Monday, June 29, 2020

McMaster study on masks talks of possible benefits and possible harm...

I recently engaged in a discussion with the author of another blog, Cathie from Canada.  There was a a piece expressing the opinion that had the wearing of cloth masks been mandated from the very beginning, that it would have meant better results in Canada's fight against the novel coronavirus.

I commented on her blog saying that I have yet to see a proper scientific study that demonstrates their effectiveness.  She countered citing research by McMaster, and I found an article with an interview of their mask study's first author.   The article is from the end of May of this year:

The title of the article says a lot.  If something "may help" that automatically infers that it also "may not".  Basically meaning there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other.  

I realize many people simply look at headlines, they see a reccomendation coming from an authoritative source like McMaster University and they say:  "Okay, that's all I need to know, everyone should wear a mask".  They then become SJWs and proclaim themselves to be touting scientifcally provable fact.  In reality all they're proving is that they're eaisly led and good at following direction.  Like African Americans who signed up for free medical treatment, unaware that they were being infected with syphilis in order to track the untreated progression of that disease

Basically you can say I'm a cynic, or a skeptic, take your pick.  

When authorities advise a course of action I do not accept it at face value, I like to dig deeper.  If others prefer to simply follow advice blindly, that's their choice, it's still a free country after all, at least for now.  When experts said we had no choice but to go to war with Iraq because of their WMD I looked into it, and then reached my own conclusions and protested in front of the U.S. consolate in Toronto.

Getting back to the McMaster study, please read it if you're going to comment.  If you get to the end you'll see this quote from the study's first author:

"Given the severity of this pandemic and the difficulty of control, we suggest that the possible benefit of a modest reduction in transmission likely outweighs the possibility of harm".  

Read that again.  Basically it is saying that "maybe" there's a benefit of a modest reduction in transmission, or maybe not.  And further that it "likely" outweighs the possibility of harm.  That automatically infers that it is possible that the harm could ultimately outweigh the benefit.  Put simply, they don't know and are guessing, and they're covering their posteriors.  "We never said it was beneficial or that it wasn't harmful".  

I have yet to wear a mask during this pandemic, and there are several reasons why, and a big one is that I'm in no way convinced that a cloth mask will have any effect on preventing viral spread.  Another reason is that I hardly see anyone wearing them,  and those that I do see with them on are often tugging, pulling and adjusting them, and then sometimes inadvertenly wiping their eyes.  

The grocery store I shop at doesn't mandate their use, and I  have yet to see a single employee wearing one.  As for the customers, based on my own observations my thoroughly unscientific best guess is that no more than 25% of people have one on.  If staff aren't wearing them, and I'd guess (again just observation) that there are likely 30 to 40 employees working at any given time, then what's the point.  

There's also a school of scientific thought with research to back it up that suggests being hyper hygenic may actually weaken the  immune system.  All this handwashing and use of sanitizer, wiping every square inch of visible space down with lysol wipes, and wearing masks, that it's robbing our immune systems of vital and life saving practice.  The human immune system is described by some as a muscle, and muscles that aren't used grow weak.  The last thing anyone wants with a novel and potentially serious pathogen floating around is a weak immune system.  

Beyond those reasons another point is that I am an extrovert, I enjoy engaging with people.  My cynical nature notwithstanding I absolutely love the human race, we are God's greatest creation.  My faith teaches that we are all image bearers.  The human face conveys so much without a word being spoken, and hiding half of it under a piece of cloth just doesn't sit right with me, especially when there's no imperical evidence to suggest any utility.  

And finally it comes down to what Mac's lead author called "the severity of the pandemic".  The novel coronavirus is not the Spanish Flu, it isn't even close.  Our goverments adopted draconian and devastating rules because medical officials told them that we were going to be lined up 10 deep to be put on a ventilator, even with the emergency measures.  That's what computer modelling suggested, and thankfully the computer modelling has been horribly (and wonderfully) wrong, things have never gotten nearly as bad as expected.  

Ontario has a population of 14.5 million, with roughly 500 hospitals spread across the province.  As I write this the goverment's own portal for Covid-19 shows just 214 patients with 51 of those in ICU and of the ICU patients 36 are on on a ventilator.  

Bottom line is this.  If you want to wear a mask, fill your boots.  But don't get all morally superior and high and mighty with those who dare disagree.  It's possible they've simply done more reading and research than you have.  

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