To Mask or Not to Mask: Declaring a Truce

June 29, 2020

Like today’s guest blogger, Dr. Cammy Benton, we at TMR have noticed an increasingly hostile face off between those who deeply believe that face masks are a universal good and those who don’t. We don’t feel the hostility on either side of the issue is warranted or helpful. Let’s fact it, we can’t get to a better society, one that’s capable of pulling together to survive disasters, if we are screaming at each other.

This is a call for a truce between the maskers and the anti-maskers.

It is super stressful these days, and the bullying tactics (“Wear your damn mask!”), the virtue signaling, and the shaming are not likely to bring people to your side. For the anti-maskers, getting mad at 16-year-olds at restaurants just doing their jobs is not going to get you anywhere.

Everyone is angry, but everyone is also doing the best they can with the info they see. Legitimate CDC, WHO, and national leaders ( whether you believe they are good or bad) had been saying not to wear a face mask unless you are sick or caring for someone who is sick, so the anger against those who are not in favor of universal masking seems excessive to me.

There is literally legit science on both sides, and both sides give good arguments. The pro-mask folks share their science and say, if masks prevent big droplets from leaving your face or if there is a slightly decreased risk of spread, then it is worth it. Great! That is a good reason to wear a mask. The maskers want to do it out of respect even if it doesn’t work. Well, that is generous. I’m not sure it’s a reason to chastise the anti-maskers since that is so subjective, but it’s super sweet.

Anti-maskers have good scientific evidence that it doesn’t work, as well. They typically believe in social distancing, but not always. They often are spiritually oriented people who don’t live in fear but will respect others’ spaces, and they just want to be left alone.

That doesn’t mean that all maskers live in fear or that you can’t wear a mask and be spiritual person who is not living in fear. Most anti-maskers I know will wear their mask in the presence of high-risk people or situations out of respect and safety, but their idea of high-risk doesn’t include just breathing the air in your car or being alone in a park, like some maskers. There seems to be a spectrum of concern between the two groups.

There are idiots out there on both sides, like the masked lady who spat in a baby’s face, believing the child and its mother were too close, and unmasked sick people coughing all over the place. I’m not talking about idiots we have no control over.

There have been heated discussions in doctors’ groups about this, meaning that not all doctors are in agreement. I have shared an article from an anesthesiologist who does not support widespread masking, but there are many other doctors posting similar articles. I think they are smart. I think the doctors who are pro-mask are smart, too. I see in doctors’ groups that most of us don’t really understand how masks work. Doctors are still learning this, so why do you expect the average public to know?

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad

There seems to be growing evidence for wearing face masks and the idea that we could open up sooner if we all wore face masks. Maybe there will be a full consensus soon, and everyone will agree that we should. But there is still room for debate in my opinion,  so let’s keep it respectful.

This issue is just one of many in this country that has fallen victim to the polarization that leads to everyone digging in their heels. As usual, one side thinks they have the right to tell others what to do and that anything they say that disagrees is anti-science, or anti-people, or ignorant. Again, none of the name-calling will win them over. The other side says, “Screw you, I don’t have to do what you say.” They will say they have science, too, backed by the WHO. Our government has a history of corruption, and there are worrisome patterns noticed by many in this group that are based on fact, so they have good reason to question things.

The other side sees this as “conspiracy theory,” but simply calling it conspiracy theory can be a lazy way of shutting down the conversation. And maybe there is a conspiracy; after all, it’s happened before when large sums of money and power were at stake.

Being belligerent or condescending  won’t win points on either side.

I have my mask and will wear it in appropriate settings (and more now, with the mandates, in settings that may or may not make sense to me), and I am taking all kinds of measures in my clinic–including super-expensive filters with UV lights to kill viruses. But ultimately, the social distancing measures seem most important in my reading, and certain types of masks in certain situations.

I think it is important we avoid contact with people who are high-risk, and I think high-risk people have a responsibility to protect themselves.

I know people who have lost loved ones to coronavirus. I know doctors who are traumatized by their experiences dealing with the scary levels of coronavirus, and they naturally seem to be pro-mask.

I know many doctors who are against universal masking.

I know people who were raped and forcibly held down; masks bring it all back, and they don’t want to explain to the kid in the grocery store why they can’t handle a face mask.

