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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/31/20

Turning a Threat into a Hoax

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All New Yorkers must wear face masks in public
All New Yorkers must wear face masks in public
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Eyewitness News ABC7NY)
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Everyone knows that the official data about COVID-19 infections and deaths are not consistent among countries and are not complete because of inadequate testing and the unknown number of cases that are too mild to be detected. However, the reported deaths are real and even prior condition deaths are provoked by virus infection.

Regardless whether reported cases reflect viral penetrance, a death rate of confirmed cases remains very meaningful for public health authorities. Confirmed cases tend to be the ones serious enough to be treated. The death rate of such cases is a good indicator of the challenge to public health.

Much about the virus remains unknown. It is not known why some who become infected get mildly ill, some deadly ill, and some not ill at all. Little doubt that part of the answer is the state of a person's immune system. All of the deadly ill are not people with preconditions about the virus remains unknown. It is not known why some who become infected get mildly ill, some deadly ill, and some not ill at all. Little doubt that part of the answer is the state of a person's immune system. All of the deadly ill are not people with preconditions. Healthy doctors and nurses have died, as have young people and babies. There are reports that some infected children experience serious vascular problems. The reports might be wrong. There is evidence that people who have the virus without symptoms are contagious and evidence that they are not. There are studies claiming that there are no excessive deaths attributable to coronavirus and studies showing significant excessive deaths in the UK. The differing results seem to depend on what the investigators use as data or believe the data to be. Alone among countries Sweden bet on "herd immunity." Based on current evidence herd immunity is more hope than fact. There are reports of reinfections. Herd immunity advocates say the reports are misreports. There are reports that some of the cured have insufficient antibodies to prevent reinfections. More misreports? The antibodies produced by vaccines currently undergoing testing are insufficient to prevent infection by the virus according to the tests themselves. Some experts doubt that there can be immunity to coronaviruses. The presence of disagreement among experts about herd immunity implies that the case for herd immunity is not established. So, it does seem reasonable that if we are going to bet on a hope we should accompany the bet with caution.

Nevertheless, many false claims have entered the debate and despite their falsity, are taken as true by those whose arguments they serve. If you fear the police state more than the virus, you may be inclined to believe that Sweden with an open economy had less infections and deaths than any other country and no adverse economic effects from close-downs. But this belief is contradicted by the Swedish Riksbank, which reported major shutdown of the Swedish economy by the voluntary non-participation of the Swedish people in the economy. For example, restaurant and bar traffic fell by 70%. I know of no incentive for the Riksbank to talk down the Swedish economy. One assumes that Sweden and Norway, being so similar in character and reporting, are a good test case. The data indicate that Sweden has much higher infections and deaths per one million population than Norway.

We also have the false claim that masks are ineffective and do more harm than good. People send around highly misleading articles, such as this one in Medical News Today -- "New study questions the effectiveness of masks against SARS-CoV-2" The article opens: " Research published at the beginning of April casts serious doubts about the effectiveness of both surgical and cloth masks in preventing the spread of infectious SARS-CoV-2 particles."

Everyone knows that surgical masks and homemade cloth masks do not filter out virus. To protect from virus requires a N-95 or higher mask.

The article's headline and opening sentence creates the impression that masks are useless. I now receive endless emails from normally sensible people who are convinced that masks are just another element in the plot. If you read deeper into the Medical News Today article, you learn that the right masks do work, but that the CDC wants them reserved, due to their shortage, for medical personnel: "The guidelines encourage people to wear homemade cloth masks while out and about, while still urging them to leave specialized surgical masks and N95 respirators to medical professionals, who have been facing a dangerous shortage."

This admission that masks are essential to protect health care personnel is followed by the CDC claim that for all other healthy people "the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risks."

So, health care professionals, some of whom report working 10- and 12- hour shifts while wearing masks, can safely wear a N-95 mask, but not other healthy people shopping for groceries, walking crowded streets, riding NY subways, or working in office buildings. For these people masks pose "critical risks"!

Obviously, this is nonsensical.

It is also nonsensical to assume, as is now common, that only health care personnel are exposed to the virus. Everyone else going about in infected areas, such as NY City, is not exposed to the virus and does not need a mask for protection. How can this be true? How can it be that the CDC cannot see the extraordinary contradiction in its guideline?

If healthy people don't need masks for protection, why do they need to be protected by close-downs? If the assumption is that healthy people are immune -- except for health care personnel -- and only sick people can be infected, no precautions are necessary for the general public.

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Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente's Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His books, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available (more...)

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