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I have a visceral distrust of government mandates, probably like most people on Ricochet. In addition, I think Fauci’s early lying to a free people that masks don’t work in order to preserve them for healthcare workers was abominable and sowed seeds of distrust in public health that are bearing fruit today. That being said, derided, discouraged, hated, or mandated, masks work to decrease the spread of COVID.
I am a doctor. My wife is a doctor. We have seen countless COVID-positive patients. Before the vaccines were available, we were protected by nothing but masks and we did not get COVID. Masks work at decreasing the spread of COVID and other respiratory illnesses. Masks — regular old surgical masks — are all that most people providing care to COVID patients in the hospital wear. N95 masks are typically reserved for times when an invasive airway procedure is planned.
Though there were some COVID cases among caregivers, we did not see nurses, doctors, or respiratory therapists decimated. Masks are used in hospitals against other respiratory illnesses as well –RSV, flu, etc. I have been protected from RSV for 30 years by surgical masks–nothing more. Masks work to decrease spread of respiratory illnesses and are a mainstay in their care in hospitals. Do you believe your own doctor or your doctor friends who recommend masks based on decades of experience or do you demand a randomized controlled trial in the middle of a pandemic in order to be persuaded that the general welfare is best benefitted by masking.
The COVID vaccines work as well. Thanks be to God, President Trump, and Operation Warp Speed that the vaccine rollout happened when it did and mitigated the worst phase of the COVID illness in Dec 2020 – Jan 2021. Daily new cases in the US peaked at ~308,000 around January 8. By mid-February, daily case rate was down to 65,000–an 80% drop–due to the vaccine. The need for boosters and lack of best understanding as to when those should be administered does not take away from vaccine efficacy.
Humility as to the limits of our knowledge is one of my big takeaways from Dr. Thomas Sowell and a chief reason that centrally planned economies cannot work. I agree that the elites in charge do not have all (most) of the answers and that at best, their motivations are mixed. In regard to public health guidance, I agree that the CDC turnarounds throughout COVID have been dizzying.
However, shouldn’t humility about the limits of knowledge work in the other direction too? Shouldn’t humility about the limits of knowledge serve as a fetter to broad proclamations about COVID insight based on Google “research?” Shouldn’t unprecedented notification that the nearby university hospital is full and canceling elective surgeries — as well as all the private hospitals in a city — prompt a personal response other than a comparison that COVID is no worse than the flu? Shouldn’t conservatives, of all people, recognize a connection between our personal behavior and the public good?
Starting 20 years ago on “Oprah,” I recognized an aspect of the loss of hierarchy (identified by Richard Weaver in 1948 in “Ideas Have Consequences”) when a world expert on a phenomenon with a depth and breadth of knowledge of a topic would be sat next to a single sufferer of the phenomenon whose emotions were equated to a life of study and concentrated attention to the issue.
Can we still acknowledge that someone may know more about something than I do even if I do not like what they are saying, the way they are saying it, or them? They may be right despite themselves. Should you be so self-assured that you are safe from a bad case of COVID because you never get the flu either and hence a COVID vaccine is unwarranted though you are 56 years old and have five people depending on you in the middle of a pandemic?Published in