I know people with lung conditions who cannot breathe with anything over their mouths. And I know people with lung conditions who do just fine with a face mask.

If you see someone unmasked and you are a masker, just stay away from the unmasked person. It is quite frankly none of your business why they can’t or choose to not wear a mask. If you are an anti-masker, stay away from the masker to respect them and their need to protect themselves.

It can all be this simple.

Again, we can’t control people who are reckless and uneducated. I stay away from them.

~ Dr. Cammy Benton

For more by Dr. Benton, click here.


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23 Responses to To Mask or Not to Mask: Declaring a Truce

  1. Tori says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I needed it! We have always been taught when the plane is going down, we put the face mask on ourselves first, so that we can best serve those around us. Healers have always been taught … healer, heal thyself first. The problem right now is that we are being told the opposite. Wear the mask to protect others, for the greater good. And if “everyone” does it, we will all be “safe.”

    But what if over the years we’d been taught the opposite—put the face mask on others first, then yourself? What if the person next to you was snoring? What if there’s a bratty toddler beside you who squirms and pitches a fit? If your life depended on someone else putting on their mask and they refused, how would you respond?

    When Trump and his crew are standing at the pressers maskless, while the media and Fauci are wearing masks, how does it make you feel? When you see friends post pics of themselves on FB with masks on and you’re not wearing one, how do you feel? What if you’re a diligent mask wearer and haven’t been out for weeks when you see a group of unmasked friends at a restaurant living it up?

    I have to ask myself, if this narrative we’re being spoon fed is being done on purpose to divide us. Even though we’re all on the same team. In 2020, blocking out the noise, digging for the facts, being confident in our decisions, and not judging others is going to be imperative in order to stay united and thus, stronger.

  2. Beverly S says:

    Masks are a pharmaceutical icon and paradigm of illness. Ironically they also look like a muzzle at a time when we are being silenced in every imaginable way.

    I find it very difficult to be patient with the masked mobs who live with so much fear of their fellow humans under an exaggerated narrative. They have been trained to believe their only chance of survival is to listen to the corrupt experts and follow their every dictate. They believe these viruses that happen every few years are natural instead of systematic poisoning.

    I cannot agree to a paradigm that for someone else’s mask to work for them, I have to wear mine. It’s the same with vaccines. Your vaccine only works if I get vaccinated too. This is complete and utter nonsensical programming and I can only hope enough folks wake up before the psychopaths roll out the next pandemic for which the seeds have already begun to germinate.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Everyone finds it difficult to be patient with those who disagree these days. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile endeavor.

  3. Justin says:

    I thought this was an excellent post although the ending of, “Again, we can’t control people who are reckless and uneducated. I stay away from them.” Seemed like a jab at those of us who do not want to wear a mask. Am I wrong?

  4. Robin Gaura says:

    Wearing a mask cuts down on oxygen by about 20%. You are breathing your own exhaust. If you are asked to wear a mask at work you may file an OSHA complaint, as the legal standard for safety says that you are at risk for workplace accidents due to lack of oxygen.
    I had covid last November in Mexico. I had a terrible dry cough, then pneumonia. Since I am a caregiver, and do not own a car, I took the bus when necessary. I always wore a mask, in case I would cough, in order to protect elders and babies. That is the only legitimate reason to wear a mask; to protect others. They do not protect you.
    I often do not go out to places that require masks. If you know what a virus is, and how they work, none of this media hype hysteria makes sense. See Dr Zach Bush for science info and reality check. And I totally agree, be kind, be civil. It takes all kinds.

    • Billie Rubin says:

      Wow, it is so helpful to have a case report from what was apparently the first case of Covid in the world, and in Mexico, nonetheless. And your facts on masks reducing the oxygen content by 20% are equally accurate. Well, if you want to believe that the masks and social/personal distancing are more hoaxes from the medical-industrial establishment, go ahead. You may be visiting a hospital near you sooner than later. I find it fascinating how a physician who believes in vaccination is dismissed as either being in the employ of Big Pharma, or one of its stooges, while a physician (I assume Cammy is an MD) who believes what you believe is trusted completely.

      While the public health community has tripped over its, uh, appendages multiple times on this one, a belief system based on wishes and hopes is less reliable. Unfortunately for those who support Agent Orange, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid can’t be spun away.

