Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)

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After seeing this morning’s Randy’s Random post about Covid-19 (reproduced below), I got this comment by email from an old friend, Terry in Colorado:

Long time, no talk. But this one gets me. The survival rate for COVID19 is about 99%. We are neglecting herd immunity. I’m tired of the state telling me I have to wear a face diaper as a method of control. That is what is at stake here. We are SO close to completely loosing our Constitution, in my opinion. There exists allowances for quarantine in statutory law. But until I have it, I should not be quarantined. And every authoritative guidance I’ve seen says to wear a mask OR social distance. You should know that a rag on your face does not stop ANY virus. They are MUCH smaller than the spaces between the threads. And N95 masks stop NOTHING from being expelled by anyone.

I would like to hear your opinion on all of the above.

I’m happy to give my opinion on all of the above. First, Terry doesn’t know that the Randy’s Random post is absolutely coincidental to the lead story in this week’s column, since I made that graphic back on July 14(!), and this week’s column hadn’t been sent out yet. Here’s that lead story:

Blatantly Obvious

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has continued to study the novel coronavirus and its transmission, and the results are very clear: more than half of all Covid-19 infections are caused by people who don’t yet know they have the disease, and don’t wear masks, or don’t wear them correctly, for instance leaving their noses uncovered. Also, masks do help healthy people from becoming infected, though it’s obviously much better when infected people wear them also. Not only that, says the lead researcher in the study, Dr. Monica Gandhi of the University of California/San Francisco, those who do get Covid while wearing a mask have less severe illnesses thanks to the mask reducing their viral load. “I am thrilled!” to confirm the findings, she said. Other researchers are finding that at least two layers of tight-weave 100 percent cotton material works best. The CDC says not only do both infection and death rates dramatically drop when people adhere to “universal masking policies,” but increasing compliance by just 15 percent would reduce the economic impact from lockdowns by about $1 trillion. (RC/NPR) …And don’t say you didn’t know covering the nose is important: where do the test swabs go?

covid test - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
Stock image of a man getting a typical Covid test, which involves a nasal swab. (Photo: lukasmilan via Pixabay)

So as you can see, Terry’s comments fit in nicely with the story — which, again, she hadn’t seen yet. Let’s get to them.

Terry’s Objections

disease vector 300x158 - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
The meme Terry is commenting on, from this morning’s Randy’s Random. (Click to see larger.)

First, kudos to Terry for being open-minded (“I would like to hear your opinion on all of the above.”) That’s a good thing, because I’m definitely not going to hold back with my “opinions” here.

  • Terry: “The survival rate for COVID19 is about 99%.”

Well, you’re off by a notable amount: in the U.S. it’s 97.8 percent. Still, lucky us it’s that high, thanks to the evermore exhausted American medical community!

Yet that is just one statistic: it completely ignores that the millions needing hospital treatment are causing huge costs to the country, especially considering the ongoing health problems that I’ve discussed earlier, such as most people who have caught Covid — including those who had few or no symptoms — have developed ongoing (perhaps life-long) cardiac problems.

“That’s just heart damage: there is also neurological damage, kidney damage, and more,” I said in that episode. “When someone says it’s just like the flu, no: in a few months Covid-19 has killed many more people in the United States than have died from flu in any year since 1918, and it’s far from over.” (And that was early August….)

Oh, and by the way? You know how health insurers want to exclude “pre-existing conditions”? Guess what a Covid infection is …if you survive it?

Even ignoring the human costs, we haven’t even begun to add up the ongoing costs to our economy by our blatant failure to contain this disease, as other countries have proven is possible. It’s going to be a big, big drain on us, dramatically affecting our ability to compete in the world economy for decades to come.

The other problem with Covid patients flooding hospitals: they’re taking up room and other resources that the regular day-to-day patients need: those suffering heart attacks, strokes, and auto crash trauma (the latter of which, luckily, is way down thanks to significantly reduced driving because of Covid…).

  • Terry: “We are neglecting herd immunity.”

The infectious disease specialists are certainly not. To assume that those spewing propaganda at you know better than they do is to …well… not only buy in to their propaganda, but foolishly buying into the denial of science in general.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been,” Isaac Asimov said …in 1980, and it’s not only true, it’s significantly worse 40 years later. He continues: “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.” (Emphasis added — and which is also posted at Randy’s Random.)

  • Terry: “I’m tired of the state telling me I have to wear a face diaper as a method of control. That is what is at stake here.”

Wrong. What’s at stake here is millions of lives — with more than 1.3 million dead around the world so far. “The state” isn’t trying to control you, its trying to control something that has evolved to kill you.

Yet it’s not trying all that hard! Let’s compare the incredibly weak response of the U.S. with South Korea’s tough measures:

On 20 January 2020, South Korea reported its first case. After a full month (19 February), the number of confirmed cases had increased by a mere 20, but on 20 February their case load jumped by 58-70 cases (various sources differ), and the next day they had 346 confirmed cases, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The sudden jump was mostly attributed to “Patient 31,” who participated in a gathering at a Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony service in Daegu.

That’s when the country (along with Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam) ramped up one of the largest and best-organized epidemic control programs in the world. Their program included mass testing, quarantine for those who tested positive, and aggressive contact tracing — yet no countrywide lockdown. (Example sources from March: Science, and BBC.)

Today, according to Korea’s Covid-19 Realtime Dashboard, the country of 52 million has had 28,769 confirmed cases and 494 deaths — a case rate of 554 per million and a death rate of 9.5 per million.

The United States? Despite much more limited testing, we have still reached 11,435,583 (11.4+ million) cases and 252,165 deaths — or a case rate of 34,472 per million and a death rate of 760 per million, as of this afternoon, per my favorite tracker, nCoV2019 Live. That site, by the way, shows Korea’s numbers to be pretty close to the above KDCPA numbers: a case rate of 561/M and a death rate of 10/M.

Again, look at that stark difference: the U.S. death rate is 760/M vs Korea’s 10/M — we are at 76 times Korea’s death rate. (Worldwide, by the way, the nCov2019 Live numbers as of this writing are 7,096 cases/M, and 171 deaths/M. If only our case/death rate was even that low!)

Therefore, we should have been just like South Korea and instituted strict measures? No …because that wouldn’t work here. Rightly or wrongly, we have quite the long history of resisting any sort of government control, which certainly started for the right reasons — yet we stupidly also insist on our “right” to be very, very wrong, no matter who we hurt. This is where thinking comes in: you know, the sort of thinking I’ve pushed for in True for the past quarter-century plus!

Yet our leaders could have done much more to encourage common sense measures, which definitely would have resulted in tens of thousands of lives saved, much reduced human misery, and massively less economic impact.

meme not funny - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
Another Randy’s Random meme, posted in early June. A few readers scoffed when I said the number is going to be much, much larger before it’s all over.
meme not funny2 - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
Here’s the same graphic, adjusted for today’s numbers. How can anyone dismiss this? It didn’t have to happen! Yet, the number is going to be much, much larger before it’s all over.

Not That This Problem Is New:

That’s why our Spanish Flu numbers were also dismal in 1918-1920: All told, in 1918’s first and second “waves,” there were 477,467 deaths from flu and pneumonia in the U.S. (Source: U.S. Census Mortality Statistics of 1918, PDF). In 1919 (the “third wave”), there were 189,326 more (U.S. Census Mortality Statistics of 1919). In 1920 (U.S. Census Mortality Statistics of 1920), it finally ramped down to a “mere” 62,097, for a grand total of around 719,000 — in the United States alone.

Yet today we have a population of 330 million. In 1920, the population was less than a third of that, at 106 million (U.S. Census).

We learned nothing from our mistakes of a century ago, and sure enough, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana in The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress — Volume 1, 1905)

So, yes: when in public, be a patriot and wear your god-damned mask!

  • Terry: “We are SO close to completely loosing our Constitution, in my opinion.”

Again, you’re buying into scare tactic propaganda. Because Biden “hates America” and will take away our guns? Just like Obama didn’t? (The only legislation he signed regarding guns was to allow those with concealed carry permits to carry their firearms in National Parks. Gosh, that radical leftie!)

Stop listening to stupid propaganda, Terry, and think for yourself after researching facts. I know you’re a smart person who is easily capable of that.

  • Terry: “There exists allowances for quarantine in statutory law. But until I have it, I should not be quarantined.”

I mostly agree, but how, exactly, will you know you have it? Before you answer, remember that the majority of the people who have Covid don’t know it for the first five days or more — at the exact time when they’re the most contagious. And that is exactly why we must mask up in public — to protect the most vulnerable in the population, in addition to protecting ourselves from the absolute obliviots who are still buying into that deadly propaganda and endangering us all by refusing to wear masks.

  • Terry: “And every authoritative guidance I’ve seen says to wear a mask OR social distance. You should know that a rag on your face does not stop ANY virus. They are MUCH smaller than the spaces between the threads.”

