Right now there is so much controversy going back and forth about "does the mask work?" and it has reached a point which I call a militarized political discussion. The reason I call it that is because in my opinion there is currently a big effort to divide and conquer over so many issues that are currently being highly politicized.
Do masks work?
Will "the vaccine" be effective?
While these are both very important questions they are also quite vague. Let's start by examining the work "work" that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And with any medical intervention (yes, I personally consider wearing a mask a medical intervention especially considering the current situation where people are being instructed to wear them all the time!) there are both potential risks and benefits that should be considered for any medical intervention.
So shouldn't each individual have the right to do their own risk assessment and decide if and when it is appropriate for them to wear a mask in public? Or accept a new vaccine that has little or no proof of long term safety?
Of course, the big clincher is that most people and most governments are imposing a "guidance" based on the guise of an "immediate threat" but at this point that is a tough argument to make. We are nearly 6 months into this supposed pandemic (based on when most of the states declared a "state of emergency") and where we sit now the all-cause mortality numbers have barely moved. For any real and immediate threat to exist it's just basic logic that more people would be dying.
And the other sticking point is while many may not think much of it wearing a mask is quite medical and has never been a common practice among the public at large.
So this is then new territory. And that brings us to the science and why I call the mask question irrelevant...
First of all the basic science barely needs any backing - cover your face and you will starve yourself of vital oxygen.
The safety standards of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have determined from decades of scientific evaluation that wearing a mask significantly restricts the flow of oxygen and increases carbon dioxide inhalation which may result in permanent brain damage, organ failure, bacterial infections such as pleurisy and even death.
If you study the OSHA standards in 29 CFR 1910.134 you'll see clearly that the wearing of a mask or respirator by an employee is a very individualistic decision that requires a physical evaluation by a doctor and clarification of an individual's medical history.
Of course, this is for an employee but the point remains - it's considered a medical intervention requiring proper consultations and followups with a professional.
More importantly what are the risks of sustained mask-wearing on the general public?
Starving yourself of oxygen can of course have grave health effects. This is compounded by the fact that at the same time you will be inhaling your own (exhaled) carbon dioxide instead of fresh oxygen causing further complications.
Some individuals will be prone to hyperventilate when forced to wear a mask.
Some people may have PTSD where masks can be a trigger to invoke a traumatic memory.
Many individuals are prone to anxiety or panic attacks as a result of mask-wearing as exemplified by an increase in heart or pulse rates.
Recycled air (from sustained mask-wearing) also poses the potential risk of respiratory disorders that relate to the bio-terrain. Is this actually a means of "culturing" a bacterial or viral infection in the respiratory tract?
And of course there are the minor side effects of acne under the mask.
Suffice it to say there are many risks associated with the medical intervention of mask-wearing - enough that they should not just be brushed off with a finger point saying "you are being inconsiderate" or "this is to protect and for the greater good".
But is there a definitive scientific argument for that or not?
One of the most popular and highly debated posts on this subject was the one from Denis G Rancourt, PhD first published in April 2020 on researchgate.net then subsequently retracted among controversy as I recall.
His detractors contest that he misinterpreted the studies he quoted and utilized studies that had admittedly flawed design when in reality one of his original points was that there were no really solid studies on this topic. His treatise still remains that even among the studies that were evaluated (randomized clinical trials (RCT) and meta-analysis studies) which were only evaluating workplace spread of viral respiratory disease among healthcare workers there is no conclusive data proving that mask-wearing offered clear protection.
The point that Rancourt was making as I understand it is that even if there was a tiny protective effect among healthcare workers there is still no proof (and significant risks associated) that the general public would be protected by mask-wearing.
The detractors always seem to point to "asymptomatic carriers" of covid as the reasoning to justify general public mask-wearing. The problem that I have with this is how non-specific the PCR testing which is at the crux of this idea of the "asymptomatic carrier" is.
After all the inventor of the PCR test (Kary Mullis 1944-2019), who is a noble laureate for this invention, specifically emphasized that this test should not be used for diagnostic purposes. A positive PCR test doesn't actually prove an infection, only a corresponding genetic signature. It could actually be indicative that an individual has been building immunity against infection.