      Wear your mask, wash your hands, stay away from people seems to be the new safety mantra. Oh, yes, and vote in the upcoming election(s). The country you save may be your own.

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        COVID was known in China in mid-November and was apparently in Italy in by December. Mexico had two known cases in January. It’s not impossible that there would be cases in Mexico by the end of November, though the only way Robin could know for sure is if she tested positive for antibodies.

        Certain masks do reduce oxygen levels in some people, though 20% is unlikely.

        What “physician who believes in vaccination” was being “dismissed as in the employ of Big Pharma or one of its stooges”? I didn’t say anything of the kind in her comment, nor did I see anything indicating a blanket trust in everything Cammy has to say. (And, yes, she is an MD.) In fact, she suggests watching Zach Bush’s videos, and last I talked to him he “believed in vaccination.” He just doesn’t believe that all vaccines are appropriate for all people, and it’s hard to know which people they would be appropriate for because the safety testing is woefully inadequate.

  5. nhokkanen says:

    Thanks for this analysis. I just read yet another polarized article, by a young man who concluded with “Wear your f**king mask.”

    I resent the people who feel empowered to bully and shame others, as they scurry about wearing face coverings that are only marginally effective and still potentially shedding viruses and germs themselves. But I also resent people unwilling to consider whether they are doing everything they can to avoid spreading disease. The only people qualified to feel smug are those who stay home close to 24/7.

    Like many autism parents, who for years have made myriad life adjustments to accommodate our children’s unique medical, physical and psychological needs.
    – Our children have immune disorders. We take myriad evasive maneuvers to avoid other people’s pathogens; we’ve been sheltering at home for decades.
    – Our children are sensory defensive, and may be unable to tolerate the sensation and constraint of a mask.
    – Our children have anxiety, which can worsen if they feel smothered.

    All of this mask/no mask arguing is cultural rehearsal for the inevitable vaccine/no vaccine debate, when 1 of the 300 in development will be chosen (by who, and why?) as the one best solution. If only consumers would investigate vaccines — the politics, the malfeasance, the potential health harms, and their lack of legal recourse even if the “cure” proves to be worse than the disease.

    One size does not fit all.

  6. Guy Benintendi says:

    If you want two masks between someone else’s out breath and your in breath, wear two masks. Voila! Problem solved.

    • Billie Rubin says:

      Except that the eyes have mucous membranes, and can be a vector for the virus (if you believe it’s a virus that is causing transmission), so your wearing a mask (or two) protects others; their wearing a mask protects you.

  7. “there seems to be growing evidence for wearing face masks”, yet none was provided. Here is some to show the lack of effectiveness of masks:
    A summary of comments made by a surgeon of 30 years Doc Graham, MD:
    COVID 19 virus particle size averages 125 nanometers (0.125microns);
    The N95 mask filters down to 0.3 microns, thus blocking few, if any, virions (virus particles).
    Other surgical masks, home-made masks, and kerchiefs do the following:
    allow free passage both ways (in and out) of COVID 19 virions.
    become a warm, damp or moist reservoir of COVID 19 particles in asymptomatic “carriers” (estimated to be 85% of all people tested).
    Medical personnel working in operating rooms have years of training, intimidation, and humiliation to teach them to touch NOTHING but the surgical field.
    Lay people constantly touch, re-arrange, and manipulate their “masks”, wonderfully inoculating thousands of virus particles onto their bare or (even worse, gloved) hands. So, these absurd masks ENCOURAGE the fomite (definition: objects, such as clothing, towels, and utensils that possibly harbor a disease agent and are capable of transmitting it) transmission. Bottom line, wearing masks may give a false sense of security but provide greater danger both to the wearer and to the public.

    masks still don’t work..

    Review of the Medical Literature
    Here are key anchor points to the extensive scientific literature that establishes that wearing surgical masks and respirators (e.g., “N95”) does not reduce the risk of contracting a verified illness:

    Jacobs, J. L. et al. (2009) “Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: A randomized controlled trial,” American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 37, Issue 5, 417 – 419.

    N95-masked health-care workers (HCW) were significantly more likely to experience headaches. Face mask use in HCW was not demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds.

    Cowling, B. et al. (2010) “Face masks to prevent transmission of influenza virus: A systematic review,” Epidemiology and Infection, 138(4), 449-456.

