As the debate about managing COVID from a public health perspective intensifies, and Delta-related infections have grown substantially in recent weeks, now public health officials are making an all-out effort to push masking, particularly in educational settings as a means of slowing down the spread.
So we’re left with a couple of important questions: how effective is masking, particularly given that there is a HUGE variation of masks? And how consistent is the guidance even from public health officials?
First, let me tell you again, I have been vaccinated. I think the math is overwhelming. If you haven’t received one, I highly recommend it. It’s our way out of this mess. Final point. COVID is dangerous. It certainly can kill you. I view vaccination the way I view the lottery: it is a choice that people can make, but generally playing the lottery as if not vaccinated indicates a tortured relationship with math and risk assessment.
Masking on the other hand. . .
MSDH recommends that all Mississippi residents 12 and older receive the COVID vaccine
MSDH recommends that everyone who is not vaccinated wear a mask when indoors in public places.
– thomas dobbs (@TCBPubHealth) July 9, 2021
First, let’s look at the effectiveness of the different types of masks. In April, EPA published a study in which they measured Adjusted Filtration Efficiency (FFE). Obviously there is a huge difference to the fabric or neoprene mask that I wore when I went to the supermarket before I was vaccinated and an N95 mask that is used in hospital settings. According to the study, a low-end neoprene mask is approximately 28.6% efficient, while an N-95 respirator is 98.4% efficient.
Here’s the deal. COVID is aerosolized. It is not just “drop-based”. Unless you are wearing high quality medical grade masks with a nose bridge and secured to the back of the head with no gaps, it may provide little fringe protection for those vaccinated, but not much considering that More than 97% of all COVID cases in the past two months in Mississippi are among the unvaccinated. And there has been almost no guidance from the state or federal public health establishment on how to wear a mask correctly or what types of mask to wear. This is likely because the panic would be caused by certain types of masks that would not be instantly available. So “just masking” has been the mantra even though there is very little data on the effectiveness of a masking regimen that is inconsistently practiced by individuals and unevenly implemented.
For its part, the Health Department declined a requested interview, but instead provided a link last week in response to EPA’s reporting of a CDC report that still extolled the virtues of masking. They provided the link to the CDC report which says that “universal masking” can significantly reduce risk. Several studies were cited in the CDC report that were effective at the low end of 20% to the high end of 70%. But these are really difficult things to measure.
The vaccinated are now being told to wear the mask again (apparently to protect the unvaccinated), which is a huge disincentive for those currently not vaccinated to get vaccinated if they are going to have to wear everyone’s mask. modes. The public health guideline 4 to 5 months ago was to get vaccinated so you don’t have to wear a mask.. Now, apparently we do. And I understand that Delta is a different animal from inherited COVID. It is more contagious. But public health officials dealing with millions of people are now trying to hold vaccinated people accountable for protecting the unvaccinated, which fails the serious face test.
Put that fact on top of the fact pattern that EVERYONE – EVERYONE – is a hypocrite in this masking thing. Even Dr. Thomas Dobbs on Friday night at Jackson State spoke masked when speaking to a group of student athletes. But when it was time for a grab and a smile with an NFL Hall of Famer, he peeled off his mask..
This goes against not only the guidance he has given you, but also JSU official policy which says that “teachers, staff, students and visitors must wear masks in all common spaces at all times.”
This is the kind of thing that drives people crazy. Now I am 100% sure that everyone in that photo was vaccinated. COVID was not spreading there. But when the people responsible for issuing the guide get caught for not following them, it just creates trouble. And from the award-winning Memory Division of Y’all Politics, the same thing happened with Governor Tate Reeves in December. A freelance photographer hid in the bushes outside the Governors’ Mansion and took pictures of an unmasked governor and his guests during a peak of the pandemic. Y the media call he outside in that. A. lot. It will be interesting to see how the media treats this. My prediction is that they will completely ignore it.
If mask mandates and six foot social distancing were truly effective, COVID would have been conquered long ago. What seems to work is the vaccine at least in the prevention of serious complications, which from a public health point of view is the best case. But masked embarrassment and masked mandates by officials seem to have the opposite effect, particularly among conservative rural Mississippiians and many African-American Mississippians who do not trust medical, media, and political establishments for many varied reasons.
And what happened at JSU with the image unmasked on top of the “unscientific Nazis” and “excuse the monkey” comments from a couple of weeks ago does substantial damage to the cause. And before that, MSDH closed its Facebook comment section thinking that not exposing people to dissenting thoughts would save them somehow.
Look, I understand that Dr. Dobbs has a really difficult task. Really difficult. I feel sorry for him and for the homework he has. But now we are officially past the point where waving people’s fingers will change their minds, especially on something that is difficult to justify in mathematical terms. I want this to end as much as anyone, but let’s keep the main thing as the main thing. Let’s focus on the time and effort we have to vaccinate as many people as possible and put an end to devious math and drama.
The people of Mississippi are counting on it.