Tags: covid | bmj | distancing | cloth

Dr. Samadi: Science's Mixed Messaging Fueling Mask Divide

Dr. Samadi: Science's Mixed Messaging Fueling Mask Divide

A demonstrator attends the Keep Britain Free Movement Anti-Mask Protest on July 19, 2020 in London, England. From July 24,2020 masks will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

By Wednesday, 22 July 2020 09:48 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The hotly debated issue of whether face masks should be mandatory or not has driven a deep wedge, dividing our nation.

Political leanings, appear to be determining factors when making this personal decision.

Those on the left side of the political aisle often want mask mandates enforced (by businesses and/or local governments)  to protect the health of everyone, while those on the right favor freedom of choice and personal responsibility regarding one’s own health.

Normally during times involving a major health issue, we turn to scientific studies as a voice of reason. Unfortunately, even science is sending mixed messages and mixed messages during a viral pandemic are a major problem.

Thus, confusion still reigns whether wearing a face mask actually reduces coronavirus infections or not. Some individuals openly defy wearing a mask while others "snitch" on those without one.

Coming to a consensus could take a long time, even when reach that point at which  COVID-19 is eventually done and over with.

Mask Mandates: Scientific Pros and Cons 

Whoever would have dreamed our country would be confronting such a foreign concept of face mask mandates. The U.S. is "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

For many, covering more than half of our face in cloth makes our freedom feel stifled and our bravery look weak.

As a physician and surgeon, I understand the need to wear a face mask, especially during surgeries in order to prevent transfers of infections to patients.

During this pandemic, we now know the elderly and anyone with co-morbidities are the most at risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19.

Thus, it makes sense to be respectful by donning a mask when around them.

With most states reopening and viral infections trending upward, the cry for face mask mandates have become louder than ever. Depending on where you live, most public spaces are requiring people to wear face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus.

However  . . . what does science say about such face mask mandates?

At the onset of the pandemic, both the CDC and the World Health Organization along with the U.S. Surgeon General did not recommend masks for the general public.

One reason was to conserve masks for healthcare workers. Another was not enough data showed their effectiveness. Now, these same health experts claim the evidence is clear that masks can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Translation? The more people who wear them, the better.

This change in position is primarily based on not only rising numbers of virus cases but also findings from studies such as a recent mass testing campaign in San Francisco, showing viral load peaks of both pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission prior to symptoms appearing is a concern.

Another study published in Health Affairs, did a comparison of the growth rate of COVID-19 before and after mask mandates in 15 states along with the District of Columbia.

When mask mandates were implemented for three weeks, the daily growth rate slowed by 2%. A study in June looked at 198 countries: COVID-19 fatality rates finding countries which normally wore masks or used government policies to enforce it, saw lower death rates.

For those strictly wanting to avoid another lockdown, a research artificial intelligence (AI) model simulation demonstrated that if 80% of the public would wear face masks, a lockdown would not be necessary.

These studies, along with others, favor the need for wearing face masks when out in public to control the spread of coronavirus.

This should occur in conjunction with social distancing and frequent hand washing.

While just as many scientists applaud the use of face masks, others have concerns of mandating it. One caveat is when face masks are worn improperly. It’s one thing to have one on but if pulled below your nose and not sufficiently snug against the face, this could increase the risk of transmission.

This reasoning was determined by a May 2020 study looking at a pandemic influenza pooled analysis finding no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks.

A randomized control study from 2015 in the internatonal research journal BMJ found that cloth masks are not effective for reducing the spread of COVID-19 for several reasons: moisture retention within the mask, reuse of cloth masks without washing them, and poor filtration that could increase the risk of infection.

Aprt from science, the downsides of wearing face masks include limiting communication through facial expressions, they are especially hot in the summer, touching the face may be increased due to frequent readjusting, and keeping them in place on young children can be challenging.

Mask Mandates or Not? No Easy Answers 

Opinions are strong on both sides. There’s no easy answer to satisfy everyone.

However, anyone who is vulnerable should avoid crowds. If everyone would consistently and frequently wash their hands, avoid the touching of their faces, while maintaining safe distances from nonfamily members, wearing face masks likely would not be necessary.

My take? Short of mandating face masks, medically and from what science is saying, I recommend wearing one. While I don’t care for limiting personal freedom, if it helps prevent another lockdown, then let us do so. Our economy has taken a beating, our mental and emotional health has suffered, and our kids need to be physically attending school in an in-person collaborative environment.

Yes, we’re in this together. Let us get out of this crisis together also.

Dr. David Samadi is a contributor for Newsmax and the Director of Men's Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He's a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Visit Dr. Samadi's websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. Read Dr. David Samadi's Reports – More Here.

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Whether face masks should be mandatory or not has driven a deep wedge, dividing our nation. Political leanings seem to be determining factors when making this decision. Unfortunately, even science is sending mixed messages.
covid, bmj, distancing, cloth
Wednesday, 22 July 2020 09:48 AM
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