Again, very — and very dangerously — wrong. Here is the source for the lead article (included above) in this week’s column. I don’t just want you to read it, I want you to follow the links there to look at the source material for that article. Why? Because I want you to get objective, intelligent understanding — and I don’t want you to kill people or wreck their health if you end up with Covid and go out into public without a mask because you don’t know you have it.

  • Terry: “And N95 masks stop NOTHING from being expelled by anyone.”

Again, wrong: that is only true when masks specifically have unfiltered exhalation relief valves, which is not (repeat: not) the case with the sort of N95s specified for medical use. Kit and I were on our county’s Pandemic Flu planning team in 2006-2007. One result of that was our county bought several thousand N95 masks to hold in reserve for the county health department, EMS, and other first responders. They specifically do not have relief valves, nor do the ones that hospitals and others are trying to buy today.

Construction workers trying to keep sawdust out of their lungs? Absolutely: those have relief valves …and are not certified for medical use.

Again, this comes down to reading up-to-date, factual, unbiased research, rather than allowing yourself to be spoon-fed by clearly biased organizations and politicians with an agenda.

In other words, THINK, dammit!

And hey: don’t be a stranger: I miss our chats!

Update: What About CDC’s “Admission”?

In the comments below, Michelle in California asked me to address one other point that Terry didn’t raise. Summer headlines like the one shown here:

unthinking conservative - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
“CDC Admits only 6% of all 161,392 deaths recorded died solely from COVID-19”

…as if that’s some sort of revelation — that the CDC had to “admit” some sort of wrongdoing. (And really: “The Thinking Conservative”?! There’s clearly no thinking going on in this case.)

Because, of course: wrong yet again.

Some have extrapolated this one to even more ridiculous levels, including “CDC admits that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the name for the novel coronavirus, does not exist.” Another went so far as to allege, “What the CDC organization is admitting here is that it has no measurable amount of the ‘convid’ [sic] that every psychopathic authoritarian has used as justification to shut down the world’s economy.”

Yeah, you should certainly bet your health on someone who has researched this so thoroughly he thinks it’s called “convid”! (No, not a simple typo: this was in one of those crackpot videos.)

They’re all trying to find some sort of conspiracy. Here’s another a reader sent, which he had translated from French:

The [novel coronavirus] was created by the Pasteur Institute to exterminate 3.5 billion poor people.

…and, just a few paragraphs down in the exact same “exposé”:

By the way, numbers prove that there are no more deaths during this harmless fake pandemic aimed at killing billions of people than before this deadly harmless virus appeared.

This is the mentality of some people: the virus was designed to kill 3.5 billion people. You know, that “harmless fake” virus. Which is it?

But hey, there are numbers! We have no idea which numbers, but …numbers! So, speaking of numbers…

What Do the CDC Numbers Really Mean?

In my opinion, they mean whoever signed the death certificates didn’t do their job correctly, because that number should be zero! Yep: zero percent.

Here are the CDC’s latest general guidelines for how death certificates are supposed to be filled out — from August 2004:

cdc death cert example - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
Click to see larger.

As it clearly shows on the form, the “IMMEDIATE CAUSE” of death — the final, not underlying, cause of death — should be listed first. Then, what was that caused by, and what was that caused by?

So for this example, “big nasty blood clot in coronary artery” (a “thrombus” in medical speak) is definitely not the “immediate cause” of death, a rupture of the heart wall was. But what was that caused by? “Acute myocardial infarction” (aka “heart attack”). But what was that caused by? An arterial thrombosis (big nasty blood clot) in a coronary artery. And what was that caused by? Coronary artery disease caused by artherosclerosis, aka a buildup of plaque in the arteries. The underlying cause of death is the last thing listed …just like it says on the standardized form.

This is how we understand the underlying causes of death. Death certificates — every single one of them — “could” say “Cause of death: heart stopped,” and that would be true in some sense, but what understanding would that bring? None. We want specific data that can be crunched by computers to understand the causes of death.

That’s how the World Health Organization was able to announce that of the 56.7 million deaths recorded worldwide in 2016, the leading cause was cardiovascular disease, at more than 17 million deaths (about 31 percent of the total).

And that’s why having the sole cause of death read “Covid-19” isn’t the full picture either, which is why I say zero percent of death certificates should only list “Covid-19” as the cause. The scandal isn’t that “only 6 percent” of deaths are solely due to Covid-19, the scandal is that so many lazy-ass doctors didn’t lay out the details required on the forms they signed. Although, I guess I can sympathize some: they’re horribly overworked because obliviots can’t wear a god-damned mask to save their own miserable lives.

In the CDC’s Guidance for Certifying Deaths Due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) issued in April, they carefully laid out how this applies to Covid, and included this example:

covid death cert - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
CDC example.

The “immediate cause” of death is ARDS — acute respiratory distress syndrome. What was that caused by? Pneumonia, which was secondary to the underlying cause of death: Covid.

It really is as simple as that. So the people who made this into some sort of scandal are totally ignorant …at best. And willfully spreading harmful propaganda at worst.

One Last Thing

Reader Glen in Wisconsin sends this graphic:

near guarantee - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)

Even if the bullet points are correct (and even in some sort of unspecified averaging sense they strike me as inflated), the paragraph after them doesn’t logically follow. Being at a gathering with even a confirmed Covid-infected person definitely does not result in a “near guarantee” of “spreading” the disease. That’s why (for instance) 100 percent of nurses tending to a Covid patient on any given day don’t get Covid (though some do). Masks help. Distancing helps. Proper decontamination helps. All those combined help a lot. But all that said, a google search for the wording in the graphic returns zero hits, so it is either altered, or at the very least clearly not from an authoritative source.

But how do we know these protective measures help? Because of examples like this incident revealed in July, where two hair stylists were found to have Covid-19 and had been seeing clients until diagnosed. How many of the 140 customers the two women served during their highly contagious period caught the disease from them? Zero. What about their six co-workers, who spent much more time near them? Zero.

How is that possible? Because the salon 1) had a strict policy that everyone must wear masks in the store, all the time — stylists and customers alike; 2) had a policy of “distancing” the barber chairs from each other, and 3) limited and spread the appointments to help keep customers apart from each other.

The lesson here isn’t just that the suggested safety measures work, which is “Blatantly Obvious”, but rather that the willful ignorance of these measures is absolutely responsible for more than a quarter-million Americans deaths. It didn’t have to happen this way: it was a coldly calculated choice.

Addendum: Charts

Since graphics don’t function the same way in comments, I’m adding these here to go with my reply below to the comment from Cris in the U.K.

us excess deaths - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
U.S. excess deaths through week ending November 14. Rampdown toward the end due to final numbers not being in yet. (Chart: Centers for Disease Control)

 

europe excess deaths 300x133 - Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)
European excess deaths through Week 46. Rampdown toward the end due to final numbers not being in yet. (Chart: EuroMOMO, compiled by Statens Serum Institut, Denmark, with “data from all 26 participating countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany (Berlin), Germany (Hesse), Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK (England), UK (Northern Ireland), UK (Scotland), UK (Wales)”.)

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96 Comments on “Covid: Think for Yourself (Dammit!)

  1. Well, Randy, it looks like I have more reading to do. Thanks for your well-reasoned and well-documented answer. And I look forward to talking with you again soon. Thank You.

    Thanks much again, Terry, for being open minded. -rc

    Reply
    • It is also, perhaps, worth pointing out that the herd immunity percentage for measles is 95%. That means to get to 95% of people having had the disease, of 328 million Americans, 311.6 million would have to get it. If the survival rate is 99% (which it isn’t), roughly 3.1 million people will die. If we go with the current rate of 97.8%, 2.2% of people who get it die. If 311.6 MILLION people get it, that’s 6.85 MILLION people who will die.

      Even if we assume that herd immunity will kick in at only 60% of people, nearly 200 million people have to get it, and 2.2% of those will die: 4.4 million people.

      Wearing a mask isn’t going to hurt you, and it doesn’t really make it hard to breathe. Anyone in your family had a lengthy surgery? My father was under the knife for several hours a few years ago, and everyone in the operating room besides him was wearing a mask for the entire time.

      I’m perfectly willing to wear a mask when I’m not at home and there are other people around. If I’m in my car, I don’t need it, but I have it with me in case I get out of the car (or, for that matter, if I need to open the window to talk to someone). When I do my morning workout in the park across the street, there’s often no one else in the park. If anyone looks as if they’re going to get within 20-30 feet of me, I’ll pull the mask on.

      It’s really not a big deal. I don’t feel as if anyone is infringing on my rights; if I don’t want to wear a mask, I’ll stay home or make sure I’m not going to be around anyone else. It does kinda make me long for my prior iPhone with the fingerprint reader, though, because FaceID doesn’t work with most masks (there are some clear ones that it may work with).

      (Point of reference: 6.85 million people is the entire populations of WY, VT, DC, AK, ND, SD, DE, and RI, PLUS half of MT.)

      Reply
      • You could try setting up the face ID with your mask on, but that would mean you would always have to use the same mask. I haven’t tried this myself, as it occurs infrequently, and I just resort to the password. You’ve done a lot of research, and the numbers are mind boggling.

