To Mask, or not to Mask? Data has the Answer

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Dr. Samuel Van Kirk

You may not like the concept of wearing a mask for political reasons, but it is hard to ignore the mounting data that wearing a mask can turn the tide of this pandemic. I don’t like wearing a mask, it is uncomfortable. But data is data. Data does not care how you vote. Data does not care about your perception of rights. Data can help us make informed decisions. I suggest reading broadly, with an open mind, and change your worldview if the data requires it. In countries where masking is common the infection rates are less. Debate and discuss. I am not an epidemiologist, so don’t take what I say as fact until you have had a chance to verify it. Below are excerpts from a recent well structured study. If you have data to the contrary let us discuss it.

Source: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.13553.pdf

“Social distancing and masking at both 50% and 80-90% of the population but no lockdown beyond the end of May results in substantial reduction of infection, with 80-90% masking eventually eliminating the disease.”

“Without masking, lifting lockdown after nine weeks while keeping social distancing measures will risk a major second wave of the epidemic in 4-5 months’ time. However, if four out of five citizens start wearing cloth masks in public before the lockdown is lifted, the number of new COVID-19 cases could decline enough to exit lockdown and still avoid a second wave of the epidemic. If only every second person starts wearing a mask, infection rates would also decline substantially, but likely not by enough to prevent the second wave.”

“Our results highlight the need for mass masking as an alternative to a continued lockdown scenario. For this strategy to be most effective, the vast majority of the population needs to adopt mask wearing immediately. When a well-timed “mouth-and-nose lockdown” accompanies the current “full body lockdown”, both the human and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic can be significantly lowered.”

“The medical and social risks of increased infections need to be countered by proper advice in the public domain. Some studies do indicate negative effects of naive improper cloth mass use, for instance higher risks of infection due to moisture retention, reuse of poorly washed cloth masks, and poor filtration in comparison to medical masks (MacIntyre et al., 2015). To address concerns that lay individuals may use both medical and/or cloth and paper masks incorrectly, masking techniques and norms need to be taught with targeted information to different demographics, just as proper handwashing and social distancing techniques have been taught.” https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.13553.pdf

Dr. Samuel Van Kirk
Samuel Van Kirk, M.D. OBGYN is a board-certified physician with nearly two decades of experience. He proudly provides compassionate, personalized care for women of all ages at his private practice in Redding, California. Dr. Van Kirk studied mechanical engineering and achieved his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara before receiving his graduate degree at Stanford University. After studying mechanical engineering, Dr. Van Kirk earned his medical degree from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He then completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Van Kirk grew up in Colorado and enjoys an active lifestyle, including backpacking and spending time outdoors.
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31 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Thanks, Doctor. Such a simple method for keeping safe. Why is it so difficult for some to grasp?

  2. Now we need a hotshot marketing team to sell this message to a population that is more interested in political slogans than science.

  3. Avatar CHRISTIAN Gardinier says:

    Thanks Doc. Simple, understandable and factual! Along with other social measures needed when we go out in public, we need to mask up and people who would do otherwise are in my mind beyond political, it’s a display of personal and group insolence that puts society at risk. That type of anti social behavior needs to called out and addressed, as would drunk driving or threats of assault and battery. And BTW, all local establishments that do not follow CDC and California State Health guidelines regarding Covid – 19 should also be listed and boycotted until complacence are met until this pandemic is over. Unfortunately, here in Redding it would take the ability to list just about all establishments in town as we are very Red politically, and yes, flipping off safety protocol is for many, part of the Red tRumpublican agenda and unfortunately, they believe their social – political agenda tRumps science.

    Perhaps a better way would be listing all establishments that do comply or at least do the best they can enforce Covid – 19 safety protocol, as they would with a “no shirt, no shoes no service” policy. If you’re religious, God help us all and God helps those that helps others. If not religious, please don’t drink the “disinfectant”! It’s not good for your health and society will pay for your ignorance.

  4. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    NOT wearing a mask is counter to opening up, getting back to work, freedom.

    If you refuse to wear a mask, you’re putting your vanity and “fuck the libs” signaling ahead of the economy and ahead of peoples’ livelihoods and lives. You’re putting politics ahead of kicking COVID-19’s ass. You might be too stupid to make decisions on your own.

    How is not wearing a mask counter to freedom? Because the longer we drag this out—thanks to people like you—the longer we’ll have to endure various forms and degrees of locking down. The longer it’ll be before we can routinely get haircuts, go to the gym, and send our kids to school. We’ll be constrained longer because the case numbers will grow.

    Seriously.

  5. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Just left WinCo after Senior Hour shopping where 75-90% of customers were wearing masks. Some of us geezers get it.

