Getting real about masks and tests
If you are confused about the use of masks and the availability of tests, you obviously have been watching too much television news. I have long held that reporters are the least reliable in terms of putting out accurate information in crisis situations. If you flip channels – or even stay on one channel for the better part of a day – you will find the information reported varies widely. That is because each reporter is only repeating — and putting on their spin – on what he or she heard from different people.
Two issues that have gotten a lot of attention in promoting protection from the COVID-19 virus are masks and tests.
At the onset of the pandemic, you heard that there was no need to wear masks in public. You heard that only people with symptoms should wear masks. Some reports even suggested that wearing masks can actually put you at greater risk – because you need to touch your face.
It was repeatedly stated that only folks with symptoms should wear masks to protect others – under the theory that virtually any old face covering – scarf, kerchief or even a ski mask – would capture those vaporized virus-bearing droplets we emit by talking, coughing or sneezing.
People with symptoms should also wear masks at home to prevent the spread to loved ones.
They later advised that all people should wear masks any time they are out in public. This was to cover (no pun intended) those who may have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic – and would be spreading the virus unknowingly.
Since this possibility was known early on, it is curious that universal mask-wearing was not advised or required much earlier. Did the professional’s advice to NOT wear masks without symptoms enable the virus to spread to such an extent as we see in the United States?
Unfortunately, thanks to the scaredy-cats among us – those with unreasonable anxieties and fears – we will probably see mask-wearing become a permanent part of our culture as it already is in many Asian nations. Oh, not as pervasive as we see it now. But every time we hit the flu season, masks will pop up like ants at a picnic. There are already efforts by the fashion industry to incorporate mouth coverings in their haute couture.
Nowhere has the profusion of public announcements been more confusing and more misleading than the reporting on tests. There are a political narrative and information from the medical professionals – and they are not the same by a long shot.
First, the medical. We must keep in mind that COVID-19 is a “novel’ virus – never seen one like it before. That means when the tsunami of infections began, there was no vaccine, no test available for widespread use. The shortage of testing equipment and supplies was unavoidable because of the sudden overwhelming demand. Resources are never sufficient to meet an unprecedented crisis. But the political game of blaming everything on Trump personally has contributed to the problem.
And it takes time to produce a quality test. You will recall that some of the initial test equipment and supplies proved to be faulty – too many false positives and false negatives.
The bigger issue was WHO should be tested. Most medical professionals at all levels seemed to concur. Only folks with symptoms should be tested. That was accomplished fairly quickly. And that is how we could determine the numbers of new cases.
But then there is the media narrative predicated on a political disdain for President Trump – and a desire … nay, a continuing strategy … to remove him from office, one way or another.
The media engage in a disinformation campaign, suggesting that everyone in America should be …. needs to be …. tested. Anything less than that was a failure on the part of the President – not governors or mayors, just the President. By going contrary to the professional’s advice – that only those with symptoms should be tested – the media established an unrealistic expectation on the part of the public.
When Trump would say that those who NEEDED to be tested were being tested, the media would report that lots of Americans who WANTED to be tested were not being tested. That encouraged millions of Americans – who wanted to be tested at no cost, or even if they had to pay – to complain. However, it was never the plan – and will never be the plan – to test every person in America.
Those who want a test just to allay their personal paranoia are doing a great disservice to the battle against COVID-19 because they will be using test equipment and supplies – and the time of the tester – potentially denying a person who actually NEEDS a test.
While appropriately focusing on the healthcare and narrow needs of a very small percentage of the American population, we need to remember the basics of this disease. The vast majority of Americans will never contract the disease. Eighty percent of those who do will only have mild symptoms or none at all – and not require any medical intervention. The vast majority of those who have more serious issues will recover.
We really need to put it all in perspective – which is not what the 24/7 media outlets are doing with their drumbeat of hyped news and fearmongering. This is not the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages – although a lot of people are acting like it is.
So, there ‘tis.