Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
-James Russell Lowell
Several public health experts, some close to tears, warned that if the current trends continue, the coronavirus is likely to set back years, perhaps decades, of painstaking progress against TB, H.I.V. and malaria.
… The design of these twelve trials differed: viral circulation was usually variable; none had been conducted during a pandemic. Outcomes were defined and reported in seven different ways, making comparison difficult. It is debatable whether any of these results could be applied to the transmission of SARs-CoV-2. Only one randomised trial (n=569) included cloth masks. This trial found ILI rates were 13 times higher in Vietnamese hospital workers allocated to cloth masks compared to medical/surgical masks, RR 13.25, (95%CI 1.74 to 100.97) and over three times higher when compared to no masks,* RR 3.49 (95%CI 1.00 to 12.17).
(‘Masking Lack of Evidence with Politics’, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford. Emphasis mine.)
Should I wear a mask during a wildfire, even if it’s not really smoky where I am?
Surgical masks, dust masks, bandanas or other face coverings do not offer protection from particle pollution. Inexpensive paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles and do not provide enough protection for your lungs.
… Also, wearing a mask may actually be harmful to some people with heart or lung disease because it can make the lungs work harder to breathe.
On July 12, Deborah Cohen, the medical correspondent of BBC2’s Newsnight, revealed an astonishing thing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had reversed its advice on face masks, from ‘don’t wear them’ to ‘do wear them’.
But the key fact was that it had not done so because of scientific information – the evidence had not backed the wearing of face coverings – but because of political lobbying.
(‘Face Masks Turn us into Voiceless Submissives‘ — I don’t agree with how this article characterises mask-wearers, but the concerns raised for a society that requires them without evidence are critical. Emphasis mine.)
As professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, I have authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and currently hold senior positions on the editorial boards of several leading journals. I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines. As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily.
Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD., Newsweek article, emphasis mine
I unashamedly believe in the values of the enlightenment as the pillars of democracy in the form of freedom of expression, individual rights, social connectedness, trust, justice, and equality, and a shared belief there is such a thing as truth. For the first time in my adult life, I worry there is a genuine risk that the very fabric of our democratic societies is at risk of falling apart, under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, corrupt and incompetent governments, and a challenging geo-political situation. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I urge everyone who believes in the values of the enlightenment to take a step back, and reflect on the shared values that can unite us, as a society, beyond our political and ideological divisions.
–Professor Francois Balloux, director of UGI, UCL Genetics Institute