        I don’t use biometrics on my phone for one simple reason: we can be forced (by court order) to provide a fingerprint or facial image to unlock our phones, but we cannot be forced to give up a password to unlock our phones. No, “You should have nothing to hide” doesn’t help, as discussed here years ago (note especially the bold red toward the top). -rc

        Reply
      • I agree with you Dylan, on all points but one: “Wearing a mask isn’t going to hurt you, and it doesn’t really make it hard to breathe.”

        Maybe not for you, but there are people for whom there are both psychological and physical reasons that make wearing a mask difficult is not impossible.

        For that reason alone, seeing somebody wearing a mask improperly should not be seen as an aggressive, anti-social behavior. It should rather be seen as a sign of distress. If you are wearing your mask properly, it offers sufficient protection to ask the person why. If the answer is “I can’t breathe”, escort the person to where they can sit down for a bit to rest. If they still can’t breathe, call 911.
        A little kindness can get us that extra 15% of mask compliance, in a way that a rant like Randy’s above will not.

        The problem is, the vast majority of people in public not wearing a mask don’t have an actual problem with breathing (physical or psychological), but rather it’s a politically based protest. Confronting such a person can get an innocent killed. For the minority who do have a true problem with facial coverings, stores have other options: “contactless” delivery, “contactless” pickup in the parking lot, Amazon, and many, many others. It is not an option to ignore the terms that any store posts, such as “Masks required to shop here.” Either comply by wearing a mask, or leave: those are the only valid choices I can think of. -rc

        Reply
        • And that is what I’d call a “privileged rant”

          And that is what is called exerting the “right” to endanger others. That stores offer curbside pickup for anyone, without extra cost, whether they are in need or not, is the opposite of privilege. -rc

          Reply
      • Well said. The only thing I disagree with is that it IS difficult to breathe through if you have any of the forms of COPD as I have. I totally believe in wearing masks and think anyone who refuses will not remain a friend of mine for long.

        Depends on the severity of the COPD, of course. I “technically” have COPD since I have a little asthma, probably damage from the air when growing up in Los Angeles County. I definitely wear masks in public without complaint. -rc

        Reply
    • On the subject of herd immunity, it works if a large percentage of people get sick and become immune. Among those who get sick, a bunch will die (as Randy wrote it may not show up as covid caused on the death certificate). Who reading this is willing to be one of the people to die a very uncomfortable death to save the rest? I vote for wearing a mask and following all of the guidelines to get rid of covid that way. It hurts less than dying.

      Reply
    • Thanks for being open-minded. I was very much hating wearing a face mask and didn’t really think it helped, but my wife and I have worn them quite faithfully, as they are mostly required here in Michigan. We have gone out to eat a few times, laughing at the ridiculousness of wearing a mask into a restaurant, then taking it off to eat, and replacing it to leave. Last time we wet out for lunch after voting in person on election day. While in line outside, mask discipline was not very good, but people were mostly five feet or more apart. Three days later I caught a cold, and another three days my wife caught it, too. When the ‘cold’ didn’t go away, we decided we needed to be tested, four days after this reply of yours. Now we are isolating ourselves and not allowing my mother-in-law to come for Thanksgiving dinner. Since we have several contributing factors, we are trying to get treatment with a drug given an emergency use authorization to treat Covid-19. In our county the survival rate for our age range is 98.6%, but there are sometimes long term effects other than death. Now we will be giving up the once a week grocery trip with masks, and the once a week or less meal out with masks. And no twice a week trip to the gym to try and get in better shape. Now we just want to survive and even avoid any of those long term side effects. Then we can be part of the ‘herd immunity’.

      There are worse things than wearing a face mask.

      Keep up “This is True”; I’ve been a subscriber since before we married, and that’s been more than 23 years. Under two different email addresses, even.

      Eric, I hope your symptoms remain minor and your long-term effects few. -rc

      Reply
  2. How about someone other than the state telling you to wear a mask so you don’t infect me, or my kids, or your mother? How about that? You have problems with authority figures? Wear a mask and stop your little kid whining. The virus doesn’t move itself, YOU move it.

    Reply
  3. So let’s say the survival rate is 99% (to be generous). If every American is exposed to covid that means over 3 million dead Americans. And this Terry person is OK with that? Wow.

    Reply
      • Only until the virus killed everybody that it can kill.

        This virus seems rather susceptible to healthy, normal immune systems. The problem is, your average American no longer has a healthy, normal immune system, especially as they age.

        There are two ways in evolution to achieve herd immunity: everybody getting it is one, but everybody who is to frail to survive the illness is another!

        4 generations from now, COVID-19 will not be a problem.

        I sure hope it won’t take that long! But we should be prepared for it, or there won’t be many humans left by then. -rc

        Reply
  4. The governing bodies have lost so much trust. Why should I believe any of them? Riots and protests are OK, Parties for the governing people are OK, Getting hair washed is OK for the privileged. But for me to attend church is not OK. For my family to gather at Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day Parades and such are not OK. It goes on and on.

    You have to be cognizant of one important fact: governments are led by politicians. Need I say more? -rc

    Reply
    • Barbara, also remember that those “damed, bleeding heart liberals” who attended those riots, protests, etc. HAVE come down with ’19 just like those “conservative, MAGA hatted Trumpettes” have. Being in one group or another, being Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, or being of one race or another in the color spectrum does not grant an immunity from ’19. Common sense just might grant a bit of immunity, especially if one wears a mask while practicing common sense. And please do practice that: I’m undergoing treatment for cancer right now, and ’19 is just another complication I don’t want, or need. You may even save my life. Thank you!

      Best on beating it, Big (Rock) Guy! -rc

      Reply
      • Don’t try to tell that to Oregon Health Authority, and I’ve gotten in facebook jail for posting that BLM Protests are just as much superspreader events as Trump Rallies are.

        I stay away from both. Angry people armed is always a bad idea.

        Being around an angry crowd doesn’t sound like a good idea even if they’re not armed. -rc

        Reply
  5. “Caution in a pandemic is not a sign of weakness but of wisdom. Face masks in a pandemic are not cultural markers, just common-sense protection that says nothing other than, ‘I’m a responsible person who wants to protect myself and my grandparent, myself and my customer, myself and my co-worker, myself and my neighbor from an invisible pathogen.’ … Our choices were never masks OR jobs but masks FOR jobs — the more your employees and customers wear them, the more your business can stay open and flourish.” —Thomas Friedman, American Political Commentator, October 2020

    Reply
  6. I think I’m more impressed by Terry’s response than the (excellent) case you made, Randy. 🙂

    Terry and I might not agree on everything, but there’s a reason we’ve been friends for more than 20 years! -rc

    Reply
  7. Love it, as usual. Over the course of the year I’ve found 3 appropriate jpgs that I’ve used for obliviots on this subject. I’ve uploaded them and everyone is welcome to use & share them as much as they want. The 1st is short & to the point. The 2nd elaborates more on the ramifications of ignoring the guidance. The 3rd shows what other “inconvenient rules” we accept with no complaints yet we won’t wear a mask. (smh)

    Reply
    • Thanks, Mike. Funnily enough, when I proceeded to download your memes, a small dialog box popped up on my computer with this notification inside: “Scanning for viruses…”.

      Reply
    • I like the memes, however I do have a comment about the second one.

      First, the individual has a pizza party and got together with some close friends. Second, the meme places the blame solely on this one individual.

      Shouldn’t the people that attended the party and get together also hold some responsibility? Did they not practice the “Safe 6”? Did they wear masks and stay 6ft apart? Why would these other people attend the pizza party in the first place?

      Person A may have been infectious, and spread it around to other people, but it also the other people to act responsibly. If they are attending events outside their “bubble” then they are at risk. And then they put everyone else at risk.

      We have to work together to stop this.

      Reply
  8. Thanks Terry, for your questions & Randy, for your answers. Here’s how it plays out for me. I have asthma (with lung damage), diabetes 2 and sleep apnea, all of which are considered high risk factors (the sleep apnea is just being reported). So I wear a mask everywhere I go to protect myself. Sure it’s not perfect, but much better than nothing. (Per articles Randy pointed to.)

    Frequently, I encounter people with their masks pulled down or not covering their face. “I can’t breathe,” they say. Hogwash! If I can, they can. Despite the Governor’s mandate for masks, many localities refuse to enforce it, Including Midland (19 miles from Odessa, TX, where I live), where the hospital just opened a whole new COVID wing a week ago, and it is already full!

    The scariest part for me is this: my husband will go to the convenience store and not wear a mask. “Nobody else is, including the clerks,” he says. This is true, despite the signs on the door and “Corporate Policy”. What I try to explain to him is: we don’t need him catching it and bringing it home. Even if he didn’t have symptoms or just a mild case (not likely, as he is a smoker with heart surgery behind him), *I* don’t need it. Just one clerk getting infected at that store could in turn infect hundreds of customers and *their* families and coworkers. Just because people don’t want to wear a mask.

