BY Jorg Mardian • April 25, 2021
It’s been a year like no other. covid-19 has consistently dominated the news, but the message of what to do about it has been wide off the mark.
Face masks especially have been a contentious issue. At first, only health-care workers and people who were sick were told to wear them. Then authorities mandated masks for healthy people across the globe, in many cases enforcing their policies with fines.
Surgical or cloth masks are being manufactured and worn in unprecedented quantities. But their health benefits are ambivalent, the drawbacks potentially severe.
Examining the Facts
Many believe that the death toll in America during this epidemic is catastrophic. Yet that number represents only 0.06 percent of the population. That is far fewer deaths than caused by heart disease or cancer.
It also looks increasingly suspicious how many deaths are being counted as coronavirus mortalities. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, explains that a case definition means that at the time of death, it was a covid-positive diagnosis. “That means that if you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live, and then you also were found to have covid, that would be counted as a covid death,” she said. “It means, technically even if you died of [a] clear alternative cause, but you had covid at the same time, it’s still listed as a covid death.”
Some people are dying of suicide, automobile accidents and other causes where coronavirus is being blamed.
But what if the diagnosis is wrong? The Polymerase Chain Reaction (rt-pcr) test is the most common one used to check for coronavirus. However, Swiss Policy Research explained that these highly sensitive tests are prone to producing false-positive results and their individual predictive value may easily drop below 50 percent. Although a person is usually only contagious for about 10 days without symptoms, the pcr test can detect noninfectious virus fragments weeks later, and at times in quantities too small to be infectious.
It’s a vital point and one backed by the Center for Evidence Based Medicine, which says 14 other studies point in the same direction.
And with so many false-positive tests existing, the implications for mask mandates loom large.
Mask Effectiveness vs. Harm
Masks come in all forms: from the effective N95 to surgical or cloth masks, or even bandanas. This also raises the question of what is the proper standard for viral protection.
Japanese researchers stated this year that cloth face masks offer little practical protection against the coronavirus due to their general poor fit. They were found to have a 100 percent leakage rate when improperly worn, as most people do. Worn correctly, the leakage rate dropped to about 50 percent.
Researchers found that such masks do mitigate the travel of some large droplets when coughing and help stop people from touching their noses and mouths directly with contaminated hands.
Sick people should quarantine themselves and not be in public settings. Healthy people should consider the potentially negative health effects a face mask can cause.
For example, decreasing the oxygen we breathe while increasing intake of carbon dioxide by wearing a mask is not a good idea. The usual amount of carbon dioxide in the air is approximately 400 ppm; with a face mask, concentrations can shoot up much higher. And oxygen levels under the mask drop from a regular 21 to an unhealthy 17.5. Think about the implications for frail elderly people and those with lung diseases—such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis—who can experience a severe worsening of lung function.
Reduced oxygen intake also leads to significant reductions in blood oxygen, causing immunity impairment. This inhibits the immune cells CD4+ T-lymphocyte, which fight viral infections. With lowered immunity, the risk increases for not only contracting infection, including covid-19, but also having a much worse outcome.
Decreased oxygen levels further promote inflammation, a factor in the growth and spread of cancer. The same condition could be a significant factor in atherosclerosis and increases in heart attacks and strokes.
Finally, if you’ve worn a mask for any prolonged period, you know about the uncomfortable moistness inside. This damp environment presents a danger to an infected person because the expelled virus may be re-breathed, raising its concentration in the nasal passages. Some evidence now suggests that this causes the virus to migrate into the brain by way of olfactory nerves.
If the brain becomes infected with the virus, it could have a lethal consequence, said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University. It exploits the brain cells’ machinery to multiply, but doesn’t destroy them. Instead, it chokes off oxygen to adjacent cells, causing them to wither and die.
Striking the right balance between risk and disease suppression should be done with wisdom. Masks cannot come close to the importance of living in a healthy manner to strengthen your body against diseases and other maladies.