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  • Writer's pictureCourtney 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.

There is no evidence, despite a considerable boom in studies on the topic, that masks cause:

  • Hypoxia

  • CO2 poisoning

  • Suppression of the immune system

  • Lowered oxygen saturation

The first study we'll look at is Effect of Face Masks on Gas Exchange in Healthy Persons and Patients with COPD by Rajesh Samannan, MD, Gregory Holt, MD, Ph.D., Rafael Calderon-Candelario MD, Mehdi Mirsaeidi MD and Michael Campos, MD. This study looked specifically at CO2 retention and found no evidence that a mask caused it.

Another study is Pulmonary and heart rate responses to wearing N95 filtering facepiece respirators by Jung-Hyun Kim Ph.D., Stacey M. Benson MS, and Raymond J. Roberge MD, MPH. This study found little change in heart rate and respiratory frequency after subjects used a treadmill in a mask. These findings indicate no hypoxia.

Here is a review of multiple studies on the topic. Respirator masks protect health but impact performance: A review by Arthur T. Johnson finds no evidence to support the claim that masks cause hypoxia across numerous studies. All the studies report no increase in heart rate. If fabric coverings caused hypoxia, the heart rate would increase. These studies also indicate no significant loss of oxygen saturation.

The claim that masks suppress your immune system because it's not being exposed to as many germs as usual while you're wearing a mask is not scientifically accurate. Your immune system doesn't shut down when you slightly decrease your exposure to bacteria. A face mask doesn't protect you from everything. You're still going to come in contact with bacteria, and your immune system will always get a good workout fighting that bacteria off.

If you want to claim that masks do cause these things, you have to present the evidence. Evidence that has not been debunked. Evidence that is relevant to Covid-19, not influenza. In the meantime, I'll believe that for which there is evidence.

My chances of catching Covid are tiny.

Oh god, I've heard so many different versions of this, and they are all wrong. The odds right now are 44 in a million per day. Here's a good point that David Smalley made on his podcast during an episode that made me want to take my contacts out with a Carolina Reaper. You see, when you quote stats for other killers like the devastating fact that half the world will likely get cancer one day, you're quoting lifetime stats. 1 in 2.5 is the lifetime odds of contracting cancer. Forty-four in a million are the covid odds per day.

There is also a problem with this number in that there are many factors that can increase your risk: where you live, your age, the health of your immune system, whether or not the people around you wear a mask and so on.

You're also not accounting for the most significant global concern regarding covid-19. I'll get into this in the next point.

If I do get Covid, my chances of dying are slim.

Currently, the odds of death from covid are small; this is true. However, as I started to explain in the last point, the mortality rate of Covid-19 is not the biggest reason why the world is so concerned about it. We are trying to slow the spread of the virus because it can completely overwhelm health systems. The spread of Covid-19 is rapid, as we witnessed when this pandemic seemed to come out of nowhere earlier in the year. We have watched as health systems have already reached capacity and beyond. We know, beyond any doubt, that if we let this virus just run its course, it will compromise our ability to get treatment for anything else.

That means that even though you, yourself, may not be in a high-risk group for contracting Covid-19, you'd better hope your healthcare system isn't overwhelmed when you fall off your soapbox and break your leg.

If every bed has a covid patient in it and every ventilator is in a sufferer, there is no place left to treat cancer or car accident victims, flu or strokes, no place to go if you have an aneurysm or a heart attack.

So, while covid itself doesn't have too high a mortality rate, it can become why other ailments' mortality rates rise drastically.

You also have to consider the law of large numbers. If the mortality rate for Covid-19 is 1% globally, then if everyone catches Covid, 78,000,000 people will die.

Is this an acceptable loss to you? Because it's not to me, especially when we know how to slow the spread.

It's a slippery slope.

If you want to assert that mandating masks is a slippery slope, you must apply the same logic to seat belt laws, bike helmet laws and drinking and driving laws. What you have is a rule put in place to protect the lives of the people around you. As we have discussed, this is not just to protect them from getting covid, but also to protect your healthcare system so that people with other ailments can get the medical attention they need during a pandemic.

You wear your seatbelt for safety, and if you don't, you'll catch a fine.

You make your kids wear a bike helmet to protect their heads in case of a fall. There's a fine if you don't.

