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Science can’t stand masks and I won’t wear one despite the mandates

When Governor Jared Polis rescinded the state’s mask mandate in May, a friend predicted, “It will be back this fall. He’s a half-empty guy, so I usually dismiss his dire prognosis with a roll of my eyes. FYI, this time my friend was right. The only difference between then and now is that I will no longer abide by government mask mandates.

Unlike COVID vaccines, antiviral drugs like Remdesivir, and monoclonal antibody treatments that rely on strong evidence of efficacy from randomized controlled trials, the evidence for mask wear is weak at best. The scarcity of the benefits of wearing a mask compared to the costs of interpersonal communication and breathing easily argues in favor of non-compliance.

According to the latest Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) decree, all people two years of age or older must wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces in Adams and Arapahoe Counties with exemptions for those who cannot medically tolerate a mask and companies and facilities that implement a vaccination passport system. Denver, Boulder, Pitkin and Larimer counties issued similar edicts. Government officials no doubt believe that the masks will reduce the transmission of the virus, thereby reducing hospitalization rates. Currently, 1,500 Coloradans are hospitalized with COVID, most of which are not vaccinated (82%). Hospitals are stretched.

County officials do not act out of a desire to be able to control the masses, as some suggest, but seem to be guided by the ‘we must do something’ mindset that assails politicians and elected officials when things seem out of hand. . As well-intentioned as they are, the masks’ mandates are not guided by science.

Let’s look at the facts. According to a review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in the conservative City Journal, “[O]f of the 14 RCTs that tested the effectiveness of masks in preventing respiratory virus transmission, three suggest, but provide no statistically significant evidence in the intention-to-treat analysis, that masks might be useful. The other eleven suggest that the masks are either unnecessary – either in relation to the lack of masks or because they do not appear to contribute to good hand hygiene on their own – or in fact counterproductive. RCTs are the gold standard for judging the effectiveness of a medical treatment, because they eliminate the biases that affect other types of research designs. Researchers randomly assign patients to a treatment group or to a control group that receives a placebo and the results are compared.

In these RCTs, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were shown to be 94-95% effective in preventing infection after two doses. Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody treatments reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 70% if taken early in disease progression compared to placebo. Pfizer’s antiviral pills were 89% effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death if taken early. A comparison of these solid results with those concerning mask wearing is striking.

Certainly, there are other studies that show modest positive results for mask wear. For example, a study published in Health Affairs compared the growth rates of COVID in states with mask warrants with those without a warrant and found a 2% reduction in transmission. The study was conducted prior to the availability of vaccines.

Overall, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, Associate Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, writes: “The most reasonable conclusion from the available scientific evidence is that community mask mandates have everything to do with it. plus a small effect on the course of the pandemic. “Some might say that the possibility of a small effect on transmission warrants a mandate, but they ignore the important trade-offs. Masks inhibit interpersonal communication, prevent many of us from breathing, create waste and complicate teaching. (I know this from experience).

Additionally, COVID-19 is rampant. As effective as vaccines are at preventing serious COVID infection for most people, not all infections are preventable. The outstanding cases continue. There is no way to completely eliminate COVID. We need to adapt to living with the risk rather than believing that the government can eliminate it through disruptive decrees. Governments have learned nothing from ineffective actions they took last year that destroyed people’s livelihoods but failed to flatten the curve. Maybe the mass nonconformity will make them reconsider.

Intense protests have erupted in Europe this week against government restrictions related to COVID, but we remain quiet in Mile High City. No more.

Krista L. Kafer is a weekly columnist for the Denver Post. Follow her on Twitter: @kristakafer

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