    None of the studies reviewed showed a benefit from wearing a mask, in either HCW or community members in households (H). See summary Tables 1 and 2 therein.

    bin-Reza et al. (2012) “The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence,” Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses 6(4), 257–267.

    “There were 17 eligible studies. … None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection.”

    Smith, J.D. et al. (2016) “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” CMAJ Mar 2016

    “We identified six clinical studies … . In the meta-analysis of the clinical studies, we found no significant difference between N95 respirators and surgical masks in associated risk of (a) laboratory-confirmed respiratory infection, (b) influenza-like illness, or (c) reported work-place absenteeism.”

    Offeddu, V. et al. (2017) “Effectiveness of Masks and Respirators Against Respiratory Infections in Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 65, Issue 11, 1 December 2017, Pages 1934–1942

    “Self-reported assessment of clinical outcomes was prone to bias. Evidence of a protective effect of masks or respirators against verified respiratory infection (VRI) was not statistically significant”; as per Fig. 2c therein:

    Radonovich, L.J. et al. (2019) “N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” JAMA. 2019; 322(9): 824–833.

    “Among 2862 randomized participants, 2371 completed the study and accounted for 5180 HCW-seasons. … Among outpatient health care personnel, N95 respirators vs medical masks as worn by participants in this trial resulted in no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”

    Long, Y. et al. (2020) “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks against influenza: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” J Evid Based Med. 2020; 1- 9.

    “A total of six RCTs involving 9,171 participants were included. There were no statistically significant differences in preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza, laboratory-confirmed respiratory viral infections, laboratory-confirmed respiratory infection, and influenza-like illness using N95 respirators and surgical masks. Meta-analysis indicated a protective effect of N95 respirators against laboratory-confirmed bacterial colonization (RR = 0.58, 95% CI 0.43-0.78). The use of N95 respirators compared with surgical masks is not associated with a lower risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”

    Conclusion Regarding That Masks Do Not Work
    No RCT study with verified outcome shows a benefit for HCW or community members in households to wearing a mask or respirator. There is no such study. There are no exceptions.

    Likewise, no study exists that shows a benefit from a broad policy to wear masks in public (more on this below).

    Furthermore, if there were any benefit to wearing a mask, because of the blocking power against droplets and aerosol particles, then there should be more benefit from wearing a respirator (N95) compared to a surgical mask, yet several large meta-analyses, and all the RCT, prove that there is no such relative benefit.

    Masks and respirators do not work.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      *sigh* You realize that this piece isn’t about debating whether masks are a good idea or not, right? It’s about respecting other people who have come to different conclusions based on DIFFERENT information.

      When it comes down to it, we are in HIGHLY uncertain times. Masks are part of that uncertainty.

    • Conan says:

      These summaries are misrepresenting the findings of the studies. Thank you for providing the links, others who are interested please do read the studies. They are all very informative (except, maybe, the Jacobs one).

      The Jacobs study overall conclusion was that the study was too small to draw any conclusion. 32 people participated, one person who wore a mask caught a cold, one person who didn’t wear a mask caught a cold.

      The reviews by Offeddu and bin-Reza conclude that there have not been enough large experiments or carefully executed experiments to draw accurate conclusions. However both reviews report that the pattern from observational studies shows that wearing a mask (N95 or surgical) decreases viral transmission.

      The Cowling review was the most informative to me, they accessed a large number of quality sounding trials. They conclude that evidence shows wearing masks does protect others (prevents the wearer from spreading the virus). You quoted from their other finding, that there is not much data showing that wearing a mask is effective in preventing the wearer from getting infected (but we know that; wash your hands and don’t touch your face to keep yourself healthy, wear a mask to keep others healthy).

      All the other studies you linked are comparing N95 masks to other medical masks, and across the board they show that the benefit of N95 vs. other masks is negligible. A respirator mask and a surgical mask are equally good at preventing viral infection.

      My take away from these articles is that wearing a mask is an effective way to prevent viral infection. They are not the best way to prevent the wearer from infection, but the evidence shows they are effective in preventing an infected person from spreading the virus to others. Standard medical masks can be just as effective as N95 masks.

