Don’t blame the lack of masks for Trump’s illness

Many Democrats have responded to news of Trump’s Wuhan virus diagnosis by blaming him. He wouldn’t wear a mask, they say, so he did this to himself – and so did the other Republicans who have tested positive. There are two problems with this claim: (1) Trump and the other Republicans did wear masks or were in carefully screened and tested environments; (2) there’s no evidence that the masks that most people wear make any difference.

Normal, decent people, upon hearing about President Trump’s Wuhan virus diagnosis, wished him well. That included all conservatives and a small number of Democrats. Mostly, though, Democrats obsessed about masks and blamed Trump for his illness. They then extended this blame to those other Republicans who were diagnosed with the virus.

For example, CNN’s Tapper ranted about how Republicans, from Trump down, brought this on themselves. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) attacked Trump, not only for not wearing a mask but also for non-payment of taxes (a lie) and for paying off porn stars (which Trump did to rid himself of Stormy Daniels, who admitted she lied because she was a nuisance). Interestingly, Rep. Ryan has been silent about Hunter Biden impregnating a stripper and spending his ill-gotten gains on Eastern European prostitutes.

But about those masks. First, Trump wore masks whenever he was in an uncontrolled environment. Second, in more intimate venues, everyone around Trump had to get tested for the Wuhan virus. (And no, I can’t find links for those claims, although I know they’re true. Search engines are turning only thousands of stories about people near Trump rushing to take tests.)

Third, wearing masks hasn’t been determinative in whether Republicans caught the virus. In the video below, GOP lawmakers talk about the fact that they caught the virus despite taking recommended precautions, including wearing masks:

Likewise, Sen. Thom Tillis was wearing a mask at the Rose Garden gathering during which Trump officially announced that he had nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, a gather now believed to be the vector.

The reality is that, if people are not wearing perfectly fitted N95 masks, there’s little evidence that masks make a substantial difference when it comes to protecting against viral particles. When you’re out and about, you’ve probably already seen that at least 50 percent of people wear their non-N95 masks wrong. They wear them under their noses, paw at them (and inside of them) with their hands, and drag them in and out of purses and pockets.

In early April, two doctors associated with the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Lisa Brosseau, a national expert on infectious diseases and respiratory protection, and Dr. Margaret Sietsema, an expert on respiratory protection, wrote a commentary for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. The commentary, entitled “Masks-for-all for COVID-19 not based on sound data,” stated this conclusion:

We do not recommend requiring the general public who do not have symptoms of COVID-19-like illness to routinely wear cloth or surgical masks because:

  • There is no scientific evidence they are effective in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission
  • Their use may result in those wearing the masks to relax other distancing efforts because they have a sense of protection
  • We need to preserve the supply of surgical masks for at-risk healthcare workers.

Sweeping mask recommendations—as many have proposed—will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year. Our review of relevant studies indicates that cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as PPE. 

Surgical masks likely have some utility as source control (meaning the wearer limits virus dispersal to another person) from a symptomatic patient in a healthcare setting to stop the spread of large cough particles and limit the lateral dispersion of cough particles. They may also have very limited utility as source control or PPE in households.

The only thing that’s changed since April is the mask shortage. Trump, working with private industry, fixed that problem. Also, Drs. Brosseau and Sietsema updated their commentary in mid-July and reached the same conclusion.

Those doctors are not alone. The president of the Italian Society of Anti-infection Therapy said that there is “no scientific rationale” for wearing masks outdoors. Holland’s top scientists have come out strongly against mask-wearing. Denmark’s scientists have reached the same conclusion.

Whatever the reason behind the mini-Wuhan virus epidemic in Republican circles, masks, or the lack thereof, are not the problem. Democrats are just doing their usual shtick of blaming the Republican victim.

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