• Courtney Heard

Debunking The Arguments Against Masks... With Godless Science

Pants. Am I right, kids? They are so restricting. They can wiggle their way into your ass crack, uninvited. They can chafe thigh if you're a little thiccc, as the Tik-Tokkers say. Ever zipped your fly and caught a pube? Ever tried Yoga in your Wranglers? Is there anything good about pants? At all?

You know, no one dies if we don't wear bottoms. There is no health threat if we tour Walmart with our cheeks out like the week's out. You won't get pink eye if you happen to peep dingus at Chipotle. If your neighbour spies your bearded clam at the T-Ho's while you wait for your Double-Double in your birthday suit, he isn't going to fall ill with the grippe.

There is no immediate danger that comes from bottom-half bareness. And yet, we all agree to cover our furry bits when we're in public. We all accept the laws that compel us to hide our junk at the Circle K.

Why, then, when we have data showing that masks do indeed slow the spread of a virus that can end in death, do we resist? The stakes are higher than if we were to go bottomless, but we accept one and not the other.

I've heard a few arguments against masks, and none of them hold any water (only droplets, get it? *snort*). Let's have a gander at them:

But my rights! My freedom!

As a Canadian, living in the socialist hellscape that is America's hat, I do not understand this freedom of which you speak. Sure, we have the freedom to walk into a hospital and leave without a bill. You Americans, though, you're setting the real example, fighting for your right to keep a piece of cloth off your face in public to prevent the spread of disease.

When I attended school in the Big Igloo, the social sciences teachers and professors repeatedly taught us something. They said that your rights end where mine begin. What this means is that you have rights and freedoms as an individual, sure, but the moment those rights start to infringe on the rights of others, they have to be limited.

You wear a mask to prevent your droplets from infecting others. We need to do this because we can each be an asymptomatic carrier of Covid-19. If you are carrying Covid and you don't wear a mask because you're exercising your "rights," you can infect others, who can then infect even more people. One of those people could potentially die from it, and contact tracing will reveal it was because you decided not to wear a mask.

You see, you have a right to own a gun, but you don't have a right to stand in a busy mall and fire in random directions just for fun. You have a right to drive a car, but you don't have a right to drive that car under the influence. You have a right to smoke cigarettes, but you don't have a right to do so on a plane.

You have a right not to wear a mask, my simple-minded friend, but what you don't have, is a right to go maskless when you're around people who are not in your bubble.

All of these have one thing in common: your right stops precisely when you put others at risk, thereby violating their rights. You see, it's not just you who has rights, bub. Just like assholes, we all have 'em.

I'm healthy!

There's an episode of Teen Mom 2 where one of the moms hooks up with her baby daddy, who's been dipping every time he needs to be responsible. Like, you cringe when you watch. You want to reach into the screen and shake her and ask, what are you thinking? But I digress. The fella in question is a DJ in Florida, at clubs often and probably dipping his little Jalapeño in every taco this side of the equator. So, mama gets tested for all sorts of STIs and sho' 'nuff, she comes up positive for the clam. When she confronts daddy of the year, he says he had no idea. He had shown no symptoms.

This anecdote is relevant if you like trashy television, but it's also relevant because there is a difference between feeling healthy and being 100% healthy. Covid-19 is one of those chlamydia-like bugs that can hide and fool you into thinking you're not going to pass it along to your latest taco conquest. There is no way to know if you are free of covid for sure without a test, and even then, you can test negative and pick it up on your way out of the testing facility. The only way to reduce the likelihood that you're passing along the 'rona is to wear a mask when you cannot effectively social distance among people who are not in your bubble.

The experts keep changing their minds!

A thought experiment, if you will. You come home from work one day and notice that the leg lamp you won in a contest appears to have been broken and glued back together. Your kids are acting strange, but you have a feeling it was Ralphie because he's been a little reckless with the BB gun he got for Christmas. You tell your wife that Ralphie broke your leg lamp, and you both agree he's going to have to do some chores around the house to pay it off. As you head to Ralphie's room to talk to him, you pass your other son's room. Your youngest son, Randy, has a friend over, and you hear them whispering. Randy is confiding in his friend that he had been the one to break the leg lamp.

What do you do? Do you change your position on who the leg-breaker was based on this new information? Or do you stick with your original plan, blame Ralphie and make him work to pay it off so that no one can claim you're inconsistent?

A scientist would change his position.

