Having read the letter by Ron Brunetti which appeared in the Dec. 19 issue, I was quite concerned about his conclusions on facial mask wearing.
The letter evidences much research by Mr. Brunetti but counters much of the suggestions for prevention of infection by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and most of the medical establishment.
After looking into his original resources, I find the information in the letter misleading and his conclusions dangerous to the health of our community.
Mr. Brunetti cited Doctor Simone Gold of America’s Frontline Doctors that masks do little to prevent infection. America’ Frontline Doctors is a group of doctors and anti-vaccination adherents that condone use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to prevent and cure Covid-19.
The FDA does not recommend HCQ use due to side effects such as causing heart problems and no data suggesting it works, so this makes the AFD an outlier to the medical profession.
Mr. Brunetti also cited DR Briend of Johns Hopkins University who made statistical conclusions about the number of COVID-19 deaths. Dr. Briend is a statistician whose lecture was deleted from the JHU website due to her not using accepted statistical modeling of CDC data on which to base her conclusions. Further, it must be mentioned that the authors of the New England Journal of Medicine article cited by Mr. Brunetti pushed for more mask use not less.
The authors in the same issue qualified their statement that using masks outside a medical facility does little to protect wearers. They said that only pertains to passing encounters in a public space, not sustained interactions in closed environments. One can conclude that it is not too dangerous to walk by and infected person outside, but you should not hang out, dine, or converse with them inside without a mask.
People may become infected by the SARS CoV-2 virus causing the disease Covid-19. 80 percent of people get infected by inhaling droplets containing virus exhaled, sneezed, coughed, shouted, and sung out by people infected with the virus. People’s fingers can pick up droplets from surfaces and transfer them to the mouth or nose when touching their face.
The CDC states that people can prevent exposure to the virus by practicing source control which is prevention of exposure to the virus laden droplets. Source control can be effected by three ways.
First, removing oneself from the virus-laden droplets by keeping social distancing so the droplets from an infected person do not travel to you. Second, wear a mask to trap virus-laden droplets. Third, wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer. Surfaces like doorknobs, packaging, or tables should be wiped with disinfectant. However, the virus does not live on surfaces for long, so leaving mail, bags, boxes, plastics, and books in an area away from people for a couple of hours or days depending on the material will ensure the virus will have died.
Mr. Brunetti cited an analogy of mask size to virus size being like a chain link fence stopping mosquitoes. It was humorous but misleading. The SARS CoV-2 is about 125 nanometers (nm) wide. A nanometer is 1 millionth of a millimeter. An N-95 mask, the white ones that come to a peak in the middle will block particles 300 nm wide or greater. One might think that the mask is therefore useless like a chain link fence stopping marbles.
However, virus particles are rarely floating along single in the air. They are stuck in aerosols or droplets 1000 nm in size given off by infected people. A more apt analogy would be a chain link fence stopping a softball. Such is reasonable since we have chain link fences around ball parks to keep balls and people from getting through them.
According to the CDC the best masks in order of efficiency for stopping 7 nm wide aerosols are: N-95, 99 percent surgical (the blue ones sold in stores), 54 percent ; 3ply cloth, 50 percent ; polyester gaiter, 47 percent; and face shields alone, 2 percent.
In terms of the historical number of deaths cited, the CDC stated that 356,000 more deaths than normal occurred in the U.S. between March 15 and Nov. 15 of this year. Most of these are due to COVID-19. This data counters the prediction of mortality in the letter of a smaller death toll in 2020.
One can find some conflicting studies in the scientific literature, however most of them suggest wearing masks, social distancing, and hand washing.
All three are needed to really make an impact on the pandemic.
During this season of good will toward mankind, it takes little effort to put on a mask while in public. If you are carrying the virus, the mask will lessen the chance of passing droplets to others.
If you do not have the virus, the mask will lessen the chance of breathing in virus-laden droplets. We are all in this together, so let us work together to stop the pandemic through source control.
If masks stop one death, the use is worth the effort. Having a vaccine there is hope for the future.
Let us all stop spreading dubious information and work together for the health of our community especially those risking their lives on the frontline.
Addams Street, Covington