  6. Avatar Steven Kohn says:

    I think it needs to be considered that communities and countries where mask usage is almost Universal. Compliance to all guidelines is probably much greater. I think that needs to be considered when determining whether or not masks are effective.
    I know here locally the way people are using masks in many cases is counterproductive. They are regularly contaminating The Mask over and over again and using them a scone over again. The analysis is more complex than what is presented.

  7. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    My only issue is with the graph the doctor added, we know that China has repeatedly lied about the number of cases and deaths that occurred in their country. So it is my guess that the data is somewhat skewed. In addition, the Asian countries already have the culture of using masks, the CDC as recently as April was telling us that people who need to wear a face mask are those who are sick or are caring for someone who is sick and unable to wear a mask.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Updated CDC guidelines: Wear a mask in public, especially where maintaining 6 feet of social distancing is difficult. (For those who are more interested in current information.)

      I too put pretty much zero value on what the Chinese government has to say about their COVID-19 case numbers and deaths. China’s scientists, however, have made some of the key advances that will probably lead to development of a vaccine.

    • Avatar The Old Pretender says:

      “We know that China repeatedly lied” is a blanket statement that isn’t worth time commenting on, but what is interesting is the woman who was recently fired in FL for not modifying CV-19 data. Therefore in regards to US data: “So it is my guess the data is somewhat skewed.”

  8. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    Yes, thank you, Dr. Van Kirk for your article. Very much.

    As an aside, does anybody know of a source for acquiring paper masks on line? Or even in a store? My husband and I have been using some left over paper masks from “the fire,” and we also figured out a way with making simple cloth masks. However, it would be nice to buy a box of paper masks. I rarely go out. My husband serves as the cannery in the cage for grocery shopping. Including farmer’s market on Saturday. We figure it’s probably even safer than a store, because it’s outside – and they/we all mask and glove up. And the added benefit of supporting the local growers.

    And last, thank you so much Doug Cook for your “guess” that the data is skewed. I wear a mask as a courtesy (old-fashion term) to others. And omg, fortunately doctors are dialed in regarding the significance of wearing masks. Hopefully, you haven’t had to venture into a doctor’s office in the past months, but masks are required by patients. Because doctors are the resource, we need them, and they need to be protected.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      I have been in a doctors office in the last month, for a cardiac stress test. and a mask was not required. They just took my temperature. All I said in my comment is that China has lied about the number of cases and deaths in their country…so showing a graph that puts China in a better light is not an accurate representation…simple as that, nothing more to be read into it.

      • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

        Seriously, this month. In a doctor’s office and masks were not required?

        • Avatar Candace says:

          Linda, seems crazy doesn’t it? That said, it doesn’t surprise me. Conservative Shasta County has its fair share of Libertarian docs who don’t live/practice here by accident and they set the tone in their offices. I’ve personally gone to see a couple of accomplished, well-liked, such doctors here who talked (complained endlessly) about “liberal” policies with absolutely no hint of invitation from me. I certainly didn’t leave those appointments feeling like I’d been heard, much less “seen”. The good thing is there are still some great, compassionate, doctors here who don’t fit that bill and who are likely wearing masks in their offices and who’s staff are following their lead. I certainly hope so anyway; I’m counting on it.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          All the staff wore masks, the office was very cautious about social distancing, my wife was not allowed inside, she waited in the car. There were, perhaps 3 other patients inside…not a big deal.

          • Avatar Candace says:

            Doug, good to know about the office you went to for your test and then commented you were not required to wear a mask. Burying the lead comes to mind.

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Good lord, Candace…I was just replying to Linda who made the comment that masks are required in doctor’s offices. That is apparently not true as my experience showed. There was one other patient in the waiting room, and he was a good 15 feet away from me. They took me into a little room, I took a stroll on a treadmill, was told I have a heart of a 20 year old and went home. Big effing deal.

      • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

        I’ve had to visit my eye doctor twice since the shelter-in-place order. I was extremely pleased and relieved to find that everyone was wearing masks. Chairs inthe waiting room had been place six feet apart with big signs asking that the chairs note be moved and they had a table set up at the entrance where they asked about your general health, took your temperature and had hand sanitiser for use. ‘During my outing I stopped at a locally owned fast food place and found that not one person behind the counter or in the kitchen were wearing masks. I’ll not patronize them again. On the other hand both dutchBros. I visited I found, had everyone working wearing masks. I will continue to patronize them!! Your wearing a mask is a courtesy to me. My wearing as mask is saying that you are important to me.

  9. Avatar Bill Vercammen says:

    Thanks for this, doc. The whole of the argument against masks seems inarguably counterintuitive to me, and smacks of petty inconvenience, lack of consideration for others, perhaps even narcissism. I’d bet some patients are so prolific at viral shedding as to justify a full body condom, but that’s a new topic.

