Masks: The Modern Rabbit’s Foot

Herman Mayfarth sends this extract from an article entitled “Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-19 Era” in the New England Journal of Medicine:

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30  minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

It is also clear that masks serve symbolic roles. Masks are not only tools, they are also talismans that may help increase health care workers’ perceived sense of safety, well-being,…Although such reactions may not be strictly logical, we are all subject to fear and anxiety, especially during times of crisis. One might argue that fear and anxiety are better countered with data and education than with a marginally beneficial mask…

“So there you have it,” Mr. Mayfarth summarizes. “Masks are talismans, not effective PPE.”

The “Author Affiliations” bolster the article’s premise:

From the Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute (M.K.), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (M.K., C.A.M., J.S., M.P.), Harvard Medical School (M.K.,C.A.M., E.S.S.), and the Infection Control Unit and Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital (E.S.S.) — all in Boston.

Mr. Mayfarth continues, “I attempted to reference, and quote, this article in a reader comment to an article in the L.A. Times, which was rejected three times. Evidently the L.A. Times considers NEJM to be a ‘fringe’ publication, and this article to be ‘fake science.’ Accordingly, I have cancelled my subscription to L.A. Times.”

Gracious, isn’t that a tad drastic?  How will you wrap your garbage or line the bottom of your birdcage?


5:05 pm on August 2, 2020