We’re not wearing masks, and despite what you may have heard, including from some of our most trusted medical authorities, you absolutely should be
In this episode of Everything Should Be Better, Tristin Hopper explains how medical authorities kinda lied about why you shouldn’t put on a mask to fight COVID-19.
Despite being right next to China (and actually being considered a part of China if you’re these guys), Taiwan has done fantastic in the whole COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 1, the country only has about 300 cases. So despite having 23 million people, Taiwan counts fewer overall COVID-19 patients than Vancouver.
As Canadians - We’re not wearing masks, and despite what you may have heard, including from some of our most trusted medical authorities, you absolutely should be.
Now to be clear; there’s a whole bunch of non-mask reasons why Taiwan is in such good shape. For one thing, they were really aggressive at restricting travel from China early on. But public masking has always been a major component of Taiwan’s pandemic response plan: The minute they got word of yet another new disease brewing in mainland China, Taiwanese authorities immediately ordered emergency production of 100 million masks per day.
Doctors, nurses, delivery drivers, store clerks: Everyone has all the masks they need, and public health campaigns to teach them how to mask properly.
As for us: Western public health authorities aren’t just failing to advise people to wear masks. They’re actively telling us not to do it.
This is the World Health Organization saying that you “do not need to wear a mask.” And here’s a particularly regrettable Tweet from the U.S. Surgeon General: Masks are “are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching coronavirus.” As I’m going to cover in a bit, history is not going to look kindly on these messages.
However, there is one very good reason why you probably shouldn’t be wearing a medical-grade mask: A health worker needs it more than you.
It turns out the government didn’t have nearly enough of a mask stockpile on hand for this pandemic, so doctors and nurses are already being told to reuse their old N95 masks. And if they run out, we’re going to have frontline medical staff doing battle against a deadly disease with tampons and shoe covers over their face.
(This is probably a good place to mention that the U.S. and Canada also both sent several tonnes of medical masks to China a month ago.)
So one of these on your face, means one less on a doctor’s face: And we’re screwed if she gets the COVID.
But medical authorities are dead wrong to say that masking doesn’t help. It absolutely helps: Covering up your filthy mouth hole to limit the spread of disease isn’t just common sense, it’s backed by good science.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States calculated in 2009 that if just 10% of people sported a mask during a flu pandemic, cases could still go down by one fifth. Here’s 2008 Dutch study which found that even if your mask doesn’t fit properly, if you’re in the midst of a pandemic the result is still going to be fewer sick and dead people. Here’s a 2003 study where they got test subjects to tie t-shirts around their faces and yeah, it was better than nothing.
Now let’s take a closer look at the World Health Organization’s wording: If you do not have symptoms … you do not need to wear a mask.
This is all fine and good for a disease like smallpox or Ebola: In those cases you aren’t contagious unless you’re already showing symptoms. But the singular reason why COVID-19 is so deadly is because it infects a whole bunch of people who do not know they’re sick. You or I could have the COVID right now, with every single breath out of our mouths being filled with deadly viruses, and we won’t have so much as a fever.
So the WHO is correctly telling people: “Watch out, because you might be carrying this virus even if you don’t have symptoms.” Simultaneously, they’re also telling people “oh, but if you’re not showing symptoms, you don’t have to wear a mask.”
Another anti-masking argument that keeps coming up is that it gives people a “false sense of security” and causes them to touch their face more. I’m sure they’re basing that on a whole pile of peer-reviewed data and not just conjecture, right?
Yes, that’s right. There’s no real data to show that the downsides of masking outweigh the benefits; the WHO just kind of assumed it did. And hey: Newsflash, there’s a whole bunch of things we do for our health that can backfire if you don’t do it correctly. You can still get AIDS if you’re using a condom. You can still get the flu if you get the flu shot. You can still die in a car crash even if you put on your seatbelt. In all those cases, we just tell people to use the technology with caution: We don’t tell people not to do it because it might give them a “false sense of security.”
And let’s be clear: It takes some training to wear a mask. If you’re not donning and doffing it correctly, while also keeping your hands clean, you’re going to get just as sick. Which is why, if we can return to Taiwan for a second, they have this crazy public health policy called “teach people how to wear masks.”
Okay, so maybe I’ve convinced you to wear a mask. But we’re back again to the problem about a lack of supply. The answer is: You make your own. The plans already exist: Here’s a proactive Indiana health authority who released guidelines on how to sew washable, CDC-compliant face masks.
There are thousands of Canadians trapped at home right now with working sewing machines and stores of fabric who are desperate to help. You put these bubbies on a war footing and we could have masks on every single Canadian in a matter of weeks.
That’s what the Czech Republic did, and that’s part of why you don’t hear the words “Czech Republic” all that often when we’re talking about coronavirus deaths. But in Canada and the US authorities just outright dismissed masking as something that only Asian countries can do.
So the good news is: Hey, there’s this super cheap and easy way to combat this horrible disease ruining everything. The bad news is that a lot of trusted authorities kinda sorta lied to you about why you shouldn’t be doing it.
Read the full article in the NATIONAL POST - https://nationalpost.com/news/despite-what-you-may-have-heard-you-should-wear-a-mask-for-covid-19