The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Joe's Masks

If an honest history (that's a big "if") is ever written about the COVID-19 pandemic, it will note that many citizens and a majority of political leaders were gripped by mass hysteria, driven by politically and commercially motivated, contextually barren, and scientifically inaccurate media reports. Although bad governmental decisions were bi-partisan in the first months, the Democrats took the lead in making destructive lockdown decisions at the state and local level—decisions that did virtually nothing to "stop the spread" but did slow down the progression of the pandemic, elongating the suffering for the tens of millions who are being hurt by continuing lockdowns. Death and case scoreboards were erected and referenced hourly, sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt among the populace.

The Democrats used the pandemic as a political bludgeon, falsely suggesting that they could have defeated the virus quickly. Like most of their claims, that one smacks of fantasy, but the claim worked. Donald Trump has been (provisionally) defeated.

Enter Joe Biden, our (provisional) President-elect. Joe has formed a task force that, he claims, will help us defeat the virus. It appears that other than adopting everything that the Trump administration has done including the vaccine development that (only after the election) the media has begun to recognize and applaud, Biden's plan boils down to mandating mask wearing everywhere and all the time. Biden claims that "tens of thousands of lives" can be saving just by wearing masks to the park, to the beach, and of course, inside—everywhere!!

Because Joe "follows the science," we have to assume there is clear and compelling statistical and scientific evidence to support Joe's mandate. There isn't. In fact, with the exception of use by medical professionals in controlled medical settings, mask-wearing provides marginal benefits, at best. The only large, randomized COVID-19 related mask study conducted to date is said to have indicated between 2 and 5 percent benefit from wearing masks. Although peer review found no errors in the study, medical journals have refused to publish it because, political correctness. After all, if progressives believe masks work, how can medical researchers come to a different conclusion?

But let's get back to Joe Biden's claim that his mask mandate will save "tens of thousands" of lives. Since, I, like Joe, follow the science, let's assume that masks are 5% effective in cutting down virus transmission. Our current "case" rate is around 100,000 cases per day. Wearing masks would reduce that to 95,000 per day, 5,000 less. The current median infection fatality rate (IFR) for people under 70 is (see footnote below) 0.15%. Therefore, the data seem to indicate that mandatory mask wearing would save 8 people each day. It would take about 3 years to achieve Joe's goal. Does he honestly believe that we should wear masks until 2024? Of course, Joe struggles with numbers, so maybe he does.

Now, 8 less deaths is something, but is it worth having 330 million people don masks with all of the unintended consequences that occur (e.g., skin infections, breathing problems)? And before you accept the progressive trope that "even a single life saved makes it all worth it," ask why we don't reduce the speed limit to 10 mph on interstate highways, thereby saving 10x more lives each day.

And so it begins. The new (provisional) Biden administration returns to the fantasy thinking and meaningless gestures that characterized the administration of his Democrat predecessor. If we believe hard enough that masks will save us from the virus, well, that's all we need to do. Sadly, reality will have a say.


*  Actually, these are termed "infections" in the medical community because many are asymptomatic and do NOT require medical treatment of any kind. In a scientific paper published in October, the author states: " In people < 70 years, infection fatality rates ranged from 0.00% to 0.31% with crude and corrected medians of 0.05%."