Moshe Hill, who to the best of my knowledge is not an expert in epidemiology, makes the bold assertion (“Take Off The Masks,” QJL 3/18) that “there is no correlation between mask wearing and better results from COVID.” He does not cite any studies. His proof is comparing, as of today, the percentage of deaths from states with mask wearing mandates and those without any mandates. There are some obvious problems with this approach. He assumes that a mandate is the same as mask-wearing and the lack of a mandate means that people are not wearing masks. He does not distinguish between the death rate before the states put in the mask mandate and the rate after they did. Also, for Hill, death is the only barometer to determine better results. It is ironic, as it is coming from someone who had COVID last year and wrote about the horrible experience. There are many people who had COVID and are still suffering long-term effects. Thus, the number of cases, as well as deaths, is the correct factor to rely upon in determining the effectiveness and necessity of masks.
There are many studies that indicate the correlation between mask-wearing and the chances of contracting COVID. See, for example, “Association of State-Issued Mask Mandates and Allowing On-Premises Restaurant Dining with County-Level COVID-19 Case and Death Growth Rates - United States, March 1–December 31, 2020,” posted on the CDC website on March 12. “Summary of Guidance for Public Health Strategies to Address High Levels of Community Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and Related Deaths,” December 2020, posted on CDC website December 11, 2020 (“Compelling evidence now supports the benefits of cloth face masks for both source control (to protect others) and, to a lesser extent, protection of the wearer”).
Contrary to Hill’s argument, the reason why the experts are being somewhat hesitant in predicting when there will no longer a requirement to wear a mask is not some sinister government plot to control people. Although there is some promising initial data, it is unclear whether a vaccinated person can still transmit the virus, or its effectiveness with COVID variants. Also, it is uncertain how long the vaccine will be effective. Moreover, the number of people who will take the vaccine is unknown. Currently, there are many Americans who refuse to take the vaccine. Many of them also refuse to abide by CDC recommendations or mask-wearing requirements in mandated states. This will result in more cases, illnesses, and deaths, and will delay the date that the country achieves herd immunity. (See “CDC Background Rationale and Evidence for Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People,” updated 3/8/21, and FAQ, updated 3/12/21).
There is another pressing issue concerning the effect of COVID -19 on our society. Most historians believe that the 1918 pandemic started in America and was transmitted overseas by soldiers going to Europe to fight in World War I. In the beginning, there was an attempt to cover up the existence of the virus. This virus caused a lot more deaths than COVID-19. There has not been universal condemnation of the United States for its role in causing and spreading the virus.
It is generally accepted that COVID-19 started in China and that there was an attempt at the beginning by local authorities in China to cover up its existence. Technically, you can call it the “China virus.” The problem is that there are racists who are using this an excuse to attack Asians, including non-Chinese, who reside here.
Unfortunately, our country has a history of scapegoating Asians. During World War II, there were thousands of Japanese, including those who were American citizens, who were moved from the West Coast and put into camps. In contrast, nothing was done to Germans or other individuals whose families came from Axis countries.
It can be debated whether the killing of eight women in Georgia last week, six of whom were Asian, was racially motived. The accused gunman is white. I can understand why many people believe it was, despite the alleged killer’s claims otherwise. Imagine if it were six Jews killed; the Jewish community would have concluded that it was anti-Semitism.
Just like there has been an uptick in anti-Semitic attacks, there has been an exponential increase of anti-Asian attacks. I have heard the emotional outbursts by our Congress member Grace Meng. Many Asians are afraid to walk outside because they fear for their safety. We as Jews understand their pain and concern for their safety. Therefore, it is our obligation to strongly stand by the Asian American community.