by Steve Golden —
In light of the statewide mask mandate put forth by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (rejected by 90 out of 105 counties) and the subsequent adoption of a modified version by my home county of Shawnee—complete with a 311 line to rat out your neighbors and a $2500.00 fine attached for not complying!—I thought it appropriate to share a list of facts and talking points on masks and COVID-19 in general. As state officials across the country issue a second wave of shutdown orders, it’s important that we engage our leaders respectfully, armed with facts. I urge you to share these facts/data that don’t fit the prevailing narrative with political leaders and anyone who will listen.
Rising Case Numbers and Government Lockdowns
- Rising case counts aren’t a reason to panic. There is a 97.5–99% recovery rate from COVID-19, and most people are either asymptomatic or have mild to moderate cold symptoms.
- We expect cases to rise because restrictions are being lifted and more people are leaving their homes. This isn’t a surprise, and it’s not reasonable to ask people to live in isolation indefinitely. There’s more to life than avoiding COVID-19.
- There is a lack of evidence that government restrictions (mandatory masks, social distancing, lockdowns) work. Texas, which has very few restrictions, and California, which has incredibly strict restrictions, have both seen a spike in cases starting at the same time and increasing at the same magnitude.
- Many of these restrictions, such as social distancing of 6 feet, are arbitrary, vary based on the country, and aren’t based on sound data. They have not been thoroughly tested, so we expect that some measures will not work.
- While the CDC tells Americans to maintain 6 feet of distance, the WHO tells other countries only 3 feet (1 meter) is necessary, while Australia recommends 1.5 meters (just under 5 feet). Others question all those recommendations because of a March 2020 study showing that respiratory aerosols travel 23–27 feet. Other research shows that coronaviruses remain in the air for significant periods of time, making any distancing pointless if one is standing in a cloud of leftover particles.
- There is emerging evidence that nationwide lockdowns led to “oversuppression,” meaning that people were confined so well, once they started leaving their homes and returned to work/social life, cases spiked immediately.
COVID-19 Mortality Rate
- Even as cases rise, the COVID-19 mortality rate has been falling nationwide for 10 weeks, and it hit an all-time low in Kansas last week. This is due in part to better treatments, and in part to the rise in cases among younger people who rarely have serious complications from the virus.
- Over 40% of deaths from COVID-19 have been nursing homes, not in the general public. This is a serious virus for people at nursing home age, who often have other underlying conditions.
- Special focus can be placed on protecting this high-risk group, such as by encouraging herd immunity among the healthy, rather than with measures that cause social and economic collapse. No one should be accused of wanting the elderly to die simply because they choose to be social with their friends and not wear a mask.
- The death rate has been inflated by at least 25% as government agencies continue to count deaths that occur with COVID, meaning the person died from something else but was COVID positive, and deaths that are “probable” or “presumed” COVID deaths, meaning no lab testing was done to confirm them.
- Once the inflation rate is accounted for, the fatality rate is only somewhat worse than the influenza death rate during a bad flu season. During the 2017–2018 flu season, 61,000 flu-related deaths were reported.
- We keep hearing about the coming “second wave” of COVID-19, but the count of flu deaths is reset each season. Why shouldn’t the COVID-19 death count be reset as well? To be sure, there will be a spike in cases, but it will be due to natural spikes in respiratory viruses we see every winter, not failed mask mandates.
- The evidence on the effectiveness of masks is mixed at best. Government agencies were opposed to masks in March and early April (and during the 2017 flu season) based on research showing their ineffectiveness at filtering the virus. That evidence has not changed, even though mask recommendations have.
- The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota observed that “sweeping mask recommendations—as many have proposed—will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year. . . . If masks had been the solution in Asia, shouldn’t they have stopped the pandemic before it spread elsewhere?”
- Cloth masks, widely recommended now, were found to have “very poor filter” and “very low effectiveness” and “offer no protection for healthcare workers inhaling infectious particles near an infected or confirmed patient.”
- All cloth masks and materials have nearly zero efficiency at filtering particles the size of 0.3 microns. COVID-19 is around 0.1 microns in size. The only mask with any significant efficiency is the N95.
- What about surgical masks? Clinical trials have shown repeatedly that surgical masks worn by doctors and nurses in operating rooms make “no difference in wound infection rates” in patients. Evidence shows these masks can catch large particles, but not particles as small as virus or the kinds of particles that cause wound infections.