  10. Avatar Randy says:

    If you listen to Trump and his mouth pieces like Rush Limbaugh you will probably believe that China is responsible for the collapse of our economy and the deaths of over 90,000 Americans as well but everyone should know by now that Trump and his media machine cannot be trusted to tell the truth. For the truth we should look at the material facts of exactly what the Chinese government told Trump, when they told it to him and what he did with the information.

    NPR,
    “Last month, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, stated, “The virus was identified on January the 7th. The [genetic] sequence was shared on the 12th with the world.””.

    Another thing we need to consider while Trump and cult try to blame China for not telling us fast enough is that while Trump went all out trying to downplay the serious nature of the virus, his associates and political counterparts were busy dumping their stocks and rearranging their finances before the American people were brought up-to-date on what was coming.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Randy…China is in fact responsible for the virus. China is responsible for lying about the virus, not being transparent and allowing it to spread around the world. Why do you want to blame Trump? He was the one that stopped travel from China early on facing much criticism for that move. Did you call him a racist and a xenophobe too when he banned travel in late January? When everybody was focused on impeachment and not talking about coronovirus?

      This is what the Chinese authorities put out on Jan 13th, “…We have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China” China did downplay the seriousness of the virus. China repeatedly lied and kept secret vital information that would have helped the rest of the world. But no…you want to blame Trump for everything. So typical.

  11. Avatar Randy says:

    Trump was warned by our own intelligence agencies as far back a November that, “Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” one of the sources said of the NCMI’s report. “It was then briefed multiple times to” the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House. Wednesday night, the Pentagon issued a statement denying the “product/assessment” existed.

    Blame China far what they did or did not do but as responsible citizens of the US we need to acknowledge the facts of what Trump knew, when he knew it and what he did about it. Anything wrong with that? Just like AGW, we should be dealing with the facts and not allow stories about stories of other stories to distract us from the facts.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Except the NCMI came out with this statement after the reporting you mentioned from an unnamed source.

      “…“As a matter of practice, the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on specific intelligence matters. However, in the interest of transparency during this current public health crisis, we can confirm that media reporting about the existence/release of a National Center for Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct,” said Col. R. Shane Day, the director of the NCMI. “No such NCMI product exists.”

      and this…

      “Concerning the intelligence reports, first time I saw this was when I read it in the news, but I can tell you that we went back and did a deep dive into everything we could find,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Hyten told reporters, adding, “We went back and looked at everything in November and December. The first indications we had were reports out of China in late December that were in the public forum. And the first intel reports I saw were in January.”

      I know you like to believe everything you read on the internet Randy, Like homes being flooded in the Maldives…but this story is not true as well. Why accept one story from an unnamed source? I thought you don’t believe stories. Makes more sense to believe the actuyal source from the actual agency, right?

      • Avatar Randy says:

        “And the first intel reports I saw were in January”

        For the sake moving past fruitless arguments I will just with your information. The first ‘intel reports’ came to Trump in January so here is a timeline on his statements and actions. The second link is to a Forbes article about Trumps pals dumping their stock after being informed what was coming, even as Trump, and they, continued to play the virus down.

        https://www.npr.org/2020/04/21/837348551/timeline-what-trump-has-said-and-done-about-the-coronavirus

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          It is not a ‘fruitless argument’ when I point out that your story is not true. Using questionable stories that use one unnamed source should never be used as fact. The information the intelligence received in January was that there was something going on in China. Nobody but China knew what the extent was. You can’t have 20-20 hindsight Randy, and say we should have known the danger back in January.

          This is what the president’s experts were saying back then. A press release from the CDC said this, “…based on current information, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.” What would you have had the president do with that?

          In an interview with Dr Fauci on Jan 21st, he was asked, “we don’t have to worry about this one, right?” The doctor’s answer was, “This is not a major threat to the people of the United States and this is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about.”
          What would you want the president to do with that?
          The day after WHO declared the virus a ‘global epidemic’ on January 30th…the president initiated the China travel restrictions, that he was roundly criticized for. Where he was called a ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’ and Biden called him ‘hysterical’ for the move.
          Through February Speaker Pelosi was encouraging people to visit Chinatown and the NY health directors told citizens to come to parades. In the Democratic debates in Feb…there was one question asked about Covid-19. It was in the last debate towards the end…lasted about 90 seconds.
          So Randy…you can’t do Monday morning quarterbacking and say that Trump SHOULD have done something more when at the time, nobody knew the extent of the upcoming crisis. Everybody got it wrong. You can’t pin it on the president.

          • Avatar Ed Marek says:

            Mr. Cook,

            When are you going back to your “non-essential” job?

