October 24th, 2020

Let’s be respectful of all sides of mask issue


By Letter to the Editor on October 9, 2020.

Ken Moore offers a well-argued pro-mask position in a letter of Sept. 17, titled “Personal freedom ends where another’s safety begins.” I agree with that statement.

However, there is an unsubstantiated premise in his argument. This may lead readers to judge anti-maskers as either stupid, stubborn, morally irresponsible or all three. The premise is that masks stop the majority of COVID-19 virus particles from getting through. This is plausible, but not supported by the scientific evidence.

Pro-maskers believe that the virus is carried by droplets of water too big to get through the mask. An alternative possibility is that the virus is transmitted in the air we breathe, unhindered by the masks. If so, it is not known whether the particles remain in the air for long periods of time, to be carried for long distances. Seasonal data indicates that humidity reduces the rate of transmission, and this may be due to the fact that higher humidity causes the particles to collect in water droplets and fall out of the air.

For those who would like to look further into this, you might start here: https://www.rcreader.com/commentary/masks-dont-work-covid-a-review-of-science-relevant-to-covide-19-social-policy. This article was originally on ResearchGate.net, but was taken down. Why?

Those who have investigated this alternative are not simply irresponsible morons. They are pro-social skeptics, aware of how vested interests can distort what we are told. Politicians understandably find it difficult to walk back a policy if the science does not turn out to support them. When anti-maskers protest they are trying to stop us all from jumping too quickly to conclusions.

Let us be patient and respectful of everyone on all sides of this issue. Let no one be silenced, either by social pressure, or from being denied access to a way of expressing their view. We are all fallible.

Andrew Blair

Lethbridge

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Fescue

The most likely reason an article would be remived from researchgate is because of copyright issues: https://www.nature.com/news/publishers-threaten-to-remove-millions-of-papers-from-researchgate-1.22793

But I suppose a nefarious conspiracy is more tantalizing.

With respect to masks, if you you are uncertain about the efficacy of masks, then apply the Precautionary Principle: Wear them.

Last edited 14 days ago by Fescue
Andrew Blair

Your speculation as to the reason the article would be removed has some plausibility, but the real reason is different. Here is what Drs. Madisch and Hofmayer from Researchgate say:

““However, if we have any reason to believe that content on our platform has the potential to cause harm, then we reserve the right to remove it. In this case, your report was advocating that face masks are not effective and, in effect, discouraging their use. This goes against the public health advice and/or requirements of credible agencies and governments. As content which did not appear to have undergone quality control processes by the scientific community, but which was broadly linked to from a variety of social media accounts, we thought it had the potential to cause harm.”

For additional context on this go to http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2020/06/covid-censorship-at-researchgate-things.html.

Your application of the Precautionary Principle assumes that there is no downside wearing a mask, and ignores the 10 questions asked in the Rancour article:

Do used and loaded masks become sources of enhanced transmission, for the wearer and others?
Do masks become collectors and retainers of pathogens that the mask wearer would otherwise avoid when breathing without a mask?
Are large droplets captured by a mask atomized or aerolized into breathable components? Can virions escape an evaporating droplet stuck to a mask fiber?
What are the dangers of bacterial growth on a used and loaded mask?
How do pathogen-laden droplets interact with environmental dust and aerosols captured on the mask?
What are long-term health effects on HCW, such as headaches, arising from impeded breathing?
Are there negative social consequences to a masked society?
Are there negative psychological consequences to wearing a mask, as a fear-based behavioral modification?
What are the environmental consequences of mask manufacturing and disposal?
Do the masks shed fibers or substances that are harmful when inhaled?

Despite the downside risks, my letter was not intended to dissuade people from wearing masks, but to urge them not to be overly presumptuous about the reasons and character of those who dissent. The Precautionary Principle may be applied to the issue of silencing dissent as well as to masks: Do not silence dissenters for they may turn out to be right.

Last edited 14 days ago by Andrew Blair
Fescue

I think we can all appreciate that there are a lot of questions, and that there are confounding variables in any research.

I am always a bit surprised, however, at the zeal with which people will embrace a dissenting opinion against the industry standard. Shouldn’t the burden of proof be placed on the dissenting opinion?

