OPINION – Here we go again – back to wearing masks

The world is approaching the two-year anniversary of COVID, a life changing event for many of us. The virus has caused death and permanent illness for many, closed businesses, interrupted education, and has upended our lives in so many ways. 

Much of what the medical establishment told us turned out to be wrong. Getting vaccinated was once the pathway to ending the coronavirus pandemic. Yet America, and much of the world has been vaccinated. In the US, among the 12 and up population, 80 percent have had at least one vaccine dose. 

Yet COVID cases are rising, in the US and abroad. Gibraltar is over 100 percent vaccinated yet they are cancelling Christmas gatherings due to surging cases. Vermont, the most vaccinated state in the US is also seeing a plethora of cases. Colorado’s vaccination rate mirrors the national average and every day we hear about case spikes and overflowing ICUs. 

Clearly something is amiss when locations with the highest vaccination rates also have the highest number of new COVID cases. What’s going on?

The vaccines do not appear to be stopping COVID, despite assurances that they would, so local officials reached into their bag of tricks and pulled out masks again, as if masking up in public will magically reduce cases. We were masked up most of last year, yet here we are, deja vu all over again with rising cases.

The Tri-County Health Department recently imposed another mask mandate for those over age two to wear a face covering, even if fully vaccinated, in all indoor public spaces, affecting Arapahoe, Adams, Denver, and other local counties. This will remain in place through the new year, how much longer is anyone’s guess.

Will this new mandate stop the current case surge? As for most COVID surges, cases rise then fall, as the Denver Post’s tracker trendline suggests. The current surge will likely wane over the next few months with or without masks, just as summer surges did in southern states.

Are masks even helpful? We could ask the experts. Early in the pandemic, Dr. Fauci was anti-mask, saying masks were ineffective at protecting against respiratory viruses. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams agreed. Fauci then changed his mind, recommending one then two masks.

The Copenhagen mask study found minimal if any benefit to masks in stopping the COVID. From a viral particle size perspective, masks also do little. The COVID virus is 50-140 nm, while the pore size in standard surgical masks is 300 nm to 10,000 nm. This is using a chain-link fence to stop mosquitoes.

Clearly the science isn’t settled regarding the benefits, or lack of, for masking. And there are negatives too, including making breathing more difficult, particularly when exercising indoors. Developing communication and facial recognition skills in children will be hampered. Then there is the pollution. Billions of masks, non-biodegradable, will end up in landfills and oceans. We already see masks littering streets and parking lots.

Do county health officials have new science or evidence that masks will be effective this time? Or is this simply “let’s do something, anything” to stop the expected transient surge in COVID cases in northern states just as we saw a few months ago in southern states? Will their solution make any difference or simply add to existing holiday angst over supply chain disruptions and runaway inflation?

At least masks will hide the many sad faces of those just trying to live their lives under ever increasing rules, restrictions, and mandates as we head into what is traditionally a season of hope and joy.