    Think of the virus as an alien from outer space: it doesn’t care about your politics, your race, your education or your patriotism. It just wants to eat and replicate. The best way to fight it is to deny it food. While we wait for a vaccine(s), the best way to deny it food is to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Yeah, it sucks. But I consider the alternative to be worse.

    Maybe your husband will wise up once you make him read this page. 🙂 -rc

    Reply
    • Agreed! The whole “I can’t breathe” crowd are nitwits. Doctors & nurses have been wearing similar masks during surgeries since the late 1800s. If you really couldn’t breathe while wearing a mask, we wouldn’t have any surgical Doctors & nurses anymore as they all would have died from not being able to breathe while wearing a mask.

      I’ve found 3 jpgs that help explain this all to others. They’re on my Google Drive. The 2nd one might help you get through to your husband. Best of luck.

      Reply
      • Somewhere I have a good graphic that shows why you should wear a mask but I cannot find it at present. If I do I will email it to arcie (I do not do cloud) and, IF he thinks it appropriate, he can post it. It is borderline offensive but does exactly cover the reasons for masks.

        A fine solution. Please refer to this comment if you find and send it so I make the association. (I get a LOT of email….) -rc

        Reply
        • Not on topic, but “arcie” just now clicked with me. After how many years of seeing that in the from of the newsletter….

          Heh! It’s been in the FAQ for many years. -rc

          Reply
      • I want to thank you for calling me a nitwit. I have copd, no, not from being a smoker. I find it very difficult to do much other than sit while trying to draw breath through two layers of tightly woven layers of cotton. And I do wear it in spite of it severely limiting my activities. Please don’t assume you know everything about people just because you don’t agree with them.

        I think Mike was referring to those who claim it as an excuse. You can claim it, and prove it doesn’t have to stop you from wearing one. -rc

        Reply
  9. Well-written and -researched, as always. But what I’m most impressed with is at the bottom, when Terry responds with “…it looks like I have more reading to do. Thanks for your well-reasoned and well-documented answer.” Well done, Terry, for having an open mind and a willingness to learn something new today.

    Reply
  10. Extremely well put. If only people would stop moaning about the perceived loss of their “rights” and just consider what they owe to their community and nation as a whole.

    Reply
  11. Terry, Kudos for inviting discussion. This is a volatile topic that challenges us all to look critically at what we believe and what we know.

    When I had open heart surgery 27 years ago, the surgeon and the OR crew wore masks. Those masks were meant to protect me from the possibility that any one of them had some asymptomatic un-diagnosed respiratory illness; the idea being not to blow those germs or virus particles into my open chest.

    This virus is transmitted much more easily than earlier ones. It is also largely asymptomatic for several days to two weeks. As a consequence it presents a much greater danger in the general population that earlier viral pandemics. The idea behind mask use is that we protect each other. I don’t like wearing a mask whenever I’m out and about (especially if I sneeze!), but it seems a reasonable thing to do to protect others around me.

    I’ve noted in earlier posts that I was the Director of Infection Control at my hospital during the MERS, H1N1, SARS, and Ebola pandemic events. Those events were well managed and resulted in far fewer hospitalizations and deaths in this country than this current pandemic. One of the key issues in controlling the potential spread during those earlier events was aggressive and widespread use of barrier techniques. By that I mean we wore masks; N95 masks that block particulate movement in both directions. Medical grade N95 masks do not have unfiltered exhalation valves. If you can’t get access to N95 masks, even high thread count multiple layer cotton masks will reduce viral loads.

    Besat regards, stay well, and keep asking questions.

    Reply
  12. The thing I love most about this, and there’s a lot about it to love, is Terry’s response at the end. Many people would see your response as a biased attack on their opinion, which a lot of people value above facts these days.

    Well done Randy for your well reasoned response, with supporting evidence to back your reasoning (not that I would expect any less of course). Well done also to Terry for approaching with an open mind, and being prepared to have your beliefs challenged, and to commit to reading the source material provided. If more people can approach these discussions in this way, there may be hope for us all yet!

    I sent Terry a PDF copy of the page before it published, as well as the exact posting time I set “so you can be first to comment, if you wish.” I’m glad she wished to do so, and gratified how she responded. -rc

    Reply
  13. I am honestly curious what nefarious results people are expecting government to gain from requiring people to wear masks until we have successfully managed to reach a level of public immunity. I keep seeing the argument that government is “controlling” us by requiring masks, but even if they are, what’s the endgame? We’re still developing vaccines, so it’s not like anyone’s threatening that masks are going to be a forever thing.

    “Control” …as if the doctors and researchers who have studied and planned for inevitable pandemics for their entire careers would advocate for masks solely to support that. See what I mean by a lack of thinking? -rc

    Reply
  14. The thing that has really been bothering me as a graduate student at a major American public university is the condescension from international students about how much better their countries are doing because they have been following proper procedures.

    You briefly alluded to this in your response, but I believe a lot of people don’t realize just how much the American educational system emphasizes personal freedom, much more than any other in the world that I know of. After growing up with the belief that this is one of the most central foundations of our country’s existence, it should be no wonder that people are resisting, even if intellectually they may be capable of understanding that it will help.

    The Washington Post recently had an article about how “Australia has eliminated Coronavirus by following science.” (Let’s ignore for a minute that many other countries that claim to have eliminated Coronavirus are now experiencing significant new waves.) My takeaway from the article was nothing to do with science at all. It was that the Australian governmental system is built on restricting people’s rights for the greater good (possibly left over from when it was a British penal colony) and gives the government broad control over everything, while the system in the United States was deliberately created to keep the government weak.

    Reply
    • As an Australian I have to point out that the reason Aus got it under control fairly quickly is 50% pure luck and 50% people actually paying attention to what was happening and to a large extent ignoring the politicians and their bulldust.

      One piece of luck was the Ruby Princess cruise liner debacle which resulted in mass infections and a string of deaths over the following few weeks. This got through on the TV news even though the bushfires were very much topic 1 on the news and got people aware early. The NSW and Feral governments were responsible for that debacle and yet the Prime Minister still insists that NSW is the role model that the rest of the country should follow. I could spend an hour writing rebuttal to that.

      The second luck Aus had was is that the country is, by world standards, very sparsely populated. Our highest density city, Sydney, has 1,400 people per square km. Manhattan has over 26,000. By world standards our social distancing is a joke — 4sqm per person. The USA is 11.5sq and most of the world 13sqm.

      In the US Macdonalds and most other responsible vendors have added fittings to all doors that open towards you so you do not need to use your hands to open the door. In Australia not even hospitals have that!!!!

      The UN says you need to hand wash for 60 seconds. The Aust government says “she’ll be right mate — 20 seconds will do mate.”

      And all states refuse to learn from each other and elsewhere. New Zealand learnt quickly that no one should leave hotel quarantine without passing a covid test but still many parts of Aus allow the tests to be optional.

      Another problem here is most of the staff in the quarantine hotels are “subcontractors” meaning they work part time for multiple employers because that way the employer does not have to pay benefits. This means that when nurse or security guard who works for multiple employers (and that is 90%+) gets infected they then spread it to the other locations where they work. Then when a subcontract nurse in a aged care home gets Covid they also spread it to all the other aged care homes they work in. This has been known for months yet this week’s Adelaide outbreak is caused the same way.

      Thanks for the straight dope from down under. Different politicians, same B.S. -rc

      Reply
      • Thanks for the response. Being unable to travel (and not much of a traveler even when I could travel), it is good to get a perspective from someone who is actually there instead of the armchair pundits of the media.

        Reply
    • I think you are largely correct about America being rooted in personal liberty. Right now I think many facets of public education are deemphasizing personal liberty. (Three daughters all of whom are school teachers). I think what is missing in America is that personal liberty requires equal levels of personal responsibility.

      Reply
  15. At the beginning of the year, before we had a mask mandate, I was mildly diabetic, severely arthritic, but basically healthy 59 year old. Got Covid in the spring, 5 days in the hospital, no vent, came thru ok.

    Still have ongoing breathing issues, and for my 60th bday, I had a massive heart attack. Barely survived it, now recovering at home and wondering what’s next?

    Happy Birthday, eh? From here, it at least sounds like you are a victim of the “cardiac damage” mentioned here. I wish you great improvement. -rc

    Reply
    • Slowly getting better, but I can’t help but get angry at those who willfully ignore science.

      I would too: I feel it now even though we’ve never met. -rc

      Reply
  16. As of 11/2020, we are suffering a 9/11 approximately *every three days*.

    Because some of our politicians are incompetent fools… and a lot of Americans believe them.

    Reply
  17. Thank you so much for putting everything together so beautifully here. I’ve subscribed to TRUE for years and enjoyed it, but this goes beyond enjoyment to invaluable reference. I’ll be sharing the link where appropriate, and hoping it will change some minds.

