We all need to put our masks back on. a reply to: 'Unmask the dangers of face masks'
Last updated 7/3/2020 at 1:54am
Are masks mandated to protect us? Or is that mandate an unwarranted government intrusion? It appears that Dr. James D. Veltmeyer and I are having a debate. I wrote a letter entitled, "Virus detection and prevention" which Village News published in its April 16 issue; I took advantage of the opportunity to help Fallbrook residents reduce the transmission of COVID-19 among ourselves by explaining how wearing face masks and hand-washing, properly done, prevents infection. Was that information helpful?
Two weeks after the letter appeared, April 30, Fallbrook's ZIP code (92028) was reported to have the second lowest amount of confirmed virus cases per 100,000 population in this county. On that day, Fallbrook had a total of 13 cases, compared to 3564 cases in the county as a whole.
Two days after that, Fallbrook moved into first place as having the healthiest ZIP code in the county. My next letter, ”Dear Fallbrook, keep doing what you’re doing,” appeared May 7. My intention, as before, was to remind everyone that precautions need to be taken, including wearing face masks, to avoid infection.
In the May 28 issue of this paper, citing data from two days earlier (May 26), Will Fritz reported, "Fallbrook is back in second place for the lowest number of infections." Could it be that my two letters published in The Village News contributed to Fallbrook's comparative success in minimizing transmission of the virus here during April and May?
Also appearing in the May 28 issue was Dr. Veltmeyer’s 'counterpoint' to the point I had made five weeks earlier promoting the use of masks. "Unmask the danger of face masks" revealed some very important information: poorly designed masks (N95 mentioned) inhibit the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.
Unfortunately, along with the important information was a lot of poppycock. This is a new disease being extensively studied. Yesterday's revelations often become today's outdated information. For example, Dr. Veltmeyer quotes a statement made in March by the surgeon general, saying that data doesn't show masks to be of benefit. One must wonder what the surgeon general said on that subject in April or May.
It did not take long for the author's contention: “Wearing masks in public does not impede transmission of the virus” to be disproven. On June 11, two weeks after "Unmask" hit the newsstands, a research article was published by the National Academy of Sciences (pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/10/2009637117) documenting data showing, "Mandated face covering represents the determinate (factor). This protective measure alone significantly reduced the number of infections…Wearing of face masks in public (is) the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission."
(By the way, I stand corrected by the PNAS evaluation that hand-washing provides no significant benefit).
Near the end of his May 28 article, the doctor assails the most legitimate function that government has (protecting public health), postulating, "Government [has] no legitimate authority to force you to wear any kind of face covering in public."
One day recently, I noticed what may be an effect of Dr. Veltmeyer's promotion of anarchy. I parked in a Fallbrook grocery store parking lot and walked toward the store, counting people who were wearing masks and those with uncovered faces. Even though there is a sign on the door saying masks are required to enter, mask wearers in the parking lot were outnumbered 7 to 8. I admit that it’s a very small sample, but a pretty dramatic change from a few weeks before when even joggers wore face masks.
Do opinions like Dr. Veltmeyer’s (or mine) published in the Village News actually affect anyone’s behavior? Let’s compare the percentages (rates) of the spread or transmission of the virus in Fallbrook (ZIP code 92028) where readers of this paper are concentrated, with the transmission rates for the county as a whole for the four weeks preceding and for the four weeks after May 28.
Percentages are weekly growth in the number of cases (transmission rates). Weeks are the time that it would take for the number of virus cases to double. Here are the results: Fallbrook in May: 15% and five weeks; San Diego County in May: 19% and four weeks; Fallbrook in June: 30% and 2½ weeks. San Diego County in June: 13% and six weeks.
Another result of Dr. Veltmeyer’s opinion appearing in the Village News? Fallbrook plummeted from second place in the ZIP code ranking at the end of May to what it is now. What caused the big jump in Fallbrook's transmission rate while the rate fell for the county as a whole?
I assert: a larger portion of Fallbrook residents were misled by Dr. Veltmeyer's opinion as compared to county residents as a whole! Let's not be misled. Accurate and current information is vital if we are to get a handle on controlling the spread of this disease. Now we know what needs to be done: we all need to put our face masks back on!