The link you gave seems to admit this article fails to meet scientific exectations. If masks amplify the risk, then where is the evidence? (And please don’t lean on the suppression-trope – it is unscientific)

Andrew Blair

What? You say “The link you gave seems to admit this article fails to meet scientific expectations.” 
Here’s what it says at the link: 
“It is inconceivable to me how the article could have been judged to be “non-scientific content.”  The link is  http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2020/06/covid-censorship-at-researchgate-things.html. Are you talking about some other link?

Fescue

I was referring to the link you sent which quote’s Research Gate as saying: “As content which did not appear to have undergone quality control processes by the scientific community, but which was broadly linked to from a variety of social media accounts, we thought it had the potential to cause harm.”
This seems to be a perfectly reasonable reason to remove the journalistic article. gs172’s link below further supports this.
Nonetheless, as stated, the burden of proof that masks make things worse is on the ‘dissenters’.

IMO

Would Mr. Blair be as “patient and respectful” of an individual who drives while under the influence? Drunk driving is against the law. In this community, wearing a mask in all public indoor places is mandated by law.

biff

blind adherence to laws, or the “authority” of the day – ie church – has proven to be a folly of unthinking fools and cruel idiots too many times through the ages, has it not? i do not suspect for a second, imo, that if the laws criminalising homosexuality, finally repealed in 1969, were still in effect that one would say the law must be followed simply because it is a law. and of course, there have been and remain so many other examples where we have laws that have no place in a free society.
the writer presents a balanced and thoughtful letter, and follow up. fes also makes an acceptable point that we are best to follow caution when we do not know enough. to date, things are not seeming to add up. i do not necessarily see a conspiracy with regard to covid, but i suspect the powers that be will surely use information gathered from this event to their advantage, as well as having gained financially in many instances from this event. the shock doctrine is not to be discounted here. reset to come, and partially begun.

IMO

biff: not driving when intoxicated and wearing a mask may hardly be described as “blind adherence” to law. Anti-mask arguments also prevailed during the 1918 pandemic, as you may know. Taking a cautious approach, as suggested, seems the most prudent response.

Andrew Blair

I agree about the need to be cautious. So let’s be cautious about jumping to the conclusion that masks do no harm, and give a fair hearing to those who think they do.

Andrew Blair

What is your point IMO? I think you are confusing the question of whether there is a law with what the law should be.

Are you suggesting that someone who protests the law by refusing to wear a mask in public is like someone protesting the drunk driving law by driving drunk? I haven’t been arguing against that point, but now that you’ve brought it up, let’s give it some consideration. Do you think it possible that the law could be right in one case but wrong in the other? If the answer is yes, might it make some sense to flout the law in one case, but not the other?

Whether a law is right or wrong all depends on the underlying rationale for it. Do you agree with me that we should have patience and respect for anyone who offers evidence in favour of changing any given law? Suppose, for example, that someone thinks the law against drunk driving should be changed because they have evidence that runs against the current setting of  the blood alcohol limit – whether that limit has been set too high or too low.  Should we not do the same for those offering counter-evidence to the prevailing uncertain assumptions about masks? 

Anthony Hall

Driving while depriving oneself of oxygen— in other words to be deoxygenated behind the wheel– can be dangerous, as dangerous as drunk driving.

phlushie

in 1915 there was a law in Ontario that simply stated that if to motor vehicles approach an intersection at the same time both would stop and not proceed before the other had passed through. It was a law and how do you think that worked out? Some laws and many ideas to improve society are well intentioned but the full impact not thought out.

h2ofield

” ..in 1915…”
you were probably there.

Anthony Hall

You are being agist h2ofield. Why not try attacking the idea instead of attacking the person. So you think its kind of disgusting that Andrew might have been alive back in 1915? Say Andrew was alive and observant back then. Mightn’t that make him more wise, more experienced. Learn some skill in public debate h2ofield. Learn a few manners.

h2ofield

Go f**k yourself.

Fedup Conservative

I learned long before seat belts were required how well they worked. I was helping my brother in law pick up small airplanes that had crashed and was shocked to know the people in them had survived due to the seat belts. To a 14 year old boy it was hard to image you could survive all that damage but many of them did.
I think that wearing a mask makes perfect sense and trying to find excuses for not doing it doesn’t make any sense.

