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If the Vaccine Works, Why Are We Still Wearing Masks?

A Commentary By Brian C. Joondeph

One important lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps not realized now but in the future, is to keep politics out of medicine and public health.

So much of the state and federal response to COVID-19 has been driven by political considerations. Since President Trump suggested hydroxychloroquine as a potential therapeutic, the media and medical establishment treated this 60-year-old drug as more dangerous than rat poison.

Mayors, governors, and members of Congress told America to stay home, avoid travel, not visit restaurants or the hair salon; meanwhile many politicians and their families ignored such mandates. Dr. Anthony Fauci told us how many masks to wear – none, one, two, then one again – all in the course of a year.

Political protests and riots were safe, necessary, and for the public good, while family weddings, funerals, and Trump rallies were deadly super-spreader events. No wonder Americans are confused and distrustful of the latest edicts from the ruling class. Opinion polls reflect this confusion.

A recent Rasmussen Reports survey found on the positive side that 50% of Americans believe we are winning the war against the coronavirus, almost double the percentage compared to last January.

Despite such confidence, 58% of Americans believe we will be wearing masks in public for at least another six months, 25% expecting to remain masked up for 18 or more months.

Furthermore almost half (49%) think those fully vaccinated should continue wearing masks in public and 54% should remain masked if they had COVID-19 and recovered.

What happened to “follow the science”? Did anyone learn immunology basics in high school biology or health class?

“Herd immunity,” a basic tenet of immunology, is now considered a fringe conspiracy theory. The WHO defines it as, “The indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.” Note the word “either,” two paths to the same goal, nature or a poke in the arm.

Once achieved, the entire community is protected as there are not enough susceptible persons for the virus to spread to and through. Someone may still get sick with the virus, but it won’t be a pandemic. But herd immunity at least lets Americans resume work, school, and a semblance of normality.

As of three months ago, it is estimated that 22% of Americans had contracted COVID-19. That number is certainly higher today. Perhaps much higher. Half of Los Angeles residents may have already been infected, based on antibody testing. Add in T-cell immunity, more difficult to test for, and that number could be significantly higher.

In addition, 57% of adult Americans have had at least one vaccine dose, providing 80% efficacy in preventing COVID-19, compared to over 90% from the second dose.

Most estimates place the herd immunity threshold at 60-70%, meaning we have crossed the goal line, a cause for optimism, not gloom and doom.

It seems only half of Americans understand the science and reason for optimism, as the above poll suggests.

So why is there such little optimism? Is the media discussing herd immunity in an optimistic way? Or like the New York Times, insisting that herd immunity is “unlikely”? Forbes agrees. The poll reflects the gloom and doom message delivered by big media.

What about masks? What is the science on masks? Let’s look at the basics.

Does size matter? The COVID-19 virus is 50-140 nm. The pore size in standard surgical masks is 300 nm to 10,000 nm, far larger than the virus. Yet masks are the holy grail of COVID-19 mitigation.

Masks don’t stop viruses, which is why we never masked up during past flu pandemics. They may block droplets from a sneeze or cough, but not aerosols. Walk by a cigarette smoker while wearing a mask and you will smell the smoke. Smoke particles are larger than the coronavirus.

Where are the randomized clinical trials showing masks stop COVID-19? The Danish mask study found, “No significant effect for facemask wearers” against COVID-19.

If masks work, why the push for the vaccine? If the vaccine works, why are we still masked up? It can’t be both ways.

President Biden could not answer those questions when asked by a reporter about this contradiction, instead answering nonsensically, “Because I’m worried about you.” This was scarcely a scientific and confidence-inspiring answer.

If we may have already reached herd immunity, why do a majority of Americans believe we will still be wearing masks when we begin Christmas shopping later this year?

Aside from not understanding science, many Americans may not trust the medical smart set, like the CDC.

The CDC changed its cycle threshold for “vaccine breakthrough cases”, those cases occurring post-vaccination, to 28, far below that for normal cases of 40 or higher, to reduce COVID cases numbers after the vaccine. Imagine if they did that last year. COVID cases numbers would resemble that of a bad flu season.

The CDC was happy to let high case numbers work against President Trump last year when he was campaigning for reelection but now want to lower case numbers to favor their heralded vaccines.

This is the same CDC that allowed a national teachers union to help draft school opening guidance. Express a medical opinion contrary to CDC dogma and expect CDC retaliation.

The CDC director said their data, “suggests that vaccinated people do not carry the virus” yet vaccinated people are still distanced and masked. No wonder so many Americans are pessimistic.

Many don’t understand the science and others are weary from fickle government guidelines, not based on science but on politics, enforced arbitrarily, in favor of the elites and against the hoi polloi. Lockdowns and mask mandates change like the weather. The media deliver a daily barrage of fear and despair.

It seems the ruling class doesn’t want the pandemic to end, ever. Unfortunately half of Americans agree.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, is a physician and writer. He is on sabbatical from social media.

See Other Commentaries by Brian C. Joondeph.

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