By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
When did teachers stop teaching basic science? It must have been shortly after they stopped teaching basic math, spelling, grammar, history, economics, and logic. We have been advised to do some sensible things in the face of a serious pandemic. However, too much of what we have been told has been flat out wrong, including virtually every predictive model touted by “experts.” Many “experts” (in every field) have built careers on pessimism. Professors, politicians, pundits, financial gurus, and far too many “scientists” love pessimism. It’s great. Sooner or later you get to be right — about something.
Few people love pessimism more than reporters and news anchors. Remember, media- types fan the flames of fear for a living. Facts, context, and perspective are anathema to them. Most politicians are the same. Beware of anyone promoting fear. The truth is exactly the opposite: The more you actually know, the less fearful you need to be. Consider the current obsession with masks, or as certain people now call them, “face coverings”:
- Wearing a mask will protect you and everyone else. No, it won’t. Surgeons and or nurses wear masks to protect the sterile operative field. We’re trying to protect the patient from our bacteria-laden coughs and sneezes. We are not protecting ourselves from the patient. Viruses are much smaller than bacteria. They are measured in nanometers. Translation: they can easily pass through the tiny spaces between the fibers of a cloth or paper mask. Furthermore, any gaps around the nose, cheeks, or chin make the whole effort silly. If we want protection from viral transmission, we need an N95 respirator fitted perfectly to our faces. Goggles and face shields are necessary to protect the eyes in clinical settings that involve procedures such as intubation.
- Any face covering is better than none at all. No, it’s not. Most people touch their faces 20 times an hour. Nurses and doctors are trained to avoid touching our faces once we put a mask on. It’s not easy or comfortable. The vast majority of people walking around with “face coverings” today touch their faces constantly to adjust and re-adjust. It’s medically absurd. Wearing a mask outdoors is not really helpful, and there are people at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) who have sufficient knowledge to realize this.
Transmission of COVID-19 is most likely to occur during sustained contact with the respiratory secretions of an actively infected person, for 15 minutes or more, in a confined area.
Here’s what makes sense: Keep a respectful distance from other people and don’t cough, sneeze, talk, sing, shout, spit, or sputter in another person’s face. Some of us were taught manners in kindergarten. It’s okay to take a walk. No mask needed. Don’t even get me started on gloves.