The Great Debate of 2020 Continues

A commentary on masking

The Washington Post recently had an article titled, Unlike the United States, more and more countries are making masks mandatory. The article says that France has made face coverings mandatory in all public enclosed spaces, and England is set to begin enforcing new rules that make masks compulsory inside supermarkets and other shops. Many cities across Canada are implementing mandatory mask bylaws. Many US states require mandatory masks in public spaces.

Along with those mandatory masking laws, I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) am reading more and more reports of “covid mask bullying” (#bullying #antibullying).  In a Washington Post article,  a lady wearing a black mask is described who ambushed a California couple with a can of mace, scolding them for not wearing face masks and eating at the Dog Park. Another article by the Sun Sentinel describes a Walmart shopper who was charged with pulling a gun during mask dispute.  Newsweek reports on a Florida man, who wasn’t wearing a face mask,  who assaults a Walmart staff because he was denied entry into the store. Every day there seems to be a new article describing “covid mask bullying.”

The problem is the push for masking is dividing people into two groups: Those who feel safe when they, and those around them, are wearing masks, and those who want the freedom to choose. In my last post, I questioned the studies supporting masking. The data is pretty clear when it comes to physical distancing and frequent hand washing. They do reduce transmission. For masking, the data is not so clear. I wondered if I was wrong, so I set out to find definitive proof that masking is effective. I looked only at the most recent studies (June 2020 or later) and I only looked at the research papers themselves as opposed to the news article discussing them. News Media can misinform and mislead because of biases.

One study I looked at was updated June 15, 2020. It said in its conclusions:

Societal norms and government policies supporting the wearing of masks by the public, as well as international travel controls, are independently associated with lower per-capita mortality from COVID-19.

That sounds convincing, but then in its background it says:

There is wide variation between countries in per-capita mortality from COVID-19…Determinants of this variation are not fully understood.

I discussed in my last post the problems with comparing countries as every country uses different criteria for determining a covid death. This study’s background information seems to agree with me. For that reason, this study is not convincing.

In another study, dated August 2020, it says

The study suggests that community mask use by well people could be beneficial, particularly for COVID-19, where transmission may be pre-symptomatic.

There is one of those words again: ‘Could.’  That means possibly or might. That is not convincing. Moreover, at the bottom of the paper is a heading: Conflict of Interest. It says the researcher has received funding from 3M, an American multinational conglomerate corporation, more than 10 years prior for face mask research. For me, that makes the research bias and unreliable.

In yet another study published in June, it says:

In summary, our modelling analyses provide support for the immediate, universal adoption of face masks by the public.

It may provide support, but it hasn’t provided proof. Furthermore, this study uses mathematical modeling, a process of developing a mathematical model. A mathematical model is a description of a system using mathematical concepts and language.  According to Wikipedia, the complexity of a mathematical model involves “a trade-off between simplicity and accuracy of the model… While added complexity usually improves the realism of a model, it can make the model difficult to understand and analyze, and can also pose computational problems, including numerical instability.”  For me, that makes this study unconvincing.

In an article by Brigham Young University updated July 25, 2020 and titled, Making sense of the research on COVID-19 and masks, it says:

Researchers from hospitals, universities, the private sector, and government agencies have concluded that masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop COVID-19 and accelerate the economic recovery. There is universal agreement, however, that masking alone will not be enough to stop the pandemic. Masking is most effective when combined with physical distancing, frequent hand washing, rapid testing, and coordinated contact tracing.

There is that word again: ‘Could.’  That means possibly or might. That is not convincing.

Furthermore, in a Health Cloud article titled, Are Statistics Reliable? it says most people think that statistics are truth. When you see a study that quotes a percentage in its findings, which many masking studies do, it is natural to believe it to be accurate. The truth is, statistics can be very misleading and are easily manipulated. Here is a simple example. Being bald increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 70%! The risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age, and so does baldness.  However; this does not mean that baldness and cardiovascular disease are linked. That’s misleading!

I set out to find proof that masking works, yet, I am still no more convinced as I was before starting this post.  Studies saying masking may or could save lives simply are not convincing, and have no definitive proof. Mandating something without the proof that it is effective, especially when causing ‘covid mask bullying’  is wrong, plus it gives people a false sense of security. Enforcing physical distancing and insisting on hands washing makes sense because it has been shown to be effective. Any policy that pits people against one another, that is, those who feel safe when they and those around them are wearing masks, and those who want the freedom to choose should not be mandated.  It only escalates tensions between the two groups and causes ‘covid mask bullying.’

Before accusing me of being a conspiracy theorist, understand that I’m not saying masks fail to protect us. Of course they provide some protection since they are barrier to droplets released from someone. There is not enough convincing evidence that face mask decrease transmission to force people to wear them. Wearing a mask should be an individual’s choice.

Author: Sommer season all year

I am a retired school teacher. I taught high school for 35 years.

One thought on “The Great Debate of 2020 Continues”

Comments are closed.