Unmasked

You’d think that with something as serious as a pandemic, people would set aside politics. But no: this disease has been politicized from the get-go. Politicians first screeched about common sense travel restrictions; then screeched about the name; then enacted poorly thought-through measures and applied them in a political manner. When we see politicians criticize some protests as spreading the virus, but encourage others, you know they’re concerned more about politics than public health. News flash: communicable diseases don’t check ideologies before spreading.

Add to this a press complicit in promoting political agenda, and it’s easy to be cynical about the whole thing. That lasts until you get it, or know someone who does, and is pretty well gone when you know someone who died from it. This stuff is real, it does kill, and just because some are playing stupid political games with it doesn’t mean it’s wise to take a contrarian position. Even a blind hog can find an acorn.

In particular, I’m thinking about masks. Why that’s become a political issue is beyond me. The theory behind masks is simple: everyone produces droplets from their nose and mouth, and some viruses and bacteria can hitch a ride on them. That’s what surgical masks stop, and why doctors wear them, to help keep nasties out of wounds. If you want a cite for how this relates to COVID-19, here’s one from the Mayo Clinic. That’s the same reasoning behind wearing masks now, especially since the discovery of asymptomatic and mild cases. Someone can be contagious and not know they’re ill. It was asymptomatic and mild cases that convinced the CDC to reverse their original recommendations against mask wearing by the general public. You have to wear masks properly for them to work, and if you don’t put them on and off properly, you can increase your risk of contracting the disease, plus you must wash reusable masks often or risk contracting some other nasty. Yet the trade-off of wearing a mask outweighs the drawbacks.

You’ll notice there is zero politics in the above paragraph. It’s a straightforward explanation of the theory behind wearing masks. You may agree or disagree with the reasoning, but you’ll find no politics at all.

Yet that is precisely what’s happened. I’ve seen otherwise rational people claim there is no evidence that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Except it’s found in those droplets that come out of the nose and mouth, and that’s what surgical masks are supposed to stop. Masks won’t completely halt the spread, but it has the potential for putting a big dent in it. Were it not for mask orders by politicians exercising questionable authority, I think some of the same ones panning masks would be wearing them now.

The legality of governments and officials issuing mask orders and many of the things we’ve seen is at times questionable, but that’s neither here nor there. Just because some tin-pot wannabee dictators order masks wearing doesn’t automatically make masks a bad idea. Nor is wearing a mask for sound reasons an act of submission. Just because some wear them for bad reasons doesn’t mean you can’t wear them for good ones.

Unfortunately, this sort of reaction is exactly what we’re seeing, and it’s to the point where it resembles the anti-vaccination crowd. Present the exact same arguments as I have above, and you’ll be met with dismissal and even hostility. I doubt it will do any good to mention studies that show they do help reduce the transmission of the disease (yes, such studies already exist, here’s examination of an incident in Missouri; here’s one in JAMA; then there’s this one ) any more than it does to cite studies to anti-vaxxers. Their minds are made up on this, and they’re not about to budge.

Exactly why, I don’t know, because it requires one to dismiss the entire purpose of surgical masks and how they work. This isn’t like some kind of “green” policy that turns out to be red through and through. Is it because not wearing a mask is a type of virtue signaling? Maybe, and I’ve seen at least one anti-masker article that suggests it might. Yet virtue signaling is a poor reason to do anything, much less anything with public health ramifications. It’s certainly a poor thing to make into a political statement.

Want to make a political statement, do so with caps or buttons or something. But if you must do such, be smart about it and make it something without public health issues. Talk to your doctor (because some people can’t wear masks), do an unbiased examination of the pros and cons, and think for yourself. And know that if you decide to wear a mask and it ticks somebody off, they’re mostly upset that you’re not submitting to them.

If you wear a mask, below are some links to how to do so properly:

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Use of Masks to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

World Health Organization: Corona Disease (COVID-19) Advice for the Public: When and How to Use Masks

Just posting a link to the CDC and WHO will set off some folks, but I’ve never been good at virtue signaling, anyway.