As the mayor of a small town in the Midwest with a population of less than 5,000 residents, I’ve been invited to attend numerous teleconferenced COVID-19 updates throughout the pandemic provided by local health officials. Because I read disease data and news daily and because my state and local area have had relatively few COVID-19 cases, I previously chose not to participate.
Recently, however, I received an email from our local city and county health officials announcing an online meeting because they were “seeing trends that are concerning.” Because I hadn’t seen anything in recently released COVID-19 data indicating a concerning trend, I made plans to attend.
The problems began early. The time stamp on the email read 12:35 p.m. yet the two calls advertised were to occur at 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. that same day. Had I another scheduled meeting or been otherwise unavailable, I would have missed hearing the “concerning” information.
The start of the call involved health officials calling out the city and state officials by name who “would not” wear masks — a situation they believed impeded their efforts to encourage citizens to wear masks. Later on the call, these same persons also complained, in a very partisan way, about President Trump’s order for hospitals to send COVID-19 data directly to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Meeting participants were finally told that COVID-19 hospitalizations were increasing and this data was concerning. We were also told that hospitals (who self-report their statistics and are provided federal funds to assist COVID-19 patients) appeared to have ample beds, but staffing these beds was a concern, so they wanted to “sound a caution.” Minutes later, however, in an off-handed manner, everyone was informed that health officials had yet to contact local hospitals to obtain staffing information.
One city official asked how city and county health administrators could help get other local and state officials “on board” with mask-wearing because the elected officials in their town were getting “beat up” by the public when considering mask mandates. We were told that “this is about the economy and saving businesses,” and that if we didn’t want another economic shutdown, we should be encouraging mask usage because “people won’t go into businesses if they feel uncomfortable.”
As the meeting ended, I realized that for the entirety of the call I’d not heard one shred of medical or epidemiological evidence to justify a need for citizens to wear masks. I heard only copycat reasoning and talking points such as, “All communities need to be on the same page,” and “If one city mandates masks, people will just go to another city, negatively impacting that city.”
When I couldn’t get the discussion out of my head, searched the phrase “preventing economic shut down by wearing masks.” Low and behold, a CNN article titled, “Want To Prevent Another Shutdown, Save 33,000 Lives and Protect Yourself? Wear A Face Mask Doctors Say,” popped into view.
When I followed the first link provided in the story to the CDC page on COVID-19 called, “How To Protect Yourself & Others,” the information provided about viral spread says, “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.” From that page, another link generates a page called “How COVID-19 Spreads.” We’re told at the top of that page:
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of the illness it causes.
When I clicked “cloth face covering” at the bottom of that page, I was taken to another CDC page, “Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19.” At the bottom of that page was highlighted text reading, “CDC calls on Americans to wear masks to prevent COVID-19 spread.”
This last link was a CDC press release dated July 14 in which three articles were referenced — a study of two salon owners in Missouri, a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMW), and a Journal of the American Medical Association article, about which was written, “the latest science and affirms that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities.” I, however, did not come to the CDC’s conclusion after reading the editorial.
The study authors say the positive face mask outcome associated with the JAMA hospital study could have been influenced by many different factors. It also says a study on mask-wearing is extremely hard to perform with a virus like SARS-COV-2. Other studies — here and here — involved modeling, a form of science that has not been successful in projecting COVID disease levels. Yet while there is very little good data on cloth mask-wearing, the authors go on to say:
In the absence of such data, it has been persuasively argued the precautionary principle be applied to promote community masking because there is little to lose and potentially much to be gained. In this regard, the report by Wang et al provides practical, timely, and compelling evidence that community-wide face covering is another means to help control the national COVID-19 crisis.
Even more emphatically, the conclusion reads:
At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19.
In reality, the MMW report is nothing more than a “how-to” guide to persuade the public to wear masks. It ends with the following paragraph:
Based on behavioral associations, messages should be targeted to reach populations not wearing cloth face coverings to promote a positive attitude toward cloth face-covering use, encourage social networks to be supportive of cloth face-covering use, describe positive health outcomes expected from wearing a cloth face covering, and help persons feel confident in their ability to obtain and wear cloth face coverings consistently and correctly.
During the call with city and county health officials, no government official asked what state-collected COVID-19 epidemiological data justified potential mask mandates, and none was ever provided. No one asked about the number of hospital beds available, how a case was determined, where the national and state COVID-19 death rates stand, the demographics of positive case spikes, or anything else that might help elected officials weigh the cost of a government mandate against appropriate scientific or medical data regarding the disease.
Yes, a face mask might help slow COVID-19 transmission — but it might not. Face masks are now known to cause numerous side effects and skin disorders. Furthermore, they can’t be worn by everyone and when worn incorrectly can even cause disease.
Besides, it should not so easily be forgotten that the CDC and World Health Organization, the U.S. surgeon general, and even Dr. Anthony Fauci claimed there was no reason to wear a mask as coronavirus cases rapidly escalated, yet now, as U.S. death rates are largely falling and doctors are finding more and more ways to treat the disease, these same sources are claiming we must all wear masks.
As a public official sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States which, above all, was instituted to protect the individual rights of those who elected me, this is frightening. If public officials are being given only the information I was provided during this meeting and do not conduct their own research, citizens will have personal choices taken from them in the name of social conditioning, not proven scientific data.
When public officials concentrate their resources more on forwarding an agenda than championing individual rights and liberties, our republic is lost.
The author requested anonymity to avoid retribution from government officials.