While it appears there are people who disagree with each other, the vast majority of individuals in the community ALL want to protect and preserve the health and economic prosperity of our community. We ALL want to accomplish this in a manner that gets us through the current situation as quickly, with the least disruption, inconvenience, and infringement on personal liberty, as possible. Our disagreement is not about the goals, yet rather the best way to achieve them.
I applaud Mr. Cope’s interest (Letter to the Editor Aug. 12) in this topic and sincere efforts to advocate for the welfare of our community. I believe he does a good job of describing legitimate scientific uncertainty about the effectiveness of cloth masks but misses the entire point of the scientific debate. The debate is between public health experts who advocate for widespread mandatory mask mandates as a last-ditch effort and those who believe nothing short of an immediate rigid national lockdown can avert disaster.
Mr. Cope referenced the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRP) and indicated they had been “harassed and intimidated” into editing criticisms of mask use by the general public. Let me share what Mr. Cope’s preferred authority on this issue really thinks.
CIDRP Director Dr. Osterholm, an internationally respected authority on communicable disease control, wrote in the August 7 issue of the New York Times: “We support the wearing of masks by all Americans, but masking mandates and soft limitations on indoor crowds in places such as bars and restaurants are not enough to control this pandemic. To successfully drive down our case rate to less than one per 100,000 per day, we should mandate sheltering in place for everyone but the truly essential workers.” He went on in the starkest terms. “To be effective, the lockdown has to be as comprehensive and strict as possible. If we aren’t willing to take this action, millions more cases with many more deaths are likely before a vaccine might be available. In addition, the economic recovery will be much slower, with far more business failures and high unemployment for the next year or two.”
If Mr. Cope wants to endorse CIDRP recommendations for an immediate mandatory rigid lock down of the country, I could not challenge the science behind that recommendation. Personally, I hope we can avoid this fate with mandatory mask use and pulling together as a community.
Most responsible adults understand “Hope is not a plan” and “wishing will not make it true.” Our leaders have a clear choice. We can make our best efforts to control this public health emergency by rigorous enforcement of universal mandatory masking or we can take Dr. Osterholm’s recommendations to implement a much more restrictive and intrusive lock down. This is very much a “deer in the headlights” situation. Bolt to one side or the other but for goodness sakes let’s not just stand here waiting for the truck to hit us.
Philip Fracica, MD, FACP
Chief Medical Officer
Bothwell Regional Health Center