COVID-19 may be the most glaring failure of the United States government I can ever recall. Probably the greatest failure of all time. And by government I’m speaking directly of Donald Trump, but I’m including the House of Representatives, the Senate, and state governments as well.
The mis-steps, failures, lies and neglect will be documented and discussed for the rest of my lifetime, I’m sure. But there really is no need to make this complicated, folks. The easiest, cheapest solution has been at hand for months, yet the failure to use it, to mandate it, speaks volumes to the ability of our government to ignore science and then flail about, spending vast sums of money to try to fix a problem that could have been prevented or, at the very least, mitigated months ago. And yet, here we are, mid-July with 60,000 new COVID-19 cases in the US yesterday and our world is less safe now than it was during lock-down.
One word, people. Masks. Back on May 13, 2020 Atul Gawande, MD had a Medical Dispatch column in the New Yorker where, among other things, he made a couple of statements that deserve far more attention than they’ve received.
A study in Nature last month (April, 2020) shows that, if worn properly and with the right fit, surgical masks are effected at blocking 99% of the respiratory droplets expelled by people with coronavirus ex’s or influenza viruses.
A recent, extensive review of the research from an international consortium of scientists suggests that if at least 60% of the population that wore masks that were just 60% effective at blocking viral transmission—which a well-fitting, two-layer cotton mask is—the epidemic could be stopped. The more effective the mask, the bigger the impact.
That’s a pretty amazing concept that has not, to the best of my knowledge, been talked about at all. So I read that article, posted April 12, 2020. The Discussion and Recommendations includes this passage:
The available evidence suggests that near-universal adoption of non-medical masks when out in public, in combination with complementary public health measures could successfully reduce effective R0 to below 1.0, thereby stopping community spread. Economic analysis suggests that the impact of mask wearing could be thousands of US dollars saved per person per mask.
What this article is telling us is that if everyone follow hand washing recommendations, practices social distancing, AND wears a well fitting two-layer cloth mask (or better) the COVID-19 pandemic would end. Not sometime next year, not after we spend untold billions on vaccines that haven’t been developed (and may not be safe), but within 4-6 weeks. So, as Denzel Washington said so often in “Philadelphia”, can someone explain this to me like I’m a 3rd grader? Why is there not a Federal law mandating mask use? Why does Minnesota not have a state law mandating face mask use? Why didn’t the government, instead of spending $1200 per person as some lame stimulus, use war time powers, mandate mask production and give us all 10 two-layer cloth masks. It would have saved about $1150 per person and would have fixed this whole debacle before June.
I call failure.