Best study shows masks effective

Hmmm. The logical contortions of the anti-vaxxer-anti-masker crowd would be worthy of a “little moron” joke if the consequences weren’t so serious, to wit:

Eric Brown (Aug. 25) sneers at “experts” thus: “an endless parade of MDs … ‘the experts’. They’ve been wrong at literally every turn.” OK, if this is true, why does he get his panties all in a twist thinking that, because he didn’t get vaccinated, he might receive lower priority for the services of these very same “MD experts that are wrong at every turn?”

Gov. DeSantis is attempting to cut off state funding for school districts that require masks. As Dr. Jim Hughes explained in his Aug. 14 letter, the Danish study only showed that masks give the wearer little protection. Many studies show masking greatly reduces transmission of Covid from infected individuals. Thus, masking works, but only if everyone is masked. By denying the ability of school districts to require masks, DeSantis denies the benefits of masking to all students.

So what? On Monday, Aug. 23, Alvina Chu, epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health, announced that pediatric cases in children ages 5 to 14 make up roughly 20% of all new COVID-19 cases in Orange County, Fla., making them the age group contributing the most new infections in the area.

Now, the rules of scientific investigation are the same for bats, ducks and people, and I’ve taught statistics and experimental design for 30-plus years. By accepted standards, the Danish study was not impressive — poorly designed with small sample size. The best study (Science vol. 372, pp. 1439–1443, 2021) involved an eight-member international team covering the needed range of expertise in biology and aerosol physics — how many fluid droplets are expelled, their size range, the fraction containing virus particles, the fraction stopped by the mask, how many reach another person, how many are stopped by their mask, how many virus particles are required to start an infection, etc. Their analysis is impressively complete and based on measured data and sound math.

Their conclusion: “We find that most environments and contacts are under conditions of low virus abundance (virus-limited), where surgical masks are effective at preventing virus spread. More advanced masks and other protective equipment are required in potentially virus-rich indoor environments, including medical centers and hospitals. Masks are particularly effective in combination with other preventive measures like ventilation and distancing.”

— George Bakken, Terre Haute

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