            We’ll miss your repetitive comments, but I expect you’re looking forward to getting back behind the counter to use the same skills there…

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZw35VUBdzo

          • Avatar Randy says:

            Incredible, I had no idea Doug had his own show. What a talent.

          • Avatar Randy says:

            The facts of what Trump knew, the latest point he had the full information on the seriousness of the virus and the way he has bungled the job and evaded responsibility for planning and action are all well documented in the many timelines of factual events and words from Trump. You should know by now that I don’t buy your ‘dead parrots'(Ed’s video).End of conversation.

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            End of conversation, Randy?…LOL. Of course it is. Because all you gave me was a STORY with an unnamed source. I gave you actual quotes to prove my facts. Come back when you can actually prove your allegations.

          • Avatar Ed Marek says:

            Doug Cook:

            “…You can’t pin it on the president…”

            Yes, trump is ONLY the President.

            It’s not like he has any real responsibility, or as if he ever took an oath of office…

            There is no need for anyone here to “pin” anything on trump. His place in history is secured.

            “Mass murderer” is already tattooed on trumps forehead under the orange greasepaint.

            Trump is responsible for over 100,000 American deaths to date, and trump is even now demanding hundreds of thousands more Americans must die to satisfy his objectives.

            But be assured Mr. Cook, that you and all the other little people who have so subserviently assisted trump in his efforts, will be remembered in history along with trump, and given the credit you deserve for your collusion.

            Rather than waste my time, and the readers’ on yet another exposition of Mr. Cooks pathetic and oft-repeated hodgepodge of misrepresentations and falsehoods in his comment above, I’d suggest you click the link below, to read a factual account of how close America was to avoiding disaster.

            And how trump personally intervened, leaving America defenseless.

            As to the responsibility of the other three men in the title, you should consider that each of them was perversely chosen by trump to provide himself the most political benefits, not because they were the most qualified candidates for three of the most important jobs in America in 2020.

            “The four men responsible for America’s COVID-19 test disaster

            The White House’s inability to track the disease as it spread across the nation crippled the government’s response and led to the worst disaster this country has faced in nearly a century

            Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, flanked Donald Trump at the podium in the White House briefing room. It was February 29th, the day of the first reported U.S. death from the coronavirus, and the president fielded an urgent question: “How should Americans prepare for this virus?” a reporter asked. “Should they go on with their daily lives? Change their routine? What should they do?”

            In that moment, America was flying blind into a pandemic; the virus was on the loose, and nobody quite knew where. The lives of tens of thousands hinged on the advice about to be delivered by the president and his top public-health advisers. Trump began: “Well, I hope they don’t change their routine,” before he trailed off, and, quite uncharacteristically, called on an expert to finish the response. “Bob?” he said. “Do you want to answer that?”

            A tall man, with a tan, freckled head, and a snow-white chinstrap beard, Redfield stepped to the podium. “The risk at this time is low,” Redfield told the country. “The American public needs to go on with their normal lives.”

            This reassurance came at precisely, and tragically, the wrong time. With a different answer, much of the human devastation that was about to unfold in the United States would have been avoidable. Academic research from Imperial College in London, modeling the U.S. response, estimates that up to 90 percent of COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented had the U.S. moved to shut down by March 2nd. Instead, administration leaders dragged their feet for another two weeks, as the virus continued a silent, exponential assault. By early May, more than 75,000 Americans were dead.

            Even as he spoke, Redfield knew the country should be taking a different course. The Coronavirus Task Force had resolved to present the president with a plan for mitigation efforts, like school and business closures, on February 24th, but reportedly reversed course after Trump exploded about the economic fallout…

            https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/covid-19-test-trump-admin-failed-disaster-995930/

  12. Avatar Bill Vercammen says:

    “China is in fact responsible for the virus. ”
    It’ll will interesting and instructive to see how this blame game plays out, and what restrictive impacts we see on global research in viral gain-of-function moving forward. The misleading and obfuscation of early data and patient observations might simply be seen as an another expected deception by the CCP. But, a cover-up of a lab accident – or worse – a gain-of-function lab experiment gone badly wrong – will be seen as a global chicanery of the highest magnitude.
    JMHO, but the lack of early viable data should have been anticipated by our global intelligence, and compensations made as it became increasingly evident that truths had been manipulated, and the published numbers may not reflect any semblance of reality. We have been deceived by the CCP in the past. We should have learned by now.

  13. Avatar Ed Marek says:

    CDC update below makes clear that direct contact with airborne droplets is now believed to be the primary means of infection for COVID-19.

    So it’s even more idiotic to refuse to wear a mask, than was previously believed…

    “How Flu Spreads

    …People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes…

    you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others…”

    https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm

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