Kansas Governor Kelly's Unfortunate Mask Order

This is really unfortunate. Based, in part, on communications I had with a Kansas physician and a reporter last night, it appears Kansas Governor Laura Kelly wanted to do this, did it, and will spend the next few days searching for a justification. Ready, fire, aim.

I gave our governor the benefit of the doubt through March and most of April. Mistakes were inevitable when facing a new foe. Now, this strikes me as a blend of authoritarianism and virtue signaling. Here's why: The typical justification for these measures is, "A vaccine is a few months away. We can be inconvenienced for a short period of time."

I hope so, but the problem is that we don't know if there will ever be a vaccine that is both safe and effective. There isn't a vaccine for the common cold. There isn't a vaccine for HIV. It took more than a decade to create a vaccine for measles. There is no long-lasting influenza vaccine. There is no vaccine for SARS after seventeen years.

Again: I hope there is a vaccine in a year. But, the odds suggest there will not be. Then, what?

So, let's look at the reality of the data and the science. Here are the facts: Kansas cases are up but deaths are down.
New York Times, 4:35pm, 6/29
It is no surprise that the number of cases have increased as things opened back up. What did they think was going to happen? We are in a pandemic. That said,

A hot summer is the perfect time to open up because the 
heat, humidity and sunlight (long days) weaken the virus. 

The peer-reviewed medical journal study supporting the above statement, published earlier this month, is right here. The actual data supports the study: cases up, deaths down throughout the United States as temperatures have risen.
Not only are temperatures hot in Kansas now, they are forecast to remain
hot during the next two weeks...well into July
Assuming you are not in one of the high-risk groups, contracting the virus in a weakened form is a good thing: in return for a mild illness (or even no illness if you get a case of COVID-19 in an asymptomatic manner), you get future immunity, likely for life (although this is not yet proven). This is highly valuable if the virus should strengthen, as some predict, in the autumn and winter.

More people contracting the disease builds what epidemiologists call "herd immunity." Depending on the study, once 42 to 60% of the population has contracted the virus, few others will get it because the virus runs out of carriers.

With mandatory masks or, later, potentially closing up again (we don't know the details of what the governor is going to order), we lose the opportunity to build immunity with mild cases for another ten months.

Even if the cases are not mild, hospital capacity is not an issue in Kansas. Below is a graph of currently available and projected ICU beds. At COVID's worst case, we'll still have 90% available.
Even the worst case, the top of the green tint, is a tiny fraction of
the ICU beds available in Kansas
So, until there is a vaccine or herd immunity, we are going to be wearing masks and impeding educations, jobs and lives for years. Our society cannot function in this way. I believe the riots we have seen this summer, after the justified fury over the killing of George Floyd, were worsened by young people wanting something to alleviate their boredom. This isn't healthy for any society.

Human beings seem to be hard-wired to want to "do something" (even if it is the wrong thing) in a crisis. So, what should we do? Here are my opinions based on the scientific literature I have read plus common sense:
  • By far, the greatest numbers of deaths are in nursing homes and residential centers. They should continue with precautions at the highest level.
  • I am in a high-risk group. People like me should wear masks, gloves (yes, I wear them when I am out) and carry viral disinfectant wipes. I want to see my grandchildren grow up!
  • If you are not feeling well, by all means wear a mask. That way, droplets containing the virus -- whether via sneezing or ordinary respiration -- will be somewhat contained. We want to, when possible, protect people at higher risk. 
  • Among the rest of the population, maintain distance if you wish but pretty much carry on. If a mask makes you feel more comfortable, fine! But, it should not be mandatory. Why? As recently as Saturday evening, I was listening to an MD on the radio saying that wearing a mask, day after day, hour after hour, is unhealthy. Others say it's fine. Given the amount of misinformation from the public health profession the last six months, I have no way of evaluating which is correct. 
  • In the unconstrained outdoors, I can see no value in wearing a mask. I posed the question about outdoor masks to an epidemiologist this morning. She did not reply. 
I wish to close by quoting the findings of a federal judge in Michigan who found there was no scientific input to or basis for Governor Whitmer's closure of gyms and similar businesses. The entire, rather extraordinary, ruling is here. Some portions are below.

"...this Court must uphold the Governor's Executive Orders as long as they are supported by some relation to the public health. Unfortunately, on the record before it, the Court has not been presented with any evidence that shows a rational relation between the continued closure of indoor gyms and the preservation of public health.
While the standard is extremely deferential here—if the Court can conceive of any set of facts that would support the Orders, it must uphold them and deny the injunction—the Orders must still connect the challenged prohibition with some fact or facts. At oral argument, the Court pressed Defendants on what data, evidence, or rationale supported the continued closure of indoor gyms. Defendants cited to the preambles of the Executive Orders and vaguely stated that indoor gyms are a "petri dish" of infection, but Defendants could not point to any facts in the record to support that statement. Defendants emphasized the low bar: all that needed to be presented was a reasonably conceivable set of facts that connected the continued closure to protecting the public health.
But when asked, even counsel was unable to state a rational basis to support the position that indoor gyms must still be closed. Defendants merely reiterated that a threat of transmission exists at indoor gyms, and the threat of transmission must be minimized...
...if Defendants can open or close any sector of the economy, at will, with nothing more than a vague reference that it is "dangerous," the potential for abuse is palpable."  [bold print added]

I couldn't agree more with the federal judge. Will Governor Kelly have better justification than Michigan's Governor Whitmer? I doubt it, as those facts do not seem to exist. I am concerned that when the masks fail to suppress the raw number of cases, Kelly will opt for another shutdown, as has already been rumored.

Governor Kelly, please reconsider: No mandatory masks, especially outdoors. 

© 2020 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC


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