Yesterday we hosted an EA dinner, the first largeish (~22 people) gathering inside our house since before the pandemic. It went well, and it was really good to see people. I wanted to write a bit about what sort of precautions we took for covid.

  • Open window in the main area with a fan pointing out. Windows partly open in other parts of the house, trying to balance the airflow so as much air as possible traveled past the guests. I preheated the house earlier in the day, and during the event had the heat on maximum. It was a bit chilly near the end, but still tolerable.

  • Air purifier cubes in each room.

    In the main area, which isn't a good fit for one, I made a bit of a tunnel above the bookcase.

  • Masks on, except when eating. People were good about this; I didn't see people hanging out with mask off and a plate but not eating.

  • Rapid testing at the door ($7/person). We lined up a volunteer to handle this, because Julia was dealing with hosting and I was watching the kids upstairs. With each test they wrote down the person's name, the time where it needed to be read and their cellphone number. When each test had been sitting for 15 minutes, we texted the person the result. We asked people not to take their mask off to eat until they had their results. If any tests had been positive, we would have informed the group. False positive rate is ~0.05%. We are keeping the cell phone numbers for a few days, so we will be able to text everyone if anyone later notifies us they have it.

  • We told people vaccination was required, though not boosters. We intended to check vaccination cards (accepting photos) at the door, but forgot. If I was organizing some thing like this a few weeks from now, when there has been more time for people to get boosters, I might require them.

  • We considered requiring masks to be surgical or better (offering free ones) but decided not to. I think this probably would have been worth doing, except that we added several of these precautions after announcing the gathering, and it felt like too much to add another one.

  • Occasional crowd management, encouraging people to move from denser spaces to emptier ones

New Comment
7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

One thing I fail to understand how there are so many mask mandates in the US but little care about mask quality. If you go through the trouble of masking, why not at least maximize the effect?

Mask mandates are generally about reducing how much risk people pose to those around them. Microcovid has:

  • No mask: baseline
  • Bad cloth: 1/2
  • Good cloth: 1/3
  • Surgical: 1/4
  • N95 etc: 1/6
  • Sealed N95 etc: 1/16

Since getting a good seal is quite hard, the benefit of better masks moves you from 1/2-1/3 for cloth to 1/6 for N95 etc at best.

In practice, places here that care about enforcing a certain quality of mask distribute free surgical masks, which is quite cheap and gets you most of the benefit.

I don't think most non-rationalists understand that sealing is hard. I would expect that kind of person who bikes with a mask and no helmet to wear being pro-science to wear the "most scientific" mask. Culturally, that kind of behavior is hard for me to understand.

As far as rationalist circles go, there was mask innovation in the last year. feels more comfortable to me then the FFP2 (N95 equivalent) I wore before and provides FFP3 (N99 equivalent) of protection. It's also designed to actually fit tightly.

I've researched FFP2 masks before the pandemic for working in a dusty environment and the 3M design linked above fits better than anything else I found on the market.

BTW that foldable design makes the respirator fit in a pocket, which can be a big plus.

I see no mention of humidity controls. With the way you set up airflow, if you got chilly, it is likely the humidity went lower than 40%. This is not recommended as the sinus membranes dry out and the protection against viral infection is much reduced.

Low humidity isn't ideal, but is still better than low ventilation given that we have to choose. Ex: outside is safer than well-humidified inside.

Also, don't masks help with nasal humidity?