Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Masks, Constitutional rights and personal choices

| October 11, 2020 12:00 AM

This letter is in response to several others regarding mask-wearing, Constitutional rights, and personal choices. They all make good points, but I fear those views are not taking into consideration what we do know and, more importantly, what we don’t know, about Covid-19 disease.

1) Nurse Julie Martin (Aug. 16), many professions rival nursing in my esteem, but none surpass it. It is heartbreaking that you feel demonized and campaigned against; no one has the right to make you feel that way.

Wearing a mask prevents us from spewing saliva into the air by coughing, sneezing, or just talking. As you know, Covid-19, like seasonal influenza, is spread this way. Seasonal flu symptoms appear within one to three days; symptomatic carriers generally stay isolated out of consideration for others, as you advocate.

Covid-19 symptoms, however, might not appear until 10-14 days after infection and, indeed, might never appear. You can never know you have it and yet infect everyone you are in contact with.

2) Ms. Carol Smith, I don’t believe your letter (Sept. 3) was meant to imply that those who contract coronavirus are somehow at fault themselves for failing to have a robust immune system, but it did. Would that we could all be so fortunate as to have the choice of a strong immune system, or to not know or love someone who lacks that choice, despite dedicated efforts.

3) Ms. Cindi Hamilton, I don’t think that your letter (Sept. 6) was meant to suggest that we should not be overly concerned, because most of the people who die are old and/or sick anyway, but it did. Much of my career has depended upon “studying the numbers,” but I will be the first to admit that they can be misconstrued to support almost any position. Nevertheless, your projection of less than 200 deaths could come true if we followed CDC protocols and shut our Montana borders.

Between July 19 and Sept. 19, the increase in Montana confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 have roughly quadrupled – that path will take Montana to well over 100,000 cases and well over 2,000 deaths by January. Most of the confirmed cases are people 20-39 years in age, and the majority of those are women.

What we don’t know:

4) The immune response to Covid-19 has been, by all accounts, complicated. Some populations around the world are more immune from, or more susceptible to, contracting Covid-19 than others. Nobody knows why yet.

5) We also do not yet know the long-term effects of contracting Covid-19, because the disease has not been with us long enough to know. It affects many organs, different organs in different people, for differing lengths of time (Google ‘Covid-19 Long Haulers’). The patient may recover but suffer long-term or even lifelong disabilities.

6) Dr. Annie Bukacek (Sept. 13) do you really believe that sacrificing, or even gambling on, the lives of others because you don’t like to wear a mask is a proper, moral, or ethical exercise of Constitutional rights? Even if it turns out that masks, social distancing, and meticulous hygiene are not the best answers, it’s the best we’ve got so far.

What we are pretty sure we do know:

You might be a carrier of the virus. You can contract it from symptomless, unaware carriers. Any one of you might be exposed to Covid-19 today, or tomorrow, and not know it.

It is not those who wear masks, socially distance, keep washing their hands, or quarantine after exposure to Covid-19 who are spreading this catastrophic disease which, in turn, is crippling our economy, businesses, schools, and social interactions.

So, with respect for all your rights and thoughtful points of view, it seems to me that it is our Constitutional, civic, patriotic and moral obligation to heed the CDC’s advice until we do, indeed, know better. I beseech you to wear a mask; if not for your family or yourself, then for your fellow believers (Philippians 2:4), fellow Montanans, fellow citizens, and fellow human beings.

—Bobbie J. Worth, Whitefish