Letter to the editor: We must all stay informed about ways to avoid COVID

I’m going to discuss an issue that may bring up strong feeling in many readers, including disbelief and anger. I do not do this to make anyone angry or to diminish anyone’s strong feeling that they are doing what is best for their community. I believe in science, and my research indicates that wearing cloth or dust mask is not an effective method of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and may even do just the opposite. 
I was recently sent an article by my sister to convince me to wear a mask. This article states that it may be possible to contract COVID-19 not only by being coughed on, but by simply inhaling the breath of someone nearby who has it, whether they have symptoms or not. Surgical masks, however, catch a lot of the aerosolized virus as it is exhaled. It also states that the ability of surgical masks to reduce seasonal coronavirus in respiratory droplets and aerosols implies that such masks can (note, it does not say it will) contribute to slowing the spread of (COVID-19) when worn by infected people. This was based on a study of 111 people infected with coronavirus (but not COVID-19), influenza and rhinovirus. Surgical masks do not stop the transmission of the rhinovirus in this study. The study was about surgical masks, not cloth or dust masks, and also states more effective methods of slowing the transmission by improving ventilation in public places like grocery stores, or installing UV-C lights near the ceiling that works in conjunction with ceiling fans to pull air upward and destroy viruses and bacteria. This article can found at sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200403132345.htm.
In a WHO (World Health Organization) article, experts in viral infections suggest that, “All persons should: 
• avoid groups of people and enclosed, crowded spaces; 
• maintain physical distance of at least 1 meter from other persons, in particular from those with respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, sneezing); 
• perform hand hygiene frequently, using an alcohol-based hand rub if hands are not visibly dirty or soap and water when hands are visibly dirty; 
• cover their nose and mouth with a bent elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing, dispose of the tissue immediately after use, and perform hand hygiene; 
• refrain from touching their mouth, nose and eyes.
They also warn that other considerations are that, “self-contamination can occur by touching and reusing contaminated mask; depending on type of mask used, potential breathing difficulties; false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene; diversion of mask supplies and consequent shortage of mask for health care workers; diversion of resources from effective public health measures, such as hand hygiene.” They conclude “…the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risks.” For the full article go online to tinyurl.com/WHOmasks.
A commentary published by CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota) concludes: “Cloth masks are ineffective as source control and PPE, surgical masks have some role to play in preventing emissions from infected patients, and respirators are the best choice for protecting healthcare and other frontline workers, but not recommended for source control. These recommendations apply to pandemic and non-pandemic situations.
“Leaving aside the fact that they are ineffective, telling the public to wear cloth or surgical masks could be interpreted by some to mean that people are safe to stop isolating at home.”
See the article here: tinyurl.com/CIDRAPmasks.
We see the breakdown of physical distancing all the time, even in this wonderful newspaper where we see pictures of people doing things to help others in their community yet being too close probably because they feel safe wearing masks. We need to continue to help each other but do so at a safe distance even if wearing a mask; and maybe try to understand why others choose not to wear a face covering. In my case it is not out of spite, it is not that I think my constitutional rights are being infringed, it is not out of a feeling that I’m better than you, it is not out of I don’t care, it is out of respect for science that I don’t wear a face covering. If anyone has scientific proof that cloth and dust masks “will,” and not “can” or “may,” reduce the spread of this pandemic, please let me know.
Therefore, I wonder why do we hold so strongly to this new norm when science indicates otherwise?
Peter Ryersbach

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