The point here is that without some sort of confirmatory "infectivity analysis" there is no data on viral load and therefore no proof of any infection - therefore no such thing as an "asymptomatic carrier".
To me, this makes the idea of an "asymptomatic carrier" more in the realm of pseudoscience than the arguments against Rancourt's treatise.
His point is that the RCT (randomized control trials) with verified outcomes, which are the standard in science, do not conclusively show a protective effect from wearing a mask to avoid a respiratory infection.
Masks and respirators do not work.
There have been extensive randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies, and meta-analysis reviews of RCT studies, which all show that masks and respirators do not work to prevent respiratory influenza-like illnesses, or respiratory illnesses believed to be transmitted by droplets and aerosol particles.
Furthermore, the relevant known physics and biology, which I review, are such that masks and respirators should not work. It would be a paradox if masks and respirators worked, given what we know about viral respiratory diseases: The main transmission path is long-residence-time aerosol particles (< 2.5 μm), which are too fine to be blocked, and the minimum-infective dose is smaller than one aerosol particle.
Source link is below and this report has a number of citations.
Here's a debate with the author (Rancourt) and one of his detractors:
David Kyle Johnson is clearly very enthusiastic in this debate. In all his caffeinated glory as I see it he still fails to address the clear and obvious risks to the general public from forced mask-wearing. Also, he fails to show clear science on the protective effect on the general public for mask-wearing in order to slow the spread of a viral infection regardless of his dogmatic position that clear science exists.
The only (unclear) science that is actually discussed simply articulates the potential benefits of wearing a mask as a healthcare worker (HCW) but not the general public, this is in fact virgin territory where no science has yet to be articulated and Johnson simply tosses that sort of study out as unethical.
More importantly that unethical it seems rather impossible to design a study that would in any way "prove" the type of effect that Johnson declares as already proven from the HCW studies. I still tend to agree more with Rancourt that these HCW studies have flaws in their data and collection methods among other inconsistencies and tend to "prove" very little.
Pretty much all the studies I've seen regarding mask-wearing have to do with healthcare workers (HCW) and that is a completely different argument and lacks definitive proof for the way too general question being asked by the public "do masks work?" (ie does widespread mask-wearing slows the spread of disease in the general population).
So this general question is irrelevant because it's too vague of a question.
One of the very interesting things brought up by Rancourt in his original post relates to the variable of humidity in the environment in regards to the spread of a virus in aerosols. Being an advocate of the bio-terrain theory of disease I question even the basis of viral transmission but putting that to the side for the moment this part is rather interesting...
The science quoted here supports the idea that higher humidity slows the spread of aerosolized viral particles and dryer climates will hold more aerosols and thereby increase the spread.
As I write this the west coast is burning from forest fires. The environment here is incredibly dry and I see it we face a much bigger threat from smoke and ash in the dry air than we face from a risk of aerosol viral particles. That being said it's important to this understanding that this type of dry air is also potentially increasing a risk of more viral particles in the air. This point seems to be largely overlooked.
Therefore, all the epidemiological mathematical modeling of the benefits of mediating policies (such as social distancing), which assumes humidity-independent R0 values, has a large likelihood of being of little value, on this basis alone. For studies about modeling and regarding mediation effects on the effective reproduction number, see Coburn (2009) and Tracht (2010).
To put it simply, the “second wave” of an epidemic is not a consequence of human sin regarding mask wearing and hand shaking. Rather, the “second wave” is an inescapable consequence of an air-dryness-driven many-fold increase in disease contagiousness, in a population that has not yet attained immunity.
But has the population already attained immunity?
Do we really know the answer to this question at this point?
So many factors exist that contribute to the relative health of all individuals in our population. With the smoky air from forest fires which we are currently experiencing where I live, I may choose to wear a face-covering outside due to the dangerous air quality, however, without a legitimate reason I will continue to decline the forced medical intervention of wearing a mask when I shop, hike, drive, etc.
Am I being selfish for my desire to breathe clean air (when it's not smoky) and for the fact that I don't subscribe to the highly unscientific position that healthy people spread disease?
People like me are likely the most resistant to any sort of threat from a coronavirus so maybe it's time to end the fear-mongering and divisive political games that are going on in healthcare right now and get back some basic logic.
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