Letter to the editor: Wear a mask, keep people safe, avoid another lockdown

Dear Edmonds,

I’m writing to you today, concerned about our future with this virus, as a neighbor and a friend. I write this an individual, and not as a councilmember; my comments are my own and not representative of the city council as a whole.

As the stay-at-home mandate grew in length, I called for more and more exceptions. Surethere would be things we couldn’t go back to until a vaccine, but for all others, I was eager to figure out what needed to be done differentlyand then get on to doing it. Returning to some freedoms could give our mental health and financial well-being an opportunity to survive this too.

Some freedoms returned, but this happened without the populace sold on their role in upholding the recovery. Today’s rising case numbers are alarming and will lead us back to Phase 1 unless we learn our role and take responsibility for it.

Neutral and trusted sources such as The Johns Hopkins University website and www.erinbromage.com* sum it up as follows: Social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and exercising good hand hygiene, taken together and universally embraced, are the key to our recovery.<

Here are the facts behind the summary:

  1. A mask protects others from receiving the COVID-19 virus from the person wearing it (more so than protecting the wearer from the germs of others). When we all wear masks, we protect each other.
  2. This issue has similarities to that of smoking in public places; we have to weigh the rights of the smoker versus the right of those around them to avoid the known risks of secondhand smoke. So while it is true that healthy people do not spread the virus to others, the fact that many people who contract the virus are asymptomatic means that we (and they) do not know who is healthy and who is not.
  3. Medical professionals have used facial coverings for many decades with no issues relating to carbon dioxide inhalation.
  4. It is important to wash your facial coverings daily and to wear them properly, covering the nose and mouth.
  5. Some people (including the very young and those with certain health conditions) cannot wear facial coverings.
  6. Our businesses need to be able to stay open. If case numbers cause us to return to Phase 1, non-essential businesses will again close.

With the reasonable and prudent actions of 6-foot social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and exercising good hand hygiene, we can keep people safe without returning to lockdown. We ALL have responsibility and a role to play in controlling infectious disease.

One more small ask…. Smile behind your mask when you see others doing their part. We could all use a little positivity.

Together, we will put the pandemic behind us.

Vivian Olson

  1. Thank you for this message! Wearing a mask, social distancing and hygiene, so simple. I thank people when I am out if possible, because by wearing a mask it’s like saying to others, “I have your back! We can do this!”

  2. What a small sacrifice to make that will benefit us all. Wear the mask, folks. Vivian is right.

  3. Councilmember: Your willingness to take in new information and change your perspective because of that new information is a great example for all of us. Thank you!

  4. As a retired microbiologist I share the importance of wearing properly fitting face coverings, frequent hand washing before and after contact with or near others and the practice of physical distancing until we have effective vaccination programs and therapeutic treatments to control community infection. Accurate data is important and a good source in addition to the articles in this format by Mr L Vogel and from Johns Hopkins University is CIDRAP – the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the Univ of Minnesota.

  5. Vivian, thank you for being an example of someone who has learned new information and showed a willingness to change your perspective. Wearing a mask is such a small sacrifice to ourselves and those in our communities. If you see me on the streets downtown in my mask, I will for sure be smiling.

  6. Another reason to believe that masks must be effective is that they’ve been worn is Asian countries for numerous decades.

    1. I am for mask use, felt that we should have required them to enter any business back in March, but something to ask about mask use in Asian countries is WHY have so many there been wearing masks for so many years? Because of all the virus outbreaks they face on a constant basis their lower numbers on this particular one could be as much a built up generalized immunity, which can’t be replicated here now, as much as the measures they take.

  7. It seems such a small ask to save lives. Most adults I see are following this protocol. What is very disappointing? On Sun I noticed about 30 teenagers playing volley ball at the Flags Park (not sure what it’s called but the park on 196th with all the flags). Not a single mask. They were in close contact. Then last evening another large group of teenagers at College Place Middle School. Again, huddled together playing a physically active game and no masks. Please, parents need to educate their children and enforce doing the right thing.