Andrew Blair

The evidence in favour of wearing masks is not similar to the evidence in favour of wearing seatbelts. The evidence in favour of wearing seatbelts is strong. Over half of the people killed in car crashes were not wearing them. People in the front seat are far more likely to be thrown through the windshield if they do not wear a seatbelt. We should wear them, and I support laws which make them mandatory. I do not, however, support suppression of the views of those who disagree. They help us think the issue through, and they call attention to circumstances in which it is actually better not to wear a seatbelt. In the case of masks, however, most people are just deferring to authority and not compensating for the bias created by social pressure and the tendency toward conformity.

One of the key questions is the relevance of randomized clinical trials (RCTs), which are done in order to compensate for bias. There are no RCTs for wearing masks. This aspect of the evidence is not controversial, but I am not sure what the implications are for policy. Reluctance to support mask wearing might seem like an excuse to you, but in your thinking about this how do you compensate for the bias toward conformity?

JustObserving

Andrew, you are too kind. The multitude of non-maskers have not read studies on the topic of mask effectiveness. They have not educated themselves on the differing types of masks and relative utility.
What they are is “stupid, stubborn, morally irresponsible or all three” . Any doubts? Ask the next big box store shopper you see not wearing a mask why he/she is not following the law and see what degree of intelligent response you get. I highly doubt they will quote a study to you though your vocabulary may be expanded.
As you acknowledge, it is plausible masks work. What harm is there in taking this minimal precaution when around other people ? If wearing a mask MAY halt transmission it is a certainty not wearing a mask WON’T stop transmission or reception.

phlushie

You may be just wrong on this view as many of the people I know understand the efficacy of the masks.

h2ofield

>> in Trump voice — “”a lot of people are saying…””

Why not ask your doctor or any health professional?
How does this get lost with people like you & Blair?

Last edited 13 days ago by h2ofield
Andrew Blair

Simply asking my doctor or any random health professional is not the answer. How would they know unless they have studied the issue for themselves? I’ve probably had more time to look into this than the average busy practitioner, so why should I just take their word, whatever it is. Also take into consideration how much pressure they are under to conform.

But if you think that there are no health professionals who disagree with mask wearing, you haven’t been looking for evidence on both sides. Here’s an example of what I mean, but there are many more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHF1FE4sCDs. Tammy Clark and Kristen Meghan are health professionals who clearly have expertise. May I suggest you watch it, and tell me what you think?

h2ofield

“” I’ve probably had more time to look into this than the average busy practitioner, “”

Let me guess..you do your own gas-fitting and connecting to the grid?
You’re telling me actual doctors..people with years of study to get their credentials..know less than you.

As for the video,..ppe ‘experts’ are not epidemiologists.
Only pointing out obvious cherry picked info like over using a dirty mask etc.
Such a pile of crap.
The ‘dissenters’ aren’t right. The End.

Andrew Blair

How much of the video did you actually watch?

Anthony Hall

h2ofield. You’re no doctor. That’s for sure. You haven’t researched this a bit. You seem positively proud of displaying you ignorance. If you would like to exercise your capacity to move beyond the quoitidian check out
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr04gHbP5MQ&t=2s
You’ll see a balanced analysis of the science and law entailed in this matter.

Andrew Blair

You offer an excellent sort of inquiry JustObserving. I do the grocery shopping in our household, and if I see someone not wearing a mask I will certainly talk to them and see what they have to say. I do not expect any opportunity soon, though, as in the store I shop at I have not seen anyone without a mask since they became mandatory.

As for people I already know who oppose mask wearing, some of them have given this more study than I have.

With regard to what harm they can do, see the 10 points mentioned in my reply to Fescue.

h2ofield

..oh yes…the psychological harm..the behavioral modification..
smh!

Anthony Hall

JustObserving.. You write harsh accusations that are very anti-social and prejudiced. You present insulting generalizations about a wide array of people who have many reasons for arriving at the conclusion we have. Check out the commentary below by real occupational safety experts on the subject of masking. If you have any judgment at all you’ll decide you were wrong in too quickly judging a group of people you know nothing about. You let your fervid imagination get the best of you.

https://thehighwire.com/videos/mask-whistleblowers-tell-all/



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