You refrain from driving if you've had a few Buds to protect yourself and the other people on the road. If you don't, you can go to jail or have your license taken away.

These rules are to protect you and to protect others from you, should you pose a threat.

We have added another: You wear your mask to prevent an illness you may potentially have from spreading to more vulnerable people.

This rule is no different from a seatbelt law, a bike helmet law or a DUI law. Ergo, Einstein, if you want to make the slippery slope argument, you have to make it about all of these rules and not just one.

It's better if we all get infected and build up herd immunity.

The problem with this is, again, the law of large numbers. If we let the virus run its course and infect everyone, we are looking at a loss of 78,000,000 people across the globe.

There is also no evidence that we can achieve immunity by having the virus once. We have seen cases of people contracting the virus twice. That means that our only route to herd immunity may be a vaccine.

If we lockdown for 30 days, we'll be free of Covid.

In a magical fairyland world, fo' sho'!

In reality, not so much.

Let's say that we're discussing The USA, okay? Now, let's all agree to accept, for the sake of argument, the wildly absurd idea that every last Yankee in the doodle union would obey all the lockdown orders. If you need a couple swigs of Fireball to accept this, take a minute. Down the hatch!

Okay, now that our bellies are warm and our breath whiffs of cinnamon, I need to ask you: how do you prevent people from bringing the virus into your country?

Do you see? Do you see how many problems there are with this idea?

As David Smalley pointed out during the same soul-crushing podcast I mentioned above, you'll never, under any circumstances, get every last flag-wielding, eagle-stroking American to agree to a thirty-day lockdown. Even if you made it the law, you're going to have protests and people defying the rules on purpose. It will never happen. All the while, trade continues. Wood and paper and good beer are making their way down to America from Canada. Loads of avocados and tequila and manufactured goods will be escorted up to you from Mexico by human people who could be carriers of the virus. Essential flights and freighters will still arrive at your airports and seaports with crews who have been all over the place. Lockdown doesn't work unless everyone complies, and you don't let anyone cross the border until the pandemic is over.

My glasses fog up.

Yeah, so do mine. Do you want to know what my trick is? I bet you've never heard it before. Be prepared to have your mind blown, you four-eyed blunderbuss.

I fucking cope.

That's right, kids! I pull up my big girl panties, wipe the tears from my eyes, and fucking find a way to cope with the madness!

My parents raised me with the understanding that life isn't always fair; things aren't always going to work out the way you want them to, and sometimes, every once in a while, you gotta take one for the team. And so, I find a way to manage my foggy glasses and move on with my day.

Tips for bespectacled cry-babies:

  1. Wash your glasses with dish soap before you have to don a mask.

  2. Use an anti-fog spray. I use this one.

  3. Wear your contacts.

  4. Lasik eye surgery.

  5. Stay home and cry.

I can't breathe.

If you can't breathe, your mask is too thick and sealed to your face. Get a new one. Yes, it's that simple.

But I saw that one guy who says masks work not wearing one.

I don't know about your mom, but mine used to say, "if Sarah jumped off a bridge, would you?"

We are not lemmings, freindo. We can make our own choices without imitating someone. The most logically sound way to decide between wearing a mask or not is to base it on the currently accepted science. Use the numerous links in this post to that end.

You know, there are some legitimate reasons not to wear a mask. Extreme claustrophobia is one. Autism is another. But none of this typical bilge that's thrown out by anti-maskers is valid—none of it.

You wear your mask if you have human decency. You wear your mask, whether you feel healthy or sick. You wear your fucking mask so that maybe things can get back to normal sooner. You wear your mask because you're not the only human on earth to consider.

If you're sporting bottoms to get that Crunchwrap Supreme, you can certainly put on a mask.

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1 Comment

Jared Bennett
Jared Bennett
Oct 28, 2020

For those bespectacled folks fighting with the mask, if you can stand it, tuck your mask under your glasses. The nose piece will hold the fabric tight to your nose and prevent the hot air from going out that hole and fogging up. It feels weird, because the mask is so close to your eyes, and it's hard to keep it there if you talk, but it does work in a pinch or for a short jaunt. You could also modify your mask with a flat piece of metal to hold it tight against your nose.


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