How Will Ignorance Kill Us?

I logged into Twitter this morning to see this video of people in Palm Beach, Florida defiantly telling officials they could not mandate the wearing of face masks. Their unsupported arguments and hubris were just unbelievable considering the time, energy and money this country puts towards education. Either these folks failed their science classes, or their science teachers failed them.

The word ignorance derives from French meaning “a lack of wisdom or knowledge” and from Latin meaning a “want of knowledge”. In this age of Covid-19, we see a large number of people who lack knowledge; and we see fewer people who want knowledge. As someone said in a meeting I was part of last night: There are lots of opinions about the virus. And that statement was made as if opinions mattered. They don’t. What matters is knowledge.

For those who are relying on scientific research (as opposed to politics and social media) to determine how they should personally respond to Covid-19, the evidence is crystal clear. This virus kills. And if it doesn’t kill, it often leaves long lasting consequences for those who become ill, yet are lucky enough to recover.

Here is some of the research to review:

Mounting clues suggest the coronavirus might trigger diabetes This from Nature magazine with a link to the actual study at the bottom of the article.

Pulmonary and Cardiac Pathology in Covid-19: The First Autopsy Series from New Orleans Look at the condition of autopsied lungs in this research. This is not merely a flu, as too many people have told me. It’s not just a “bad” cold.

Coexistent COVID-19 pneumonia and pulmonary embolism: challenges in identifying dual pathology Blood clots. The virus causes blood clots and researchers still don’t know who might develop those clots. Young people seem to be susceptible. Look at this story: The girl who died twice: How doctors saved a 12-year-old whose heart stopped for 45 minutes

Psychiatric and neuropsychiatric presentations associated with severe coronavirus infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis with comparison to the COVID-19 pandemic Yes, people can experience serious neuro-psych symptoms with Covid-19. And again, there’s no way to know who will suffer those symptoms and what the consequences might be.

And yet to be determined? Can Covid-19 be transmitted in utero? The investigation of this case will hopefully shed some light on that question. Coronavirus: Newborn Mexican triplets test positive in ‘unprecedented’ case

Most confounding in this pandemic, however, is the backlash about wearing face masks. We are instructed by many businesses not to enter an establishment without a shirt or shoes, why the push-back against face masks?

Sadly, gone from our society is the notion of the greater good. Gone is the notion that the liberty for someone to swing at another’s face ends at that person’s nose. Or, as I learned it in school: Your rights end where mine begin. People can do what ever they like in their own homes; their own backyards. But when we go out in public we owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to wear face masks. Period.

Here’s a visual as to how masks help contain the spread of the virus.

From the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

We wear masks to protect others. To protect those people who go to work, giving us access to things we need or things we want. Those people may or may not have healthcare. They may or may not have families. What they do have is their health and no one else has the right to endanger that health by not wearing a face mask.

An April article from The Atlantic magazine clearly outlines why we need masks.

Masks can be worn to protect the wearer from getting infected or masks can be worn to protect others from being infected by the wearer. Protecting the wearer is difficult: It requires medical-grade respirator masks, a proper fit, and careful putting on and taking off. But masks can also be worn to prevent transmission to others, and this is their most important use for society. If we lower the likelihood of one person’s infecting another, the impact is exponential, so even a small reduction in those odds results in a huge decrease in deaths. Luckily, blocking transmission outward at the source is much easier. It can be accomplished with something as simple as a cloth mask.

The Atlantic, APRIL 22, 2020

And clearly for some people, wearing a mask correctly over one’s mouth and nose is a challenge for some reason. How many people have I seen with masks over their mouths only? Or, masks on their chins! And how many people throw used masks on the ground as if they have a servant to clean up in their wake?

We have to do better. We need to engage our brains. We need to think about the health of all the members of our various communities. We should not wait for people to die before we show an understanding of what we are dealing with at the moment.

Honestly, I don’t care about uninformed opinions. I care about science, medicine and trying to keep myself and my family members alive during this pandemic. While scientists and medical researchers may not be aligned on how to treat this virus, or what a vaccine will look like, they are very clear about masks. At the moment, masks, social distancing, hand-washing are the best line of defense against this deadly virus.

Arrogance, ignorance and uninformed opinions could get us all killed.

Picture of US Surgeon General in face mask.
Vice Admiral (VADM) Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. is the 20th Surgeon General of the United States

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