- Should everyone wear N95 masks? No, because multiple studies show N95s and surgical masks lead to headaches, carbon dioxide accumulation, and hypoxia. There’s a reason the CDC and many mask mandates have exceptions for medical conditions like COPD, because even healthy mask-wearers experience these side effects.
- Additionally, some studies show that the hypoxia caused by N95 and surgical masks can lead to suppression of immune cells, making the wearer more susceptible to contracting the virus.
- Finally, masks that are improperly used (and most of the general public lacks the training in proper PPE use that healthcare workers have) easily become a health hazard, as wearers tend to touch their faces more to adjust the mask; fail to wash their cloth masks regularly, thereby creating an environment for pathogens to grow and infect the wearer; and stop covering to sneeze and cough, allowing virus to pass through the mask.
- Multiple studies and reviews of the literature show that masks do not work to reduce the risk of contracting a respiratory virus. As one researcher stated, “no bias-free study has ever found a benefit from wearing a mask or respirator in this application.”
- Read more from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy
Viral Spread and Herd Immunity
- New antibody studies continue to show that far more people have had the COVID-19 virus than first thought and recovered without difficulty. The Washington Post stated on June 25, 2020, that “The number of people in the United States who have been infected with the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times as high as the 2.4 million confirmed cases, based on antibody tests, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.”
- Other research suggests that asymptomatic carriers, especially children, don’t spread the virus very easily. There were no case spikes in other nations that reopened schools. The WHO announced that asymptomatic spread is “very rare,” and even though it backpedaled, the studies that statement was based on haven’t changed.
- A vaccine is not a panacea, and it’s highly unlikely an effective one will be created anytime soon, if at all. There is no vaccine for the common cold—also caused by numerous strains of coronavirus—and the flu is notoriously difficult to vaccinate against because of how much it mutates each year. Researchers recently announced that COVID-19 has already mutated, making vaccine production even more difficult.
- The same standard preventive measures we use with the flu and other viruses, such as good hand hygiene, staying home when sick, and covering when we cough or sneeze, are sufficient for handling the spread of COVID-19 in the community—and that’s what many health officials were advising when they were asking the public to stop wearing masks.
- Community spread of COVID-19 is actually a good thing! When we let it spread, we can more quickly develop herd immunity. A recent study suggests that herd immunity could occur after 43% of the population has become immune. Letting the young and healthy catch COVID-19 is likely key to protecting high-risk populations.
- There is some debate about whether herd immunity is possible with COVID-19 because of cases where people have been reinfected, but their symptoms have been mild and reinfection is rare.
- The reality is that COVID-19 is going to circulate through the population and become endemic, like the flu or the common cold. We likely won’t see a drop in case counts until a majority of people have had it and herd immunity develops. The original campaign of “14 days to slow the spread” acknowledged this fact, and the facts haven’t changed, even if the message and focus have.
If we cannot produce a vaccine soon or at all, what’s the alternative? Permanent mask mandates, social isolation, repeated shutdowns, and the end of mass gatherings? Despite the debate about herd immunity, the clearest answer seems to be to try to achieve it and hope re-infection remains rare. However, politicians appear hellbent on instituting more draconian, untested measures that strip Americans of their freedoms rather than listen to any of the competing data. Instead, data that doesn’t fit the narrative is retracted/removed, the dissenting experts shut out of social media, and those opposed to mask mandates shamed as “Grandma killers.”
A doctor in Minnesota is under investigation by the Board of Medical Practices for suggesting that COVID-19 death counts are inflated. Singing and chanting is banned in California churches. Churches in Nevada are limited to 50 people, while casinos have reopened. We’re witnessing political power grabs disguised as public policies aimed at “protecting your health”—whether or not you want to be protected.
What can we do? Peaceably protest government overreach, engage in civil disobedience (and be prepared to accept the consequences), and respectfully but firmly demand that our duly elected political leaders give opposing views/competing data a hearing. (The Ontario Civil Liberties Association offers helpful tips to anyone looking to protest and civilly disobey overreaching mask mandates.) Shop primarily at stores or in cities that haven’t made overreaching mandates. Call and thank business owners who don’t enforce these restrictions (sometimes at a cost to their businesses). American freedom was hard fought and is too precious to let go without a fight. Let’s be known as the ones who spoke up to defend freedom even as our nation steps ever closer to becoming a police state.