      Please do read the studies everyone. Paying attention to what works and what doesn’t work is going to be essential in opening our country up again and keeping it open.

  8. Discerner says:

    What if there were a third (or more) reasons why this mask wearing craze is even being debated that is missed by everyone?!
    I bet some of you can think of some…
    Why do we take on face value that this has medical reasoning behind it at all, when it could have a psychological reasoning behind it? For what purpose? Would the mandators be that cruel? Have they in the past? Is it in their religion? Is this a cult initiation ritual? I just refused a job because I was mandated to wear a mask – is that lawful? Can I be mandated to wear a mask? INSANITY exists in an unreasonable world!

  9. Billie Rubin says:

    Ah, would that it were so simple. Does wearing a mask reduce your exposure to 0? No, even the most protective masks (beyond N95) won’t do that, but if a mask reduces your exposure that’s a good thing. I am not sure there is any science showing masks are harmful, or of no benefit whatsoever. If you rely on politicians, preachers, and businesspeople who have an agenda to discourage your wearing a mask, you are at the mercy of hard science which no amount of spin can take away. Tell the crowds at the beaches who disregarded social distancing, and mask wearing, that they’re at no risk – they might believe you. Heck, not every cigarette smoker dies of lung cancer, but it’s hard to disregard reality. After all, 500,000+ people haven’t died of a hoax.

    What is the thought of those on this blog about an immunization, assuming one is coming? Everyone against it?

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      This isn’t telling anyone that they are at no risk. Nor is it saying that COVID is a hoax. My sister had it and woke up after a week unable to walk. My younger brother was hospitalized. I know it’s real. I know it’s dangerous. Cammy is a doctor. She knows it’s real. Implying that she’s saying there’s no risk is a misreading and a straw man.

      If and when there is a viable vaccine, that will be a worthwhile conversation. But so far there have been no coronavirus vaccines for a reason. And it is a fact that steps are being skipped in the vaccine development process, making it likely that this vaccine (should it materialize) will be even less safe than most vaccines. In that case, it’s likely that, as usual, most people who read this blog will think that it has to be up to thean individual whether to risk their lives with the vaccine or with the illness. Those risks aren’t even close to being the same from person to person, so treating people as if they are would be simply wrong.

      • Beverly S says:

        There is a 24/7 narrative that COVID-19 is killing people. For about 4 weeks this winter/spring in the US, there was a slightly higher rate of deaths. The authorities say it was this novel thing called COVID-19. Since it is invisible, we truly cannot know.

        There was a much quieter narrative that didn’t get played 24/7 of medical mishap, exaggerated COVID-19 death assignment, nursing home neglect and misuse of ventilators. There was also a military study that showed an increased risks of coronaviruses if you’d been vaccinated with flu.

        We don’t even have a viable and SAFE vaccine for flu and you think that they will be able to rush a viable vaccine for this thing they call COVID-19? All coronavirus vaccines tried to date have been deadly and the most recent trials have had some serious impact to the most healthy participants. What will happen when this gets rolled out on the general unhealthy population?

        Bill Gates wants 7.7 billion people injected with his indemnity free experimental mRNA vaccine. He’s already given almost 50K kids in India polio and sterilized Africans with a tetanus shot. Did I fail to mention he wants the population reduced? Right.. no problem here.

        The key players at Moderna where Gates’ vaccine is being produced are nanotech experts. But, again, no problem here. They wouldn’t use injected nanotech to control us, would they?

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        There is a huge distinction between reduction in population INCREASE and reduction in population. Gates advocates for slowing the increase. That said, that doesn’t mean he is advocating ethical or healthy ways to do so. Personally, I’ve never liked the man’s ethics, starting from his days heading Microsoft, and I don’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

      • Len Tukwilla says:

        Professor, is there a single current vaccine you believe is safe and effective?

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        Safe and effective for everyone? Certainly not. There is no such thing. Each vaccine is designed to trade off effectiveness against adverse events. Most people fall in the center of the curve, not exhibiting immediate short-term negative effects (though, there is very little attempt to track true long-term effects because if people knew that vaccines were causing autoimmune diseases 2-3 years later, a lot fewer of them would think “the benefits outweigh the risks”). But every vaccine has the outliers who react very badly and/or don’t develop immunity. For those people the vaccine is either not safe, not effective, or both.

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