    1. I saw that too- Wilcox Park. On the flip side, I saw three teenagers walking together in DTE yesterday wearing masks (one of them was wearing a Meadowdale T Shirt). We just need a few of these teenage leaders to normalize the behavior in this age group…. Thank you ladies, whoever you are!

  8. Thank you, Vivian. We need to take a community view rather than our individual rights view. I lived in Japan where masks are commonly worn. They have a concern for health no doubt learned from years of experience. Their low Covid 19 rate shows the wisdom of their approach.

  9. The kids have never been wearing masks unless they were with their parents, I’ve seen them not doing social distancing since day one, they have never been washing their hands as much as they should, they also are not showing many of the cases. This is why it is a lot safer to open schools than many people are willing to admit, at the very least the kids will do a better job during those school hours.

    What changed from April and May when cases were trending down to June and July when cases have been trending up? The biggest shift in numbers is the 20-39 age group. I am out and about every day, mask use in general is up not down yet the numbers are not following mask use, so how much help can we expect from calls for more mask use?

    Likely the biggest Covid risk in this group…

    people purposefully trying to get it so they don’t have to worry about Covid anymore, not sure how we can prevent that and to some degree it will be self correcting.

    joining in mass groups like protests, but there is no appetite to limit this activity.

    going to bars, you just have to temp check at the door, can take your mask off at the table then wander the facility, shutting these down completely until phase 4 would likely shift numbers since 25% and 50% occupancy just does not seem to work here.

  10. Flu killed 80k last year. Who masked for the flu, swine, or any other infectious disease?

    How on earth do you control any microbe? This virus is not unique.. Microbes are the history of human existence. THEY WILL NEVER LEAVE. Will we fearfully shut down society every time? Reasonable and prudent is voluntary social distancing with onus on the sick and afraid. But our “betters” are panicked, and we’re well on our way back to the caves..

    “Some freedoms have returned”. My reading of our founding documents don’t require us to “earn” our freedoms from any tyrant; solely that they are guaranteed. People like you will argue that a police state has been justified because of the allegedly unique threat to life posed by the new coronavirus. The four key hallmarks of a police state we’re now “enjoying”. ..
    1. Draconian laws depriving citizens of elementary civil rights.
    2. A mass media supportive of the state’s messaging and deprivation of rights.
    3. Use of police.
    4. Snitches. The lowest of the low, who needs the Soviet Union?

    Facts are most important, and exist from many places. But thinking that facts and bias are mutually exclusive is a fundamental error. University & Med Center scientists such as those represented by Johns Hopkins are trustworthy but not necessarily unbiased. And Erin Bromage? “Always defer to the guidance from your local Health Department or the CDC!” We certainly see facts from them but also bias every day from the local Health departments and CDC. She certainly uses facts, but painting her as a lack of bias is naive.
    My comments on your facts..
    1. Mask science is unsettled. In past pandemics onus has been on fearful or those at risk, the WHO reversed course, now say for only for “over 60 and people with underlying medical conditions should wear a medical-grade mask when they’re in public and cannot socially distance” NOT Everyone.. Unsettled at best.
    2. Bad analogy, requires assumption that all smoke is infectious. At any point, the number of covid infectious people is a small fraction of population and infective droplets from talking or coughing don’t cover a whole area like smoke.
    3. Again unsettled, your opinion. And it’s their choice against something generally more deadly than covid.
    4. How many do that? Masks a petrie dish collection of various microbes breathed in over and over while feeling smug.
    6. No. All our businesses need to stay open regardless. Inslee already sacrificed enough of us already.

    And so here’s the level of absurdity in a nutshell..
    a. For the VAST Majority, The Risk is Trivial.
    WA deaths as of today 1521. Nursing home deaths 61% (928). = General Pop Deaths 593 out of 7.614 MILLION. That’s 1 in 12,839. You are at greater risk of dying from Heatstroke, Bicycling, Canoeing, and Choking on Food to name a few.
    b. Inslee’s Case Counting Is Ridiculous to Say Nothing About His Moving Goalposts.
    Death numbers are most important. Inslee’ll just continue the “death by 1000 cuts” crippling us all while we wait with baited breath for his next pronouncement. Will happen until our antibodies reach a heard state naturally. Anyone taking bets on economic health at that point? True for all states and countries who isolate. Immunity suffers and so will we and they down the road.