    Reply
  18. The complaints about the slight discomfort of wearing a mask makes me smile:

    For a century or more men willingly wore neckties, and jackets or suits, awkward hats and other odd clothing in order to conform, even in blisteringly hot weather. Women wore all sorts of constricting garments to “look good”, and still wear damaging and uncomfortable shoes, and uncomfortable bras that they can’t wait to take off at night (I’m told). Kids wear trousers (or pants in the US) so loose that they have to keep hitching them up as they walk.

    Yet the thought of wearing a small piece of face covering that will do good for society, that may save their and other people’s lives, elicits howls of protest.

    Glad you can smile! I have pain from rolling my eyes so hard. -rc

    Reply
    • The areas of the United States that are complaining the most never did wear uncomfortable clothing — the rural areas that have been ignored and oppressed for the better part of a century. It is not surprising that when faced with yet another barely-believable demand from people claiming to be better than they are, there is resistance.

      Reply
  19. I started wearing a face mask as soon as the first case was reported in my state, before we went into lockdown. And, honestly, I’ve been telling everyone that once this pandemic is over, however long that takes, I’m going to keep wearing them. This is the first year I haven’t been affected by seasonal allergies (even with taking allergy meds year-round, I’d still get a bit sniffly right at the change of seasons — not this year). They filter smells; I don’t have to worry so much about the smell of cigarette smoke when I’m forced to be around smokers, or the woman at work who must marinate in perfume triggering a migraine and leaving me to scrape the taste of it off my tongue every time she walks past my cubicle. And nobody can see me lip-syncing to my music or testing the way a sentence feels when spoken aloud before I put it in my novel. Never mind COVID, this is helping the rest of my issues as well.

    I’m always glad when people say “I welcome your thoughts” and then actually welcome them. Especially your thoughts, Randy. They certainly help me coalesce my own.

    You’re lucky! The summer to fall allergy season was a bear for me, partly because of wildfire smoke, even with heavy use of a large-CFM HEPA filter running in my office. -rc

    Reply
  20. I wonder how Terry in Colorado would react if he were suddenly teleported back to World War II civilian life? Gasoline, rationed. Car tires, rationed. Sugar, rationed. Publications, censored. Windows at night, covered. Manufacturers, compelled to produce — on not to produce — certain items. Most able-bodied males, drafted into the military.

    Those restrictions and requirements — and many, many other others — were MANDATORY, and violating them could land people in prison. But nearly everyone complied without much complaint. Why? Because they were willing to sacrifice their freedom and convenience for the public good.

    That’s why they are often called members of “the greatest generation.” Their reaction to a crisis is sadly something that Terry and millions of other Americans are no longer willing or able to understand or even care about.

    Reply
    • I have often wondered the same, What would my grandparents think if they saw us? The common good seems to now be a concept that most folks don’t understand. The Stella Awards chronicle the same syndrome — more or less, “I am going to get mine, the rest of you be damned”.

      Would that more of us understood the concept of putting the common good ahead of personal wants.

      Reply
      • And the irony is, the “greatest generation” are the ones suffering disproportionately from the pandemic. Explain to the the people in Arlington National Cemetery why wearing a mask is too big a sacrifice to make for the country.

        Reply
  21. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this comprehensive reply to your friend. Providing these links within your response means a lot, too. And I applaud your friend Terry for her reply back, that she will do more reading about this.

    I question the patriotism of those Americans who are spreading propaganda that is false or even misleading. It confuses and disappoints me.

    Hopefully, others will share this page, especially with people who insist as Terry initially did. Sadly, I believe most of the people I know who would fit this attitude will be unwilling to do any additional reading (if they did any reading at all — and probably just heard some commentator on talk radio or such). This is another reason that Terry has actually given me a little hope that change can happen.

    Reply
  22. I have friends like Terry who, although coming from opposite sides of the political spectrum, we can still have a reasoned discussion. I cherish them as friends.

    Regarding the 2.2% who DON’T survive COVID, what I say to people who want to relax restrictions, “What if it was your loved one who was part of the 2.2% and it was YOU who brought it to them, how would that make you feel? So I urge you to protect yourself from the possibility of feeling you caused your loved ones death.”

    Worked on my children (all of who are school teachers with kids in the classroom) as regards my wife. But they are all pretty smart and didn’t need much convincing, it was largely preemptive.

    Reply
  23. I love the explanation you gave Terry on masks and I can see that it made an impact. Can you do the same for “CDC quietly updated their numbers to show only so many people died of COVID”? I know it’s bunk, part of the co-morbidity is caused by COVID itself so those death certificates are likely incomplete. But I really think nobody has delved into this enough to get more people to listen. If you have time, I would love for you to do your own take on this so at least the people you address will maybe finally get it. I was so impressed with the reaction of your words from Terry.

    21 November: Done! -rc

    Reply
    • Two financial papers, from memory the Financial Review and Economist, did separate but similar studies on this way back mid year or earlier and found NY was the only place in the world that reporting accurate deaths. In general terms on day x NY reported 1200 people died of covid and the researchers found the actual number of people who died on that day, minus the number who died on the same day last year, was 1300 leaving 100 as those who died of other means. In some cities/countries the same process showed the covid deaths were under-reported by as much as 50%.

      I heard one report a month or two ago that statistical analysis in the U.S. showed 300,000 more deaths than expected up to some date I don’t remember, while the “official” death stats were showing just over 200,000. Not quite 50 percent, but certainly a clear data point showing significant undercounting. -rc

      Reply
    • Thank you so much! I did find one article that said the death certificates were likely incomplete since death is a chain of events, but it was just the one. I agree that 0% should only have COVID as cause. I have even seen people say that COVID has cured the flu, disregarding that the flu season just ended at the beginning of the crisis and we are just now getting into our flu season for this fall! Not to mention that if we wear face masks and are more careful of our hygiene, it IS going to affect our getting other viruses as well. The other thing that infuriated me is people saying they saw deaths from ARDS and pneumonia, so they lied when it said COVID. Where the heck did they think the ARDS and pneumonia CAME from??? It’s a COVID complication! Ugh, I could go on but I won’t. I appreciate you addressing this subject.

      Reply
  24. Thanks, Randy. Had this for ten years now (bladder cancer) and this is the 4th relapse. To say I’m sick of this, is an understatement.

    [Thank you for using one of my “other” nicknames. At 6’5″, I am a “Big Guy”! 🙂 ]

    Reply
  25. The whole “face diaper” thing is a huge part of the problem; before I got myself taken back off the front line, I had a lot of people come in viciously complaining about their masks, which they’d obviously been doing persistently.

    And that sort of constant negative thinking just reinforces itself. When people focus on hating it, they’re gonna hate it.

    I tell them: I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for 20 years and if I complained about having to take my needles every day, I’d hate it, too. Instead I’ve long since adjusted to it just being another part of life and I barely think about it anymore.

    Reply
  26. Maybe mask-wearing should have been characterized as protecting our freedom instead of restricting it. But someone — who shall remain nameless — politicized masks. That act has caused great suffering — even for those of us who haven’t contracted the coronavirus.

    Reply
  27. I am a COVID survivor but not by much of a margin. My O2 sat dropped to 42. No, that is not a typo. For those who are not familiar, 90+ is good, alarms start ringing at 89, doctors get anxious in the 70’s and most corpses have better than 50 O2 sats (at least for awhile). Also, while it was not on my bucket list before COVID, I have since added “have a code blue called on you in the hospital” to my bucket list and then immediately checked it off as completed.

    The person from whom I got the virus was not showing a single symptom. I did not show any symptoms for 5+ days after being infected. I wonder how many folks I passed it to. Yes, I wore a mask with better discipline than most but I was not circumspect enough — one episode of carelessness got me. I hope that my carelessness did not get anyone else.

    At the end of the day, we stopped smokers (mostly) from sharing 2nd hand smoke not because it is bad for them, but because it is bad for the rest of us. We “force” people to wear seat belts, not because they help other people, but because they help the wearer. COVID is a mix. A mask can prevent illness which occurs frequently, and death which occurs far, far too often for both parties in the interpersonal transaction. Why we (as a people) are OK with limiting smoke and wearing seatbelts but not wearing masks is beyond me — wait, politics.

    Masks can be inconvenient at times — I hate foggy glasses. But, I will take foggy glasses all day, every day to avoid another code blue.

    COVID is not political, it is frightening. Do your part, WEAR YOUR MASK and wear it the right way.

    For those who don’t know, “Code Blue” is what hospitals use to summon resuscitation teams, generally when someone’s heart stops (and they don’t have a DNR — Do Not Resuscitate — order on file). -rc

    Reply
  28. Here is a link to a wonderful article and animation from the NYTimes last month which explains in great graphics how masks work to filter particles like the Covid virus. I am somewhat surprised it was not referenced somewhere in your very well reasoned and thoughtful response to Terry. Terry, Thank you for being willing to look into what Randy provided you. We would like you to have you around for a long time.

