To Mask or not to Mask while hiking Table Mountain?

masked hiker on table mountain

So I heard Judge Dennis Davis talking about his walks up Table Mountain a couple of time a week. He socially distances himself from his companions, and wears a mask. It's extraordinary to him how many people on bikes or on foot are without masks. Generally of the 25 - 40 age group. They couldn't care less for him or anyone else.

You get arrogant glares back at you, which Davis says regularly happens when he mentions wearing one. As if you are asking for something outrageous.

But what does the science say about wearing masks?

I was amazed to hear (in mid July) that there is not enough definitive research, according to researchers at the Oxford Center for Evidence Based medicine, for them to say that masks make any difference - apart for those health workers exposed on the front line.

Deeper searches reveal this sort of language in Nature Medicine:

Our results indicate that surgical face masks could prevent transmission of human coronaviruses and influenza viruses from symptomatic individuals.

The above was sited in this latest (07 August) research:MASK EFFICACY SURVEY: Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech

So should we wear masks while hiking on Table Mountain?

I'd say yes. Especially when on narrow trails with other hikers passing. At a time when still such little is known about SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, not wearing a mask is a statement of bald, dangerous certainty. To an unscientifically-minded person like myself, the observable basics of spray ballistics suggests that wearing one is common sense. It's also communal care if it saves others from the kind of anxiety moments in history like this can engender.

That being said, virulent viral load is said to be dispersed outdoors. The sun is good. And tending to our microbiomes is probably as vital protection as wearing a mask.

As for the hiker pictured above, Melton Rasimphi Makhumisani, his mask takes 1st prize. Not for the most outrageous mountain attire, though. That goes to the dude I came across on Platteklip earlier this year.

gold shoes on table mountain

The mask's probably safer. And don't get me going on hiking shoes ...!

Davis' remarks on Table Mountain can be found here.

More on what the Oxford people say about the efficacy of masks here: