Editorial: Ontario is too late to the global bandaid Mask party & New Zealand doesn't buy it at all



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Agatha Farmer


Countries around the world began introducing face masks as a mandatory measure to control the spread of Covid-19 starting with Venezuela in early March, followed by Vietnam on March 16; Eastern European countries such as the Chech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Poland all released similar public face mask measures between March and early to mid- April. In fact most countries had this order in place at the height of this pandemic and most have since late June lifted the mask orders. Meanwhile on March 18 Ontario's Premier was still urging people to go travel and have a great March Break. The disconnect of our government on Covid-19 is evident.


While Ford has not mandated face masks in Ontario as during the month's when most countries were implementing this measure our federal and provincial public health professionals believed that non-medical face masks were not effective at preventing the spread of the virus. Then the flip flop occurred and the narrative associated with it was simply that as the virus evolves and more studies are being done the science around masks changed. But has it? Ford had avoided the mandatory mask controversy himself as he simply passed the buck to individual municipalities to make the call. These municipalities are now attempting to appease the frothing local business owners who are looking for guidance and direction as this debate continues to rage and as they continue to argue with customers daily. They don't want to be the bad guy and lose business, if the government mandates masks it's universal and the market playing field evens out once again - whoa that seems like socialism less capitalism. Also completely ignoring the very idea that brick and mortar retail business loss will occur with a mandatory mask order as people will switch online for the convenience of shopping from home and avoiding the drama. We talk about peer pressure in teen circles, take a look at the peer pressure occurring at the public health level as units fall like domino's on the basis of a possibility that cloth face masks actually prevent the spread of Covid-19.


Let's backtrack a little bit, AIDS is still with us, it has not magically disappeared, H1N1 also still around, Ebola-check, Zika-Check, Lyme Disease-Check still with us. We can't eradicate all diseases. We also can't all live in fear and stop our lives. Take this into consideration; The 2019/2020 influenza season began on Aug. 25/2019 and Infection Prevention Control Canada reported 42,537 flu cases as of June 13. Yes there are more Covid-19 cases but also consider its recovery. As of July 6 Canada had a total of 105,935 confirmed cases with 69,570 recovered. Statistics Canada says that "as research evidence accumulates, both nationally and internationally, it appears that certain health characteristics, such as obesity or the presence of chronic conditions, increase the risk of severe outcomes among those who are infected with the novel coronavirus." I would imagine like any other illness would. Stats Canada also goes onto to break down the populations most at risk for the virus and surprise surprise socio economics factor in.


"Inequalities in health status across demographic and socio-economic characteristics continue to exist in Canada. The data shows how the proportion of adult Canadians with underlying health conditions varies by educational attainment, household income level, Indigenous identity, and cultural/racial background. The data shows an association between household income levels and the prevalence of underlying health conditions, whereby individuals living in higher income households are less likely to report having underlying health conditions than individuals living in lower income households."


So perhaps before jumping on the unsubstantiated mask bandwagon politicians and public officials could show the same type of enthusiasm for addressing our inequalities as a society to actually undertake the work to provide all humans with the necessity of better health to prevent the spread of current and future diseases. Because that type of assistance is centuries behind. Perhaps instead of worrying about how to get the most out of a human being for profit, we could start worrying about how to preserve our existence with real social change as oppose to bandaid solutions.


Do happy pills really treat depression or its symptoms? No but this is the society we have created. You're not happy and have anxiety - here take a pill because you're helping build the economy by fulfilling a demand. We have a pandemic because we have created a global weakened immune system population via 80 hour work weeks in some countries with pollution through the roof around the world, but here wear a mask that should solve the inequalities of life. It still seems wild to me how incredibly unprepared we were for this scenario in comparison to Taiwan for exmple who acted immediately upon learning of the pneumonia type illness in China on Dec. 31, 2019. Every country received the same transmission. Perfect example of Darwin's survival of the fittest wouldn't you say.


As for surviving the mask debate; in the end do what you feel is the right thing for you to do. This is the same individual approach some countries seem to have adopted. Take New Zealand for example who has so far been ahead of the curve on controlling Covid-19 spread. Yes it has had some set backs but so have all. This is the official New Zealand health ministry statement on masks.

"There is no convincing evidence one way or other to require the use of non-medical face masks for healthy people in the community to protect from COVID-19. There are potential benefits and potential risks with such use. Countries are taking different approaches based on their current COVID-19 context.

Non-medical masks could provide an additional element of protection in preventing someone who is infectious with COVID-19 spreading this infection to others. This is through potentially ‘catching’ large infectious respiratory droplets produced by the wearer, so they do not spread further. This is called ‘source control’.

Non-medical masks are not proven to effectively protect the person wearing them from becoming infected by others. They are therefore not a substitute for basic hygiene measures and physical distancing, where possible and practical. Some of the reasons for this include the types of materials used for the masks and how they are worn."


This is the stance of an entire country who has managed to keep shit under control. As Ontario public health departments and municipalities fall under pressure to try and "do something" to appease the panicky, perhaps the other something to do would be to collectively try to improve the health care system including mental health, work reforms, education reforms, all these areas will need massive influxes of funds and attention to keep the human species evolving and dealing with new viruses and diseases mother nature will continue to throw at us. I know, it almost seems too massive an endeavour to deal with? It is, which is why we think and act in small bandaid solutions. Today at 2 p.m. Simcoe Muskoka's health unit will more than likely implement a mandatory indoor mask use order. Some municipalities eager to help will go ahead and spew further bylaws to "compliment" the order. This even though yesterday the head of the same health unit attended what would have been Muskoka's mandatory bylaw vote and said that evidence of using cloth masks is "still weak and limited. One of the issues with cloth masks is that they are more porous than a medical mask, but medical masks are still in short supply and therefore should not be purchased by the public." Not to mention that the majority of mask users don't know that they need to wash their mask after EVERY SINGLE USE, and NEVER re-use a medical disposable mask (yes the same one that you were not suppose to actually purchase and the same one that you will now throw out into any garbage but it might be biohazardous?)


Also I wanted throw in this quote from Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist with Hong Kong University who told a University of California San Francisco research paper that "we can't say if face masks are ineffective, but we presume they have some effect because that's the protection we give to healthcare workers." But not quite because we don't give healthcare workers cloth masks. Can't have your cake and eat it too. If you're going to make masks mandatory then standardize one kind and back it up scientifically.



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