Guest commentary: Pitkin County commissioner candidate weighs in on mask discussions
The Aspen Times offers 600 words to candidates for Pitkin County commissioner, and I have decided to squander mine on a national issue which will not be affected by local discussions by one iota. Not a very strategic decision, but it may serve to explain why I chose the slogan “Back to Basics” for my campaign, despite the fact that I generally don’t like slogans.
When it became obvious that the COVID-19 threat was going to be met by the largest medical experiment in human history, I began looking for a scenario to explain what appeared to be an exactly backward response. Perhaps a delegation from the Pentagon had appeared at the White House. They explained that if COVID-19 isn’t biological warfare, something similar soon would be, and we needed to see if a virus containment strategy can work. Perhaps this is a drill.
An acquaintance recently sent me a Glenwood Springs Post Independent article with a couple of defining quotes. Heather Berge, described as “a former medical researcher from Eagle County” said, “There’s no basis in science for wearing masks. … Masks were never designed to stop viruses. It’s like me standing behind a chain link fence and somebody shooting at me and thinking it will stop the bullet.”
Michelle Boleware of Rifle had this to say: “My immune system was damaged from chemotherapy. … I live with the reality every day that anything I touch could have germs. I take precautions that exceed the precautions of regular society. … It will always be my responsibility to take extra precautions for myself. It is not the health department’s responsibility to take care of me.”
Heather provided a great example of the generic use of the term “mask,” which derives from the early days of us all being told we needed one. The nearly universal response was, “where am I supposed to get a mask,” followed by “don’t worry, it won’t protect you anyway, it protects other people from you.” Very shortly, anything which obscures your face was considered a mask. First, we have the bandana, which is to a virus as a screen door is to a summer breeze. But the bandana can reduce the throw distance of large “droplets” from an explosive sneeze, so it counts.
On the opposite extreme from the bandana are NIOSH rated N95 to N99 “particulate filtering facepiece respirators,” once reserved for health care workers, but widely available today. While Heather is technically correct that viruses are smaller than the smallest particle filtered by medical grade masks, viruses don’t usually go around naked. The smallest, finest droplets which transport viruses are large enough to be blocked.
Following common sense procedures (i.e. keep your hands away from your face) and using the best technology in particulate filtering facepieces, Michelle Boleware and other high-risk individuals can reduce their risk to something close to zero. She is not just being brave and self-reliant; she is being absolutely realistic and practical.
In contrast to Michelle, current public policy is demanding that approximately 320 million Americans wear masks of widely divergent effectiveness to protect a high-risk subset of the population from a virus we are not carrying.
We need to get back to the place we might have started if only there had been large stockpiles of N95-99 masks available. All assets should be directed to the protection of the vulnerable and frightened, and the rest of us should be left to deal with the virus with the best tool available — the human immune system.
If you do not want to wear a mask, it is your job to kill the virus.
Editor’s note: The Aspen Times has offered the Pitkin County commissioner candidates one guest column of 600 words during the campaign to the Nov. 3 election. Jeffrey Evans is running for the District 5 commissioner seat; for more information, his website is evansforcommissioner.com.