The thing about the coronavirus is that it's novel. I'm sure you've heard the phrase, novel coronavirus. The term references the fact that we've not seen this virus before. Viruses can behave in different ways. HIV, for example, is contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids and is most often sexually-transmitted. Rotavirus is most common in children and causes vomiting. Measles is airborne and causes intense rashes. A novel virus is new to us, and because viruses vary so widely in their behaviours, we know very little about it. But we are learning. In the beginning, we may have thought it was Ralphie's fault, but as more and more research has been conducted and more evidence produced, we are slowly starting to see a clearer picture.

Let me ask you something. Would you prefer scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals to maintain a position they took months ago, even if they have new evidence that proves it wrong? Do you have more faith in your doctor if he is more concerned with how consistent he appears or if he is willing to change his mind with new information?

Masks aren't 100% effective.

Correct. Condoms are also not 100% effective. Chemotherapy is also not 100% effective. Bug spray: not 100% effective. Seatbelts are not 100% effective. Bike helmets and lifejackets are not 100% effective.

We need to get serious, though, and look at the facts. One of the most shared articles I see floating around the internet is, Masks Don't Work: A Review of Science Relevant to COVID-19 Social Policy by Denis G. Rancourt, PhD.

This piece lists numerous studies that Dr. Rancourt suggests prove the impotence of masks. Let's take a look at the studies in question, shall we?

First, we have these four: Jacobs, J. L. et al. (2009), Smith, J.D. et al. (2016), Radonovich, L.J. et al. (2019) and Long, Y. et al (2020). Each of these compares the effectiveness of N95 masks when up against surgical masks. These are not studies that look at the effectiveness of wearing a mask vs. not wearing a mask. Further, each of them is collecting evidence about the spread of influenza, not Covid-19.

Another study listed, Cowling, B. et al. (2010), did discover evidence that masks were useful, but it was, again, looking at the spread of flu.

Same with bin-Reza et al. (2012), a review of multiple studies, all of which showed little effectiveness. It did, however, talk about deep flaws in the studies themselves. The paper reported, "the studies were poorly designed, had many weaknesses, and so were very difficult to interpret." Yet again, however, this review was looking at the spread of influenza, not coronavirus. Also, from this paper, "SARS is an unusual acute viral respiratory infection with a very different epidemiology to almost all other respiratory viral infections. It is fundamentally different from human influenza."

The only study listed that looked at SARS data was Offeddu, V. et al. (2017). If you read this study in its entirety, you'll discover that it found that masks were, in fact, effective against the spread of SARS.

Now, let's look at the studies conducted since the pandemic started, with a specific focus on Covid-19, shall we?

First, there is Community Use Of Face Masks And COVID-19: Evidence From A Natural Experiment Of State Mandates In The US by Wei Lyu and George L. Wehby. The study takes a close look at the spread of Covid before any mask laws were implemented in several states and compares it to the infection rate afterwards. It conclusively found a slower pace of spread after states implemented mask laws.

A second study, Association of country-wide coronavirus mortality with demographics, testing, lockdowns, and public wearing of masks by Christopher Leffler, Edsel Ing, Joseph Lykins, Matthew C Hogan, found that across 198 countries, the ones that culturally accepted and wore masks had lower death rates.

None of these studies found that masks are 100% effective, sure, but parachutes are nowhere near 100% effective, either.

I have to ask, though, would you jump out of a plane without one?

Masks cause health problems.

If masks caused health problems, the most unhealthy portion of our population would be health workers. Doctors, nurses, dentists and hygienists would all be incredibly sick. We all know this is not true. Even without data to back it up, we can deduce medical professionals aren't dying at a faster rate than other non-mask-wearing professions. Doctors appear to have one of the highest life expectancies of all occupations, according to this data.

People who claim that masks cause problems complain about having to inhale the CO2 they've just exhaled. They claim that their oxygen saturation suffers as a result of the mask. They say it's hard to breathe.

Fabric and disposable masks do not have a tight enough seal to restrict your breathing or retain your CO2. If you're struggling to breathe in your mask, try a thinner mask or perhaps consider that maybe you're experiencing anxiety. If masks restricted airflow and caused us to breathe in CO2, how would a surgeon ever get through hours of surgery? How do healthcare workers worldwide, wrapped up in layers to protect themselves from the coronavirus, manage to make it through the day, let alone every day with overtime?

It's just not possible for a breathable fabric to cause CO2 retention. CO2 particles are multiple times smaller than droplets and easily pass through fabric. For the same reason we can smell your Arby's farts through your Calvins AND your joggers, we can also know your CO2 is getting through your mask.