Guilty of Breathing Without a Mask

Here’s a crazy suggestion coming from Dr. Vin Gupta who appears on MSNBC: “You shouldn’t have to breathe somebody else’s secondhand smoke. I shouldn’t have to breathe exhaled COVID-19 in somebody’s breath. Nobody should. We should institute mandatory masks in public when you can’t guarantee social distancing. That means retail stores, public transportation, workplaces. That’s absolutely where we should be heading.”

In 20 seconds, Dr. Gupta trashes millions upon millions of years of evolution of breathing mammals. Amniotes that breathed are said to go back some 312 million years. What? We human beings can’t live by ordinary breathing? What? We all must be forced to wear masks? This is absurd.

Is it not plausible that if we needed masks day in and day out, our bodies would have developed filters in our breathing apparatus to handle microbes while letting in oxygen? Haven’t we developed immune systems instead?

If our bodies have any say in the matter, we should be able to live socially and survive as a species by breathing in air that’s been exhaled by someone else and mixed with fresh air, even air that carries coronaviruses. Not only should we, our bodies already have been incorporating virus genes into our genomes for millions of years (at least 45-60 million years ago in our ancestors). Not only have we, it’s to our benefit. Our bodies turn some of these embedded viruses into benefits. “It’s clear that the viruses trapped in our genome have brought us enormous benefits on an evolutionary timescale.”

Our bodies and our social lives are not tailored to wearing masks. If these are mandated, there will be unintended and unexpected negative consequences.

Meanwhile, if the principle behind mandating masks is followed out to its conclusion, what other rules must we be made to obey? There’s no point in providing the totalitarians with more ideas. Dr. Gupta could easily name more diseases and mandate more measures than only masks.

Mandating masks is something like mandating car seat belts and air bags. A motorist may swerve and hit a pedestrian or another car; that’s like breathing out air with possibly dangerous microbes. The totalitarian remedy is to fit these devices to the cars. Why stop there? Why not ban humans from driving cars? Why not replace them by automatic driver-less cars? Why not replace them by automatic sensing devices that take control of one’s driving according to computer programs and instructions?

These intrusions and invasions typically have practical downsides and costs that the totalitarians fail to consider or comprehend. A mask is useful for a surgeon opening up your tummy in an operation, but try wearing one for more than a few minutes and you will experience some negatives: “As anyone who’s spent time under a mask recently can tell you, the practice isn’t often enjoyable. And as the weather warms up, face masks could become particularly sweaty and uncomfortable.”

A mandatory mask policy assumes that you are guilty of breathing, even though you may not be infected or even though you may have fully fought off an infection and now carry antibodies. Even if you are down with a flu or a virus, no one can blame you for breathing, not unless there is a direct connection between your transmission of viruses to them and, furthermore, that they have a case of tangible damage as a result.

If you want to prevent infecting others, the standard measures suffice to control spreading an infection; but you can always don a mask if you insist on going out in public while sick, coughing, weak and sneezing.

None of these considerations evaluate the efficacy of masks.


2:40 pm on May 26, 2020