    I can’t include every reference, but readers can bring up good ones here in the comments! -rc

    Reply
  29. It should be noted that not all masks are equal, and the statement that a basic cloth mask can’t filter out the virus doesn’t necessarily apply to a better mask. N95 masks are considered the minimum for actual viral protection, but there’s better masks out there — HEPA filters come in H1 to H14, and an N95 is an H11 on that scale.

    The thing is, no HEPA filter will stop the virus particles themselves, but you’d only ever encounter the pure virus if someone weaponized the virus and threw a handful of the virus in powder form in your face. You’d need an ULPA filter to protect against that.

    I started off the pandemic, when people were terrified it was airborne, using an industrial P100 mask (H13 filtration) with a baffled outflow — yeah it had an exhalation valve in it, but the baffle directed the flow straight down — and vapor-rated goggles. Some medical journal articles even started suggesting certain models of industrial respirators for hospitals that couldn’t get medical grade N95+ masks — my mask was one of those models!

    But panicky people aren’t critically-thinking people, and I eventually got tired of explaining that my mask wasn’t one of the bad ones to people everywhere I went. I also needed a mask that actually filtered incoming air due to pollen allergies, and masks available at the time were either insufficient filtration or simply unavailable at any price.

    At that point, it was known not to be airborne, but fluid transmission via exhaled droplets. So I designed my own mask, found and purchased materials, and got my mother to sew them.

    The masks I wound up with use the same melt-blown fabric filter in the best surgical masks, the kind that stop all water droplets, which are also a fine enough filter to stop the pollen I need them to.

    Of course, my luck being my luck, just about three weeks after I got them all done, a company came out with ones that did everything mine do but better and more comfortable to wear, for about what mine would cost if I paid money (rather than exchanging yard work and computer services) for them. /facepalm

    Don’t second-guess your decision to act with intelligence: you did so with the best info you had at the time. -rc

    Reply
  30. As to your eye rolling comment, I have said that if I roll my eyes any harder, the government is going to hook me up to a generator and I could produce enough energy to power the entire US.

    Another thing that irritates me is the people wearing a mask pulled down to their chin. The only virus that protects against is CHINVID-19, which doesn’t exist (I made it up). Although I did have a friend comment that it would protect against beard dandruff.

    Reply
  31. I am surprised that no one has commented on how to get the obliviots to wear masks. Here are two extreme measures.

    In parts of Indonesia if the police catch you violating mask wearing laws they arrest you and you are sentenced to dig the graves of Covid victims using only pick and shovel. I really can’t imagine any obliviot volunteering to dig graves in mid winter in the colder states and even most Florida and California obliviots would decide that was too much like hard work so always wear the mask where required.

    The other option is: You are allowed your right not to wear a mask but in return your health fund and your state have the right to refuse you all treatment for Covid.

    The Indonesian story was one area one time (that I heard of) — and was included in This is True. The second reminds me of a similar proposal: sure, you can ride a motorcycle without a helmet, but if you crash then any medical treatment has to be paid for in advance, and insurance would not be required to cover it. -rc

    Reply
  32. I am reminded of an old saying, I think Arabian:

    He who knows not,
    and knows not that he knows not,
    is a fool; shun him.

    He who knows not,
    and knows that he knows not,
    is a student; Teach him.

    He who knows,
    and knows not that he knows,
    is asleep; Wake him.

    He who knows,
    and knows that he knows,
    is Wise; Follow him.

    The first category are Randy’s beloved Obliviots.

    Terry falls into the second category, maybe a bit in the third, and kudos to her for questioning her point of view.

    Randy’s mainly in the last category and I’d have to think long and hard before contradicting any of his wisdom. Thanks as always Randy for imparting it to the rest of us.

    No one is in that last category all the time: as I often say, “We’re all stupid sometimes.” Certainly including me: it’s one of the risks of being human. -rc

    Reply
  33. I love all these comments. One thing I might add is that “common sense” does not seem to exist today. I do appreciate all the education that has been brought forth, along with the links from reputable sources. Thank you.

    Common sense exists, but isn’t nearly as “common” as anyone would hope. -rc

    Reply
    • I read this somewhere — “Common sense is now so rare it is considered a superpower”. Might even have been a “Randy’s Random”.

      Indeed so, and briefly a TRUE T-shirt before that. -rc

      Reply
  34. Anyone who thinks masks can’t be effective because the virus is smaller than the spaces between the fibers should take some golf balls to a park with a chain link fence. The golf balls are much smaller than the holes in the fence, so it should be extremely easy to throw them through the fence without making contact with the fence, right?

    Throw 10 golf balls at the fence and see how many make it through without touching the wires of the fence at all. How many are deflected back at you? Now imagine the wires of the fence were sticky, and if the golf ball touches them, it doesn’t bounce away, but sticks to the fence. How many balls make it through to the other side?

    It’s the same way with masks and the virus. Cotton fibers in the mask are absorbent: if a droplet with viral particles in it hits some of the fibers in the mask, the droplet will be absorbed, and the viral particles won’t be transmitted through the mask.

    Considering that a single layer of cotton weave isn’t really a single layer of cotton fibers, but many thousands of fibers twisted around each other and woven together, and there are two or more layers in a decent mask, well, it’s not like throwing a golf ball through the Gateway Arch.

    Reply
    • The size difference is more like throwing a few handfuls of sand through a chain link fence covered in motor oil- some will most certainly get through, but it is better than nothing.

      Now upgrade that to an H14 Hepa Filter, or a UPLA filter in a fancy gas mask…and it would be more like throwing that sand against a steel wall with no holes.

      And yes, I may be skeptical of the strategy, but I wear my mask outside of the artificial environment of my house and my cars. And does anybody know of a good place to buy H14 material? I am running out of filter replacements.

      Reply
  35. If (say) you had lung cancer, and were going to die in the next 3 years, and COVID kills you in two weeks, the proximate cause of death is still COVID, even though it was aggravated by lung cancer. You still deserved to have those three years, but now you can’t.

    Reply
  36. Re update: Seems to me the portmanteau of “convid” was used in the same fashion as another I’ve seen posted, namely “plandemic.” Sadly, these folks probably think they’re sooooo clever!

    Could well be; good theory. -rc

    Reply
  37. Just shut up about “Lazy-assed doctors”. You have no idea what kind of stuff we (meaning doctors) have to deal with. Not the least being signing death certificates when we don’t really know what someone died of, and the family actually wants the body buried.

    Maybe consider reading the next sentence from there! And if you haven’t committed malpractice in signing a death certificate, then I wasn’t talking about you anyway, was I? -rc

    Reply
  38. Until Trump, wearing a mask would have been considered the Republican solution to COVID since (1) it’s cheap, (2) it’s noninvasive, and (3) it’s somewhat effective. And did I mention it’s cheap?

    Also, it’s noninvasive and measurably effective! -rc

    Reply
  39. What these people complaining about their “rights” don’t realize is that with rights come responsibilities and obligations. To their country, to their fellow citizens and to society as a whole.

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  40. “I heard it from a friend, who, heard it from a friend, who, heard it from another…” is a great Reo Speedwagon lyric, not a fact.

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  41. We are SO close to completely loosing our Constitution, in my opinion.

    I agree with Terry… but for almost completely different reasons, which you (Randy) can probably infer correctly without too much effort.

    This was a *great* piece, and I’ll be flinging it around the ‘net with willy-nilly abandon. 🙂

    WHAT?! And increase the risk that others might be informed with actual facts?! Crazy. -rc

    Reply
  42. There is one thing that most of us have forgotten which is a contributing factor to the problem today. Back in March the CDC was telling us that masks don’t help prevent the disease and even if we had them, if we hadn’t had proper medical training, we wouldn’t wear them right. To some extent this is true, when you look around at people with their nose hanging out. But at the the same time, ironically the medical profession was complaining about not having adequate supplies of PPEs. Trump latched onto this and made it part of his mantra, and when he gets something fixed in his mind, it can’t swayed by facts.

    As more knowledge became available, the CDC has gradually changed its messaging that we all should wear mask. But the damage had already been done and it continues to be hard to change people’s minds.

    It’s one of the beautiful things about science: it’s self correcting, yet some point to it as some sort of problem. It’s not: it’s a feature, not a bug. -rc

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  43. One thing that Really bothers me about this “crisis” is that the politicians don’t follow their own rules! That’s why you have people not believing this is an issue! Dr. Fauci not wearing a mask at a ball game. Governor Cuomo went to Georgia, a hot spot, and was photographed hugging people without a mask. When he was called out on it, his excuse was “I’m essential” (paraphrasing here), and of course he wasn’t required to quarantine! Then we have Governor Whitmore breaking her travel ban, Nancy Pelosi getting her hair done, Mayor Lightmore and Mayor Bowser attending “essential” Biden rallies, and the most recent violator Governor Newsome attending a birthday party — but he apologized profusely, so it’s ok! Meanwhile, my family cannot have a service for my father who passed in July due to NY travel restrictions! There is also much conflicting information out there on the efficacy of masks — not all of the scientists agree, just like on “climate change”! We are losing our rights to travel, assemble peacefully, and even controversial speech is being censored by “fact checkers”, who amazingly only seem to fact check conservative viewpoints, funny how that works! Unfortunately, there is little we can do about this loss of rights, most states, including VA and NY, have it written into their State constitutions that they are allowed to restrict these rights in times of “health emergency” — so they can trump (no pun intended) the Federal constitution, this is very dangerous! It has been litigated before — and the courts upheld the state’s rights to do this, but maybe we should revisit this, these governors are abusing their power in my opinion. I really hope there is another test case against all these abusive restrictions.