    You and others can live in fear and panic, but many of us choose not to. You can wait for a vaccine, but there are those of us who would rather have robust immune systems naturally, gaining antibodies for this flu variant and others generally. The US averages 2.8M deaths/yr. That’s less than 1% of our population (330M). If we lost 400,000 people/yr from covid, we’d be at 1%. Even then, all Americans would still have a 99%+ chance of surviving the year. True dangers would have death rates above at least a few percent; black death, smallpox had MUCH higher death rates. And the coup de gras is that those jurisdictions who didn’t lockdown had death rates similar to their neighbors with herd benefits and without economic suicide and panic in the streets.

    Just SMH while continuing to observe the SS Inslee fecklessly steaming full throttle in the icebergs while his cheering section remains in full throat.

    1. You make several good points in here Roger.

      I agree with you that the mortality rate is highly relevant. The question is how much of the low mortality rate (which is still much higher than that of the flu) is a result of the isolation of those with “maturity” and underlying conditions? Retirement and nursing homes that don’t allow visitors, additional segments of the population homebound,….

      Ending the pandemic with herd immunity or a vaccine could take a lot of time (and much sacrificed life for a big segment of the population).

      Or we could work together for the common good, from which we derive direct benefits.: Volunteers tutoring and reading to our children and working at the food bank, visits with cherished family members, a robust economy etc..

      There may be another approach that wouldn’t necessitate teamwork– when and if the truly protective (M95) surgical masks are available in sufficient quantities that the high-risk population and others who want them can get them. These masks fully protect the wearer AND those around the wearer, whereas the simple facial coverings protect others more than they protect the wearer from others (with protection TO each FROM the other). But, to the best of my knowledge, these M95’s are not available in adequate quantities to outfit the general public. It is a relief that we seem to have enough at this point for the front line workers, but it has been a challenge to get supply even to this point.

      I wish I was having success loading a video of an experiment that shows talking, coughing, sneezing and singing at 2, 4, and 6 feet with and without a simple mask (the simple kind we are all wearing, not the M-95s). It was a KHQ news feature shown on NBC. It showed pretty definitively in a lab experiment that the masks contained the droplets from talking, singing, coughing and sneezing at all distances (and that without the mask there were droplets from all of these activities at all of these distances (the most from sneezing and at two feet, but the contamination was significant from this activity without. mask, even at 6 feet).

      Yes to your criticism of the smoking analogy- except what is the difference if you cannot tell the good smoke from the bad smoke? Don’t you have to proceed as if it is all bad?

      I am owning that the conclusion I came to is my opinion. Just wanted to share it and what it was based on in case it was helpful in getting others to the place I arrived! Thanks for reading and for sharing this other information and your thoughts.

  11. Doing your part with a mask for others and follow procedures is common human decency. If one does not believe, the next time in surgery request the doctors and nurses take their masks off and not sterilize. Well said Vivian Olson.

  12. I am encouraged by Vivian Olson’s ability to re-examine policy issues based on new data. If we follow a few simple rules as outlined by Ms. Olson, we can get through this. This will not happen overnight, hence the rising numbers of cases around the country, especially in states that have not followed these rules. As a retired biologist with some training in parasitology (my actual work was primarily in applied ecology,) I could see the problem coming if the country opened up too soon or inappropriately. Also one of our kids is working for a company that does mapping for Johns Hopkins and another works for a government agency that was required to write guidelines for COVID-19. We are thus all pretty well aware of what is happening.

    I used to tell my students that all it took to deteriorate a creek, possibly for years, was one person dumping a barrel of toxic waste into the water. Until the vast majority of people follow the guidelines, there will be centers of infection which may lead to others, and in addition travel from other states will carry their problems to us. Please follow the guidelines! It is our only hope if avoiding a much worse result.

