Some confusing facts:

  • P100 masks plausibly increase the safety of activities by a factor of a hundred, if worn correctly, which can’t be that hard. And my uneducated guess is that worn imperfectly they should be a lot better than a surgical mask at least.
  • P100 masks cost about $60 (or $30 pre-pandemic, if I recall), and a single one can be reused indefinitely
  • Lots of people are greatly constrained in what they do by covid risk.
  • I have seen almost no discussion of or interest in P100s. It took me a bit of searching to even figure out if they were helpful, since the internet was so disinterested in the topic.

What gives?

My P100 is a fairly central tool in my own do-things-while-avoiding-covid strategy. I wear it almost whenever I go inside away from home, which isn’t as rare as it would be if I didn’t have it. I still don’t feel comfortable enough to just spend ages indoors with other people, and it doesn’t help much with eating or talking heavy activities (I find it hard to talk audibly through it, though other people are fine at this). Yet there are lots of other risky activities, and still I rarely see anyone else wearing one, except for my friends, for whom P100s also play a central role. I do see other people taking risks seriously——for instance avoiding flying, or quarantining after flying——yet on a plane, everyone is wearing surgical masks at best. Why don’t people pay $60 and drastically reduce the risks?

Here are some good use cases for wearing a P100:

  • Indoor medical appointments (I have been on a bunch of these during covid, mostly to freeze my eggs)
  • Flying in planes (I did this once)
  • Taking Ubers (I’ve done this a lot)
  • Being in busy waiting rooms (I did this waiting for a train, on board of which I had a roomette)
  • If I had an indoor or public facing job that didn’t involve talking primarily, such as shopping for Instacart or being a kitchenhand, I’d hope to wear a P100, though I might be missing details of such jobs that would make it hard. (I do find my mask uncomfortable to wear for many hours in a row, but I am unusually prone to getting headaches from things touching my head.)
  • Voting in person when unsure if this will mean waiting around indoors with other people (I actually don’t know what this is like, I’m not a US citizen)

(Note that airlines and at least some fertility clinics don’t allow masks with valves in general, because they don’t protect other people. To make a P100 prosocial, wear a surgical mask over the outflow valve. Airlines accept this most but not all of the time, according to anecdotes.)

But anyway, what gives?

Man in respirator [Added Oct 27: also useful for making things, going to Burning Man, or breathing outside in California sometimes]