    Indeed many pols don’t follow the rules they lay out — “Do what I say, not what I do” is a common topic in This is True‘s stories. But you have to be careful about what’s real, and what’s propaganda. Fauci, for instance, was indeed wearing a mask at the ball game, but had pulled it down to his chin: “I was totally dehydrated and I was drinking water trying to rehydrate myself.” And when he was done, he pulled it back up. He also had no one near him other than his wife and a close friend, AND had a covid test the day before with negative results. The other situations I don’t know enough about to say, but the Pelosi thing sure seems hypocritical. Are there a few scientists who disagree about masks? Sure: they’re human. But the VAST majority agree that masks would help dramatically (and, by the way, the VAST majority agree that climate change is a real, human-caused problem that threatens human existence). The question is, do you believe only the outlying cases, or the 99.9+ percent — and why?

    As for “only conservatives” having false information deleted from someone else’s platform when they break the rules, I’d be interested in some examples of provably false information from liberals that haven’t been similarly deleted, because I have seen several examples of tags along the lines of “Proven False” on left-winger’s posts on Facebook. All that said, it is awfully interesting how conservatives scream about “State’s Rights!” …until states actually follow their own constitutions, and now you want them federalized. Make up your mind. -rc

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    • The Fact Checker in the Washington Post does a very good job of calling out misstatements by both liberals and conservatives. When you take out checks on Trump’s statements (which make up a large percentage of their work because he lies so frequently), there is a reasonable balance.

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      • And the same with Snopes, yet both sides will tell you that their side is judged by higher standards on any and every given topic.

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  44. Thanks for a researched and thoughtful response…as always! Its not a big deal to wear a mask for yourself and others. Personally, I don’t want it nor do I want my family to have it. Whatever I can do towards that, I will.

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  45. Are you aware of the substantial evidence AGAINST school closures. How about the decrease in five-year average death rates?

    There’s a seminal New Scientist article, 15 August 2020, pages 48-51 by Statistician David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, UK, and author of The Art of Statistics. The first graph on page 50 is entitled:

    “COVID-19 MORTALITY OVER TIME. After a huge spike beginning in late March, deaths in England and Wales have recovered to below the five-year average, even counting deaths from Covid-19. Death is death registration data from the UK Office of National Statistics, and does not necessarily show week of death owing to reporting delays.”

    Note it reports that deaths are BELOW the five-year average. I would not be surprised to see that deaths in America are also below the five-year average, but googling this did not find any similar data.

    So the Democrat’s outrageous calumny that President Trump and the GOP’s stance on Covid are causing many unnecessary deaths that you seem to have bought into is not at all true. Not only is Biden’s covid strategy not much different to the GOP’s, compare the enormous death rates in New York and other democratic states compared to the significantly LOWER death rate in Florida…

    • Stay-indoors mandates

    We all encounter natural UV rays outdoors no matter the weather, and UV light is used by some hospitals to disinfect their equipment. There’s no UV light indoors so, other things being equal, you’re safer out-doors than indoors. Even the CDC themselves list “Enclosed space” as a factor that INCREASES individual risk, see:

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-age.html

    This New Scientist article also highlights the vastly lower risk to school-age children from covid. In fact, both hospitalization rates and death rates increase substantially as you increase the age of the group. This must be what lead to the New Scientist article’s astounding revelation:

    “This is almost the most staggering bit of analysis I’ve ever done. In England and Wales, there is a completely exponentially increasing risk of catching it and dying from it for the different age groups. !It increases by about 12 to 13 percent for each year older you are, and so doubles for every five to six years. This means that someone who is 20 years older has got 10 times the risk: compared to a 25-year old, a 45-year-old has ten time the risk, a 65 year old 100 times, an 85 year-old 1000 times.

    “For school kids, five to 14-year-olds, of 7 million in England and Wales, just three have died – a 1 in 2.5 million risk. Meanwhile, 138 have DIED OF OTHER CAUSES over the period of the epidemic. So this is both a staggeringly low risk, and very low compared to the normal risk.”

    The idea that close-schools, stay-indoors mandates, mass quarantine, lockdowns, loss of livelihood and isolating seniors save lives IGNORES both the science and their consequences. Obliviots ignore the very real increase in child abuse, loss of income, depression, domestic violence, unvaccinated kids, delays in needed/scheduled medical care, drug overdoses, spousal abuse, suicide, the needless suffering and death caused by these very counter-productive policies

    As you yourself say: This comes down to reading up-to-date, factual, unbiased research, rather than allowing yourself to be spoon-fed by clearly biased organizations and politicians with an agenda.

    In other words, THINK, dammit!

    I totally agree!

    Glad you agree: I’m not sure what you’re doing here, but you’re definitely not demonstrating that you’re researching and thinking well.

    I’ll refer here to a couple of charts added above.

    First, you don’t cite your sources (except for the CDC chart). You refer to “This New Scientist article” …and I don’t know what that refers to, so I have no way to see, let alone validate, your contentions.

    That said, certainly we would absolutely expect the death rate in general to go down! In the past months we’ve been driving much less (= fewer crashes), wearing masks (= fewer respiratory infections in general, such as flu, which does typically cause spikes — sometimes larger, sometimes smaller — in death rates during its “season,” as shown on the CDC chart above), and (alas) not working as much (= fewer industrial, construction, etc. deaths on the job). There are probably other “life savings” in there too, but I’d suggest those are the top 3 factors in reduction.

    What health statisticians actually do is try to predict the “expected” number of deaths from all causes, not counting sudden pandemics that cannot be predicted with any accuracy, and then see how that compares to the real-world data as they come in. As it happens, it’s pretty easy to get such data for the U.S., and for Europe.

    See how the deaths radically dropped in both populations with quarantine?

    Hm. Except they actually went higher. Dramatically higher. The (as of today) 267,000+ known Covid deaths in the U.S. and 56,500+ known Covid deaths in the U.K. do, in fact, more than compensate for the reductions discussed above.

    As for children, I’d expect their deaths to go way down. Not just fewer traffic crashes, but way fewer run over by cars walking to school, way fewer from respiratory infections, and way fewer from several other common causes of child deaths that I’m no expert in. And just as expected we are seeing such reductions, even the “five-year average.”

    The problem is, that’s not the question.

    The question — for adults and children alike — is how many excess deaths have been caused by Covid, which is mostly preventable as long as “the herd” cooperates? Because who cares if there are 10,000 fewer deaths in region X during Y time span from accidents and flu if there are 20,000 more dead from Covid in that span?

    And guess what: that’s exactly what is happening.

    Children, being significantly less susceptible to Covid, are in an extra-good group: big drops in “normal” deaths, but a much-smaller-than-that uptick in Covid deaths. Yay!

    Therefore it’s totally stupid that schools closed or took other precautions? Um, no: there are a lot of adults at school — teachers, staff, administration, parents, aides, and more — who it might not be a good idea to expose to infected children, even if none of those children get terribly ill or die (though some do).

    Yet even in that scenario, that still completely and stupidly ignores the other problems for the majority of Covid survivors, like long-term (permanent?) cardiac damage, liver damage, kidney damage, etc. etc. etc. Will that happen to Covid kids too? I have no idea; do you? Are you willing to risk their lifelong health? I’m not, because it’s very likely that there will indeed be long-term health issues for those children.

    It’s really nice that we can cherry-pick data. Why, in my county zero percent of our Covid deaths are children, and in fact they’re all elderly! That’s the kind of data point that causes obliviots to say things like “This obviously means children don’t get sick and die from Covid!” Except the county is too small to extrapolate its data: 4,500 residents, and just 2 deaths. So we really do need to get MUCH larger data sets to understand what’s really going on.

    Your link to the CDC chart doesn’t prove your case, it proves mine: it’s entirely as expected. Meanwhile, you totally blew off the saddest part of that chart: it’s not just the elderly (85+) that are dying more (by an incredible 630x the usual rate!) Those young, healthy adults that aren’t all that affected by Covid? Well, the 30-39 bracket had 4x the usual deaths during the period of that study. 40-49 10x, 50-64 (my bracket) 30x, 65-74 90x, and 65-84 — who normally are in a very productive phase of their lives — a very sad 220x.

    And overall, deaths are up in the U.K. too, as the British Medical Journal reported last week: a “sharp rise in the north of England and Wales” (but interestingly, not in London). I could go on and on, but this is long enough.

