose and mouth. The test results claim that the wearer is still somehow substantially protected against inhaling virus particles, but this may be a fraudulent test result due to pressure from the sponsor of the test, R. L. Stine, to get more people to wear such masks; it is also possible that the supernatural effects somehow include blocking virus particles, as parasites generally benefit from keeping their hosts alive and healthy, at least in the short term. NIOSH refers to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Position on chart
- [With 0% at the top position of the top arrow and 100% effective at the position of the bottom arrow the masks effectiveness would be approximately as follows:]
- [02%] Zorro/Lone Ranger
- [03%] Batman
- [07%] Theater
- [10%] Skincare
- [15%] Scarecrow
- [18%] Guy Fawkes
- [48%] Cloth
- [52%] Spider-Man
- [68%] N95
- [71%] Scuba
- [80%] Vader
- [90%] Mysterio
- [A chart is shown with a title and explanation at the top:]
- By effectiveness at preventing respiratory virus transmission
- [The chart consist of a vertical line going top to bottom with arrows at both ends. There are labels at the top, aorund the middle and at the bottom:]
- Not effective.
- Extremely Effective
- [Along the line there are 12 bullets. From each bullet there goes a line (often with one or two turns) to a depiction of a type of mask. Each mask type is labeled. The first six masks are all close to the top, the last only halfway down to the middle of the line. The next two are right around the middle, then two are halfway towards the bottom from there and the final two are close to the bottom, with the last very close to the botom. From top to bottom:]
- Zorro/Lone Ranger
- Guy Fawkes
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