The great debate continues. Mask opponents
say there is no conclusive scientific evidence that simple cloth masks
can help stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. I heard the same
argument 65 years ago regarding smoking being hazardous to one's health.
I believe the same parallel
research path and scientific/holistic conclusions can be drawn for both.
Here is my holistic perspective.
65 years ago the argument from smoking
proponents was: there is no conclusive scientific evidence that smoking
is hazardous to one's health. Because preliminary evidence showed
otherwise, cigarette manufacturers were required to put warning labels
on cigarette packages and restaurants and airlines were allowed to
establish "No Smoking" sections for those that did believe
second-hand smoke was hazardous. Finally, after 20-30 years of more
scientific study, there was not only conclusive scientific evidence that
smoking was bad for one's health but also second-hand smoke too.
Furthermore, it was also concluded that third-hand smoke, from a mother
to her unborn fetus, was also bad. So, it took 40 years and hundreds of
thousands of lung cancer deaths, until smoking was finally prohibited in
all public places. Do we need to go through the same agony with the
COVID-19 coronavirus? How many first responders are going to die
needlessly? The head doctor of the emergency room in a New York hospital
has already committed suicide from the stress. A retired emergency
medical technician (EMT from Aurora, CO), who came out of retirement to
volunteer in New York, has died. By waiting for conclusive scientific
evidence, how many seniors, those with pre-existing conditions and
already compromised immune system will get COVID-19 and die?
My conclusions are based on my own holistic
research and the scientific research of Jeremy Howard, a distinguished
research scientist at the University of San Francisco. Mr. Howard
teaches online courses in machine learning for fast.ai (deep learning
through artificial intelligence). Mr. Howard, along with 18 other
experts from various disciplines, reviewed the current research on
public mask-wearing to determine if it could slow the spread of the
SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Starting out as a skeptic, he was surprised to
find strong evidence for wearing masks in public to stop the spread of
the COVID-19 coronavirus (Masks
— FAQ for Skeptics).
The most convincing evidence was a laser
light-scattering experiment conducted by the National Institutes of
Health (NIH). They used a laser light to illuminate saliva droplets
sprayed into the air by someone talking, with and without a facemask.
Using a simple cloth mask, the experiment's video showed almost all the
saliva droplets were blocked.
can find the details at:
COVID-19 Droplets Greatly Contained by Masks
Laser Light Scattering Experiment
In another experiment (currently being peer
reviewed), researchers found micro-droplets of saliva fell out of the
air within 60 inches (basis for the 6-foot social distancing rule) of
someone wearing a mask. This expands to 197 inches (or almost 16.5 feet)
without a mask.
Another experiment showed even unfitted
surgical masks were 100% effective in blocking seasonal coronavirus (not
COVID-19) in droplets sprayed during normal breathing.
As many as four recent studies showed
almost half of COVID-19 patients were infected by asymptomatic (those
without symptoms) people. So, even if one has no coronavirus symptoms or
has been recently tested as negative (but not on the day of exposure),
they still could spread COVID-19 if they are unknowingly infected.
In the beginning, the CDC (Center for
Disease Control and Prevention) said there was no reason for the general
public to wear masks and that masks were needed for first responders and
medical workers. Even the U.S. Surgeon General stated that masks are not
effective in preventing the general public from catching the
coronavirus. This was because they feared a shortage of medical masks if
the public started hoarding them. The CDC has since clarified their
first statement, recommending people do wear homemade cloth masks when
out in public but some skeptics still only remember the CDC's first
statement as their argument.
Initial research into mask wearing focused
on the question of how well a mask protects the wearer from COVID-19. It
is true that only N95 respirator masks can truly protect the wearer.
However, based on the recent positive research above for simple cloth
masks and the fact that almost 50% of COVID-19 patients were infected by
asymptomatic people, we need to look at masks as infection source
control rather than personal protective equipment (PPE). The
original WHO and medical thinking was backwards, as is the argument
masks do not prevent COVID-19:
Within two weeks of mandatory mask
requirement, Austria experienced a 90% decrease in COVID-19
The U.S. has had 10 times the number of
COVID-19, while only being 2.5 as large as Japan. But Japan has had
no lockdown, closed no stores because everyone wears a mask.
The Czech Republic’s motto is, “My mask
protects you, your mask protects me” and started requiring facemasks
in mid-March. Total COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic is one of
the lowest in Europe, with only 50 deaths.
research does support a mask preventing an infected person from
spreading the virus. When one changes the focused purpose of a mask, the
negative argument that masks don't work, goes away or is invalid.
A third argument against mask wearing is
that skeptics are waiting for conclusive scientific evidence that mask
wearing is beneficial. The basis for evidence-based medicine is
randomized controlled trials (RCT) or double-blind placebo testing. It
is impossible and otherwise unethical to do this sort of testing during
a pandemic. Would you want to be in the group that got the placebo or
randomly chosen to get COVID-19?
So, the personal question becomes, do you
want to wait another 5-10-20 years (just like smoking) for conclusive
evidence that mask wearing can help stop the spread of the COVID-19
coronavirus? Because of all the accumulating positive evidence that
masks do control the source of the infection (not prevent infection) and
thus the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we have personally chosen
to honor all the first responders, medical personnel, essential workers
who must keep working and respect the need of seniors, those with
pre-existing conditions and already compromised immune systems. It is
small inconvenience and not a sacrifice at all, to help end the COVID-19
pandemic as soon as possible. The best reason is that numerous more
recent studies suggest that if just 70-80% of the public wears a
mask, then COVIID-19 transmission could be stopped. Until a
vaccine is made or a cure for COVID-19 is discovered, the simple act of
wearing a homemade, low-cost facemask is our best pandemic solution.
Unlike a new vaccine, there is no risk, little side effects and is low
cost (sometimes free). We can stop the spread of COVID-19, without a
vaccine, without another lockdown, without shutting down stores and the
economy, if we would stop thinking of our own independent needs and just
think of the other person. We do not have to choose between killing
people or killing the economy. Collectively and holistically, we can
make the world a better place to live.