    So yes, Cris: you do need to research and think about this a lot more. -rc

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    • First, you don’t cite your sources (except for the CDC chart). You refer to “This New Scientist article” …and I don’t know what that refers to, so I have no way to see, let alone validate, your contentions.

      I did indeed cite the source of the “No more damned lies” article, but I’ve only have the paper hard-copy magazine itself to read. As I said, it’s the “New Scientist article, 15 August 2020, pages 48-51 by Statistician David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, UK, and author of The Art of Statistics.

      So when I said ‘This New Scientist article’ I was referring to this one already cited. But you instead perhaps want a link so you can check that the extracts are indeed accurate.

      I have now searched for this article but it doesn’t appear to be online. I found a very short summary, but neither the text nor its diagrams at:

      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0262407920314196

      I could purchase the pdf to read, but that still does not give you access to the source. So I have written to ScienceDirect asking them for a link to the article’s text and diagrams which I can then post for you. They have not yet replied.

      Ah, sorry, didn’t make the connection as indeed I was looking for a link. -rc

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    • Cris, and certain governments, the US and Australian for example, harp on about the fact that children are naturally more resistant to Covid and therefore conclude schools etc should stay open.

      My son in law works from home and has since long before covid. He got covid from his four year old in February. The child had a very mild dose. The son in law did not and is still far from recovered. How many grandparents have died from a hug from a grandchild is not known but it the number is probably quite significant.

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  46. The story I keep hearing which I do not believe is that physicians are being told to clarify every death as a COVID death one person told me a friend was killed in a car accident but the physician wrote up cause of death as COVID. I am not sure physicians would risk their license to fake the cause of death.

    Typical conspiracy theory BS: keep repeating it and more people fall for it. The occasional clerical error (which are typically fixed pretty quickly) adds “proof” to the conspiracy-minded. There is no reason for doctors to lie in this way, and many, MANY reasons why they wouldn’t. -rc

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    • Here in Louisiana entering a false cause of death on a death certificate is a civil offense and can be treated as a criminal offense depending on the specific situation. It can result in severe sanctions up to loss of the license to practice medicine. It’s illegal everywhere, as it constitutes fraud. As RC noted, errors do happen but are quickly corrected, in my experience even before the body is released to the funeral service provider.

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    • If it makes you feel any better there was one case they did that. It was a motorcycle crash. However, what people neglect to do is research past the initial newspaper article. These death certificates are sometimes hastily filled out, it’s true, but they are given more than one look. In the next couple of days, this one was checked and corrected. From what I have read elsewhere, most of the states are operating the same way. These certificates are getting more than one look so they stay as accurate as possible.

      P.S. I just noticed you are from Canada, I am sure they are doing the same thing there. Your country seems to be more efficient than ours on a lot of things!

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    • The problem is that, in some circumstances, there is indeed a financial incentive to report a death as Covid rather than anything else. I seem to recall Hospitals get extra money for a Covid death…

      This fact was rated partially-false — aka TRUE in some but not all circumstances — by this Reuters fact-checking article.

      The CARES Act calls for a 20%, rather than a 15%, increase in reimbursement when a hospital cares for a patient with COVID-19; the increase does not apply “every time,” but only to Medicare recipients and the uninsured; there is no evidence that New York City hospitals are inflating their case numbers.

      (emphasis added)

      Again, not a logical conclusion, and in fact dangerously misleading. You are replying to Brian’s comment: “The story I keep hearing which I do not believe is that physicians are being told to [classify] every death as a COVID death,” and your conclusion is “TRUE in some but not all circumstances.” Absolutely wrong. The CARES act provision provides ZERO incentive to lie on a death certificate: just treating any of the 1 in less than 20 people in New York on Medicare with Covid provides for that 20% boost in order to help (but not completely) defray the extra costs to the hospital. Here is where thinking comes in: since it’s clear from the section you quote that such additional money is paid whether the patient dies or not, the incentive to falsify a death certificate is…? Zero. And there is no evidence whatever that any doctor is guilty of this wild accusation. Not to mention that “being told to” (which is fabricated: the evidence is…?) is a far cry from “are doing.” The doctor is going to risk her license — and even prison — so a hospital can collect some more money? Yeah, right. Again and again and again: think! -rc

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  47. If I understand you correctly, say you think the numbers in Glen from Wisconsin’s graphic are inflated.

    You’re right. I’ll spare you the details, but it was easy to reverse-engineer those numbers to discover that they’re based on an assumption that about 12% of the population is infected (more accurately, that 12% is infectious). That’s obviously wrong.

    The numbers offer a case rate of 34,472 per million, or 3.4%. But of course that includes people who’ve recovered. The CDC’s site says that in the past week there were 52.3 cases per 100K in the U.S., which is only 0.05%. I’ll take that as the active-case number.

    Using that number, we get:

        25 people => 1.3% chance somebody infected
        15 people => 0.8%
        10 people => 0.5%

    But 100 people => 5% and 500 people => 23%.

    Of course this all assumes that the active-case number is uniform across the U.S., so it’s still pretty ballpark. But the upshot I take away is that the people who work at the grocery store are probably encountering an active case every few days. And you shouldn’t go to a big church — let alone a football game.

    Thanks for doing the math, Prof.! Glad to know my intuition was right. -rc

    Reply
    • Not quite so, your numbers are based on confirmed cases. CDC estimates up to 8 unconfirmed cases for every confirmed one, so accepting your 0.05% as confirmed, that would mean an infectious rate of about 0.5%. For groups of 25 the exposure rate would be about 12% — not the 95% claimed in the original meme, but not quite the relatively inconsequential 1.3% calculated in the reply.

      All these estimates need to be asterisked GIGO. No one knows the national case rate, much less local ones. It is good to hold all memes, both those supporting and (ugh) denying rational positions, to basic factual standards.

      There are rational political arguments that can be made over costs and benefits of restricting travel or economic limitations, but I haven’t seen a lot of them made (ie “an infection rate of x% and death rate of y% is unfortunate but acceptable compared to economic cost of z%”). Anyone objecting to masks, a virtually free tactic that imperfectly limits spread and severity of the disease, immediately loses my attention for any other opinions.

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  48. I found this on Facebook – It should be spread more widely:

    When I wear a mask over my nose and mouth in public and in the stores/Supermarkets/Pharmacies/Offices, I want you to know the following:

    • I’m educated enough to know that I could be asymptomatic and still give you the virus.
    • No, I don’t “live in fear” of the virus; I just want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
    • I don’t feel like the “government controls me”. I feel like I’m an adult contributing to the security in our society and I want to teach others the same.
    • If we could all live with the consideration of others in mind, the whole world would be a much better place.
    • Wearing a mask doesn’t make me weak, scared, stupid or even “controlled”. It makes me caring and responsible.

    When you think about your appearance, discomfort, or other people’s opinion of you, imagine a loved one — a child, father, mother, grandparent, aunt, uncle or even a stranger – placed on a ventilator, alone without you or any family member allowed at their bedside…

    Ask yourself if you could have helped them a little by wearing a mask.

    Please pass this on.

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  49. As for “cause and type of Death”, I liked a comment from a “Godfather type”: “Oh Joe? He died of Natural Causes”. When asked the cause, he said, “Heart Failure”, and when pressed further, he gave the Punch Line: “Yes, his Heart Failed when it stopped a Bullet!”

    Another case of acute lead poisoning. -rc

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  50. A wide range of comments here, but I’m always surprised that nobody relates mask mandates to the mandate to not drive your car after having several drinks of alcohol. Like wearing a mask, that’s really about protecting other people from you doing something you probably don’t intend to do to them. “Don’t De-Mask and Breathe!”

    I want to also say, Arcie, there’s a fair bit of anti-politician commentary from you here. As with any other issue, it seems to me that some politicians have done pretty well with responding to the COVID pandemic, some have been ok, some have been mediocre, and some have done pretty poorly with their responsibilities. That’s pretty much the spread you’d find with any other profession.

    If you have any scientific evidence to justify your habitual anti-politician stance, Arcie, please share it. You tell us here to “Think, dammit!” Please share your thinking on politicians, and why you seem to have a reflex to make fun of them.

    I ask you to consider that by making politicians the continual butt of your jokes (some deserved, certainly, but many are not), you are contributing to the idea that the people who become politicians are doing it to pursue power or get rich or something other than because they want to help people have better lives. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if it does, we all lose.

    Unless you believe humans can govern themselves (anarchy), we need some form of government that is run by someone. Who exactly do you think that ought to be? And what are you doing to encourage that work to be done by the best people for the job?

    Finally, I want to add that your stance is also contrary to my personal experience with a number of people who have chosen to become politicians: they are deeply committed, honorable individuals with a strong sense of public service and patriotism. I admire them, and I bet if you knew them or people like them, you would feel similarly.

    I know plenty of politicians — local pols tend to be great people as you describe. As for why bash national politicians for the out-of-control pandemic, can you think of one person of significant power who has set the tone for how to react to this pandemic, and did everything in a partisan and anti-science way? And what is his chosen profession? -rc

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