  13. Altruism birthed from ignorant procedures has never been sufficient to morally require “doing our part”. If needed, feel free to follow this procedure and live life as a masked man; as covid will be back, the flu never leaves, and time will bring more of their relatives to our doorstep. Sheep can’t discern good from bad procedures, and trust in a compromised “anointed” and his prioritizing control over science. But if it saves one life.. At least it’ll give us some practice if something actually nasty shows up, like most things in an operating room. But then, how will we know, as we fear everything? I guess we can always trust that pillar of virtue; the honest media, to legitimize any fear..

    Sorry, common decency and common sense wouldn’t have put us here in the first place. A TDS tyrant unilaterally putting his political frame over his people, crushing civil rights, stubborn and oblivious to empirical science and a win-win got us here. And continue it he will. Masks to satisfy Inslee’s case counting metrics is simply a warm blanket for the faithful.

  14. Washington, pop 7.6m, heard immunity at 60% is 4.6m. Reported infections 50,000 but likely to be more by a factor of 10 so real infections about may be 500,000. Only need 4.1m more to reach heard. Reported daily rate is about 1000 but if understated it would be about 10,000 per day. If that rate holds we will need only 410 more days. Meanwhile we have managed to get death rate down to 10 per day. Total deaths in about a year could be as low as 5000. Vaccines may blunt some of those numbers, only time and more data analysis will tell. Meanwhile when I go out I will do my part I will have the right to minimize my changes of infecting others. Social distancing? With a mask I perceive it ok to be 6-10 feet from others with masks. But if I see some one without a mask I will try to increase that distance to 20 ft, or in the case of loud talking folks I will try for 60 feet.

    Please protect my rights to try and be a good member of the community while wearing a mask!

    1. Darrol – very well put. If masks are uncomfortable, or unmanly, or an attempt to steal our liberties, they are also a sign of courtesy and mutual respect. Someone may not share my fears or know of your underlying health issues (if any), but wearing a mask is at the very least a way of recognizing others as worthy of consideration. Refusing to wear a mask simply says “I don’t care about you, and I’ll do whatever I want” – and says rather loudly, like some rude person who refuses to take off his shoes in a house where that is the custom.

      Which approach is the mark of a good citizen and a thoughtful neighbor I leave to others to decide.

    2. You’re accurate on the population, but the rest of your math is guesswork.
      Heard Immunity. Numbers vary wildly from 10-70%
      The young socials, clerks etc nearly no risk, cut off vectors to most. If @10% we’re nearly there..
      Number of Infections. Numbers With Antibodies. Who on earth could know? A guess at best.
      Garbage In, Garbage Out.
      Are you infectious? Are you going to mask for the flu?

      No one is trying to infect you and most are happy to give you your space. If you’re afraid or at risk, wear a mask or stay at home seems to be the safest option until vaccine if afraid of exposure and building antibodies. Herd immunity has been the national strategy until this year. Why? Because it is intelligent and it doesn’t require destroying the economy and the society to implement. It is the solution of “free people” who are expected to use good hygiene and stay home if they are sick. Free people do these things without a government bureaucrat or idiot governor, or President, telling them to.

  15. Looking at places like Northern Italy (experts have declared Covid gone in that half of the country), it seems either the true infection rate is higher than 10x known or there are a lot of people that are just unlikely to get it.

    If you see a person with a mask that has a vent, even a true medical grade N95 (not the KN95 that is being marketed to people like they are the same thing) increase your distance as they don’t do much to stop transmission. Saw a report of sneezes traveling 21 feet with these masks.

  16. Mask wearing to prevent disease seems to be very popular in two venues, virtually all health care settings World wide and countries where people live together packed in like sardines and often have fairly conforming views on how to live together successfully, whether forced or voluntary, (Japan, the two Chinas, India, etc.). That tells me you can’t go too wrong by wearing a mask to try to prevent the spread of disease in general and Covid 19 in particular. You also can’t go too far wrong by avoiding large friend and family gatherings, packed bars, school rooms and sporting events where people are packed in like sardines. There is a time to say to Hell with politics and ideology and just use a little uncommon, common sense.

    1. Just a reminder to all — I don’t have time to go back and lower case the words in comments that violate our three all-caps words per comment rule. If you make those comments, I will delete them. So please watch your caps.

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