A piece I wrote last week has generated a lot of conversation after being shared over 100K times on Facebook, and a comment someone left today inspired me to answer with something that I thought should be shared more broadly.
So I’m writing this piece to include that person’s comment/question, and my answer. Because while the original piece was written with as much frustration as seriousness, there was an important component I left out. In fact I even told my personal networks that had I known the piece would get that kind of traction, I might have been more clear about who should wear masks, and why, and what the other side of the coin is beyond just “herd immunity” for the low-risk among us.
At any rate, here’s the exchange that shines a little more light on what else we should be thinking about in addition to putting our idiot masks down and pursuing a more intelligent and realistic goal of achieving herd immunity…
Ok, so I work with a surgeons group that deals with an extremely vulnerable demographic, so what do you suggest I do? I also feel that growing up, in the 70s, in a house full of smokers, has left me with a diminished lung capacity from 2nd hand smoke; do you think wearing a mask out in public is making me a pussy? I have two kids who depend on me to guide them through life; what do you suggest I do to weather the crazy bullshit of this storm?
Hi Angel. This is the author of the piece. Thank you so much for dropping a line in response to this. I understand your frustration as mine, too, was clear when I wrote the piece. But I have a few answers for you…
Obviously working in any surgical environment you need to mask up and then some. Not sure if you cross the OR threshold but if you do, then you know all about sterilization etc. Even if you don’t, yes, you can and likely should work diligently to mitigate the spread by wearing at a minimum some kind of face covering. But I think (hope) you know, those face coverings aren’t about keeping you healthy. Their only real value is in slowing the spread to others. (If you’re infected and sneeze or cough or even talk loudly or laugh, the face covering slows down the droplet so instead of traveling 5-10 feet, it may only travel 1-2 feet at the most.) So if you work in an environment where virtually everyone you run into is immunocompromised, then you should be taking precautions.
And if you believe you’re among the immunocompromised — the very small percentage of relatively young and otherwise healthy people for whom a COVID-19 infection would reflect a comorbidity — then you should invest in an N95 mask. But you should also be mindful of the carbon implications that wearing a protective mask like that can bring, over long periods. Make sure you have time to remove it in safe environments etc so you’re not just wearing it all day, as some people regrettably and even fatally have made the mistake of doing.
You take care of the immunocompromised people you work with. And if you believe you’re one of them, then by all means get an N95 mask so you’re actually protecting yourself instead of just giving yourself the false sense of security that so many Americans sadly are wrapped up in.
The rest of us — the vast majority of us to whom a COVID-19 infection will come and go with very mild or no symptoms at all — will do our part by developing herd immunity so that the virus can no longer spread.
We need the immunocompromised who would present with comorbidities should they become infected with COVID-19 doing their part to protect themselves with tools like self-quarantining, and properly worn and maintained N95 masks. We need people who work or interact closely with those populations to do their part to help keep them safe. And we need the rest of us to stop fighting off the one thing that might actually help us truly beat this thing instead of just letting it linger for years and years until — if we’re lucky — a vaccine is found.
Hope that makes sense and is received with the fairness, intellectual honesty, and respect I intended.
Yes, I think the masks are largely ridiculous. And the sanctimonious busy bodies who are furious at you for not wearing one can go jump in a lake. And the people who are just mindlessly doing what they’re told could stand to get outside their comfort zone a bit and assert some critical thinking skills. But it’s absolutely true that there is a population among us, albeit very small, who are uniquely at-risk should they become infected with COVID-19. (And frankly it’s almost the exact same population that’s uniquely at-risk should they contract the flu, pneumonia, etc.) Two major differences however are that the transmissibility of COVID-19 appears to be uniquely robust, and the antibodies to ward it off uniquely low. These co-conspirator realities are more likely than not consequences of its entirely novel presence.
But the idea that you and everyone you know needs to be walking around in masks to “save the world” is just ridiculous. The vast majority of us will have no symptoms or mild symptoms. And the sooner we get and recover from COVID-19, the sooner we’ll no longer be able to spread it. And that is what we want. That is how we’ll truly beat this thing instead of just sitting around sanctimoniously judging each other for wearing masks or not while ultimately doing nothing but prolonging the invisible enemy’s stay among us.
And if you didn’t see the piece — Your Mask Is Making You Meaner, Dumber, More Afraid & Less Safe — then please go ahead and give it a look.
Here’s another, related companion piece as well: Trashing Sweden With The Same Junk Science Used To Terrify Everyone Else
This isn’t that complicated. But the experts who have gotten everything wrong from the beginning and the media and others who thrive off your fear and want to see our country struggle in pain for as long as possible, they want to muddy the conversation with a lot of fanciful predictions and fear mongering. Yes, people will die. It’s an unfortunate reality in life, but also the only thing that life truly guarantees. And every death is sad. But some in the media and on the left want this to be as painful as possible for everyone, and are thus sensationalizing COVID-19 and treating any death from it with the reverence of 100 deaths from any other cause. They are amplifying the pain and prolonging the fallout. And none of us really have room to lecture or preach about amplifying pain, because that pain is very real for the loved ones of those who are suffering and/or have died. But if we can promote mitigating the fallout and fighting this thing smart and hard instead of stupidly and weak as per the instructions that the media and their compromised friends in academia are giving us, we should speak up and try do that. And that’s what I’ve been working toward.
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