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'I would never support a mask mandate now': Five questions with an infectious diseases expert
After a brief interlude, the usual activists and media fearmongers are back to not giving a damn about rights and freedoms. Rational, actual experts are telling us we don't need a mask mandate.
In parts of blue-state America, but particularly in Ontario, Canada, the public discourse surrounding how to best manage the lingering challenges of the pandemic and the shadow pandemic of missed diagnoses, harms, and immunity debt, has again been hijacked by the same fringe minority, holding views only acceptable to a select few in media, academia, hospital administration, and in the saddest, darkest corners of social media.
In an effort to gain a better understanding of the situation and the calls for a return to mask mandates, I turned to a well-known infectious diseases expert and physician who has worked tirelessly to better inform the public during this challenging era of both viral and social contagion.
I have made the editorial decision to keep the subject’s identity anonymous, as I have witnessed firsthand the kinds of threats and harassment that these doctors face for speaking out against wrongly-accepted dogmas. Quite a few ‘Covid Twitter’ darlings are in fact walking, talking personality disorders, and I don’t wish to further enable such abusive predilections (unlike certain members of the Canadian media).
Read on, for a welcome dose of reason.
Q: There’s a lot of noise out there right now, with that same group of ‘Covid zero’ activists calling for a return to mask mandates, particularly for kids. Would you support a return to mask mandates this winter?
A: Definitely not. We have gotten to almost the three-year mark of this pandemic. The whole world has some form of immunity or the other. What is the goal of a mask mandate at this point? On a population level, we are not going to stop or even slow down transmission. The mask mandate of the past has outlived its expiry date. There is no need for one going forward. I would never support a mask mandate now.
Q: We now know, rather definitively, that the majority of lower-quality masks make no difference, but it’s a lot to ask of a population, particularly kids, to wear anything fit-tested or restrictive all day long. Would community masking even help at this point? What would?
A: On a population level, the majority of masks really are unlikely to help anything at this point. For individual use, if you’re remarkably consistent and diligent in keeping it on? Sure, if you wear a high-quality mask that is fit-tested, it may delay getting COVID or some other respiratory virus. But you can't hide from this forever, nor would you want to as immunity is what gets a population through this kind of thing. I recommend precautions we can actually control. Get your flu shot. Stay home when you're sick. And perhaps, most importantly, don't let respiratory viruses and the fear of the unknown become the centre of attention in your life. That’s not healthy, either.
Why not focus some of that energy on cheering on your favourite hockey team?
Q: Many of the most fervent lockdown and mandate activists are academics, bureaucrats, or administrators who don’t see patients. What have you been seeing from the actual patients you have treated in your hospital?
A: It's a totally different landscape these days. Patients with COVID still come in, but they're uniformly elderly, with a multitude of pre-existing health problems. But even they aren't nearly as sick as they used to be. This is thanks to immunity from vaccines and previous infection (not to mention the new Omicron variant not being anywhere near as nasty as the early days of the pandemic). Most of these elderly patients, even if hospitalized, are surviving to discharge.
As you likely know, things are different in pediatrics at the moment, which is incredibly unfortunate, and this may have been preventable on some level. My pediatrician colleagues were spared the onslaught of patients during the first few waves of COVID, and understandably so, given the resilience of kids’ immune systems, and how COVID has always carried a clear age stratification of risk. They are seeing a different type of wave now: influenza, RSV, and other garden-variety respiratory viruses are roaring back. A larger proportion of kids are susceptible to more illnesses at the moment, because they haven’t been able to build up immunity from previous exposures, and they're all getting sick at the same time.
There is indeed tremendous pressure on the healthcare system right now. It's a tough situation, but one we'll ultimately get through. We just have to stay the course and not panic.
Q: Any recommendations then for parents who are looking to get their kids through the winter as healthy as possible?
A: Stick to the basics. Many were kept away from bugs for too long, and unfortunately there isn’t much that we can do about that, but of course they need to be in the classroom, with the choice to mask or not mask. I recommend this year’s flu shot, that they eat well with a balanced diet, and exercise is essential. The more team sports and outdoor activities, the better.
Q: Thanks for this, doc. One last question. The tone and tenor that’s being used by a few of these online activists and like-minded journalists would suggest that we can never get back to normal, and that COVID should continue to redefine and reorder our lives and livelihoods. In your estimation, are we ready to get back to normal?
A: Most definitely, yes. The world outside of Twitter has moved on. . . it’s time that they move on, too.
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