Letter: A response to recent letter on masks

Last week you posted a letter regarding masks.  While well written, it was filled with a couple inaccuracies that I would like to clarify.

The first is the implication of division when it comes to the professionals and that, somehow, both sides are equal. There is very little division among professionals. When it comes to masks, science has shown they reduce the spread.  Institutions who have done these studies include, Simon Fraser University, John Hopkins University, The Mayo Clinic, Texas A&M University and Duke University.  To give any credence to the other side, you’d need to believe that these institutions faked their studies and are lying with all the health authorities as part of a vast conspiracy to make us cover our mouth and nostrils during the worst global pandemic in over a century.  These are not equal viewpoints.

The other thing I want to refute is the persistent misconception that we wear masks to feel safe or protect ourselves. That is not their purpose. It is to protect others and reduce the spread. Of those who contract Covid-19, 40% are asymptomatic.  This means they show no signs of the illness. People can contract this and spread it to others without ever knowing they were a carrier. This is the main reason for masks. My mask protects you and your mask protects me.

I’d like to clear up one more thing that isn’t from the letter but from comments which seem to pop up every time anything is published about Covid-19. The claim that 99.9% of people who get this are fine is a dangerous and heartless lie that needs to stop.  Current case fatality in Canada is around 3.5%. The actual mortality rate will be lower because not everyone who has it is tested but we don’t have enough data to know what it is yet. A recent study by Imperial College London estimated it at 1% for high income countries like Canada. This may seem low but 1% of Alberta’s population is over 43 000 people.  Also, and this is what makes this lie especially cruel, survival is not the same as recovery.  About 20% of people who contract Covid-19 will be hospitalized.  Many of these people do not fully recover and will live with health issues the rest of their lives. Their new normal will last far beyond this pandemic and their suffering will continue far longer than an uncomfortable trip to get groceries.   I understand people are fearful and it’s appealing to cling to comforting falsehoods but the people who are suffering with this illness also deserve kindness. The 99.9% lie not only shows a callous disregard for what they are going through, it erases them from existence.

I always try to be polite and kind but I am frustrated at the lack of understanding and sometimes willful ignorance when it comes to this pandemic. It is hard to watch cases and deaths go up when we know how to reduce them. No one should be screaming at employees for policies they have no control over and yet it keeps happening.  It’s frustrating that loved ones, who are frontline workers, not only have to battle a pandemic but a deluge of misinformation and conspiracy theories spread online. All too often, these are spread by the same people who claim to be one of the extremely rare cases who cannot wear a mask.  The misinformation adds to the division, makes us less safe and makes life even more difficult for our healthcare workers. I agree we need more kindness. Threatening and being cruel to others is never okay no matter the disagreement.    However, the only people we can truly change is ourselves so I encourage all those who wish to see an improvement in our public discourse to start by looking at how they’ve contributed to these divisions and, if warranted, make some changes themselves.


Erynn Watson

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