[Update] Peer-Reviewed Medical Study: Wearing a Mask Causes Blood Oxygen to Drop...

Please see update below. 

...by a statistically significant amount.  I wish to carefully report what is in this study: it seems to call into question the assertions made in some news stories that masks have no effect on blood oxygen.

Per the five authors, the study was motivated by, in part:
Surgeons in the operating room frequently experience physical discomfort, fatigue, and possibly even deterioration of surgical judgment and performance.
Note the title, "surgical mask induced deoxygenation." Deoxygenation is never good. The peer-reviewed paper was published in 2008 in the well-known medical journal, Neurocirugia. Link to paper, here.

The results, in the words of the paper,
I recommend you consult the paper for details. 

The study does not look at the cumulative effects on physicians' health -- if any -- from wearing masks for extended periods of time. However, I don't know any surgeon who performs operations five days a week. Yet office workers, and others, are being asked to wear masks for 40+ hours a week (work, grocery store, church, etc.). If I had heart or lung issues, I would certainly ask my physician about this and I would print out a copy of the study for their advice. I would also ask for additional advice if you are in charge of dangerous machinery, et cetera. 

These results may further call into question the wisdom of mask orders -- especially outdoors in hot, humid conditions which are medically stressful -- and since coronavirus is weakened by sunlight.

I had sworn off writing about the masks and misuse of science (see below) until I had a medical procedure today. One of the drugs they gave me caused me to doze off.  I was wearing a mask as I am in a high-risk group. Twice, I woke up gasping for air. My previous attempts to find medical journal research on mask use among the public had failed. But, after those two incidents, it dawned on me that surgeons might have been studied. Bingo.

If masks are effective at stopping coronavirus, why are so few medical people wearing them? Eight days ago, I was in a multi-physician clinic and, while the patients in the waiting room were wearing masks, literally none of the employees were wearing them. This included receptionists, nurses, physicians and the others. At the doctor's office today, one of the receptionists was not wearing a mask nor were the people that I could see in the back of the office. And, this in a state where the governor has proclaimed a mask order.

I wish to close by addressing comments made by a newspaper reporter in Missouri who was deriding conservatives (not sure why he singled us out) for criticizing the mask orders. He entirely missed the point.

The mask orders:
  • Do not seem to be tied to science that shows they are effective at preventing people from getting COVID, especially since the orders apply to people outdoors. In fact, I cannot find any science at all that indicates it can be transmitted in the unconstrained outdoors in summer. 
  • There is science that indicates that some masks are mildly effective at containing viral particles (from a sneeze or respiration). 
In the closing words of one science article:
The philosophical case against masks is this:
The government is forcing us to use our hard-earned money to create or purchase a product. Where does that end? 

In the Obamacare Supreme Court ruling, the Chief Justice Roberts wrote that, since the penalty fee for not purchasing insurance went to the government, it was a "tax." While I might disagree, that is very different from the government forcing a person to pay funds to a private business. Can the government order me to spend $10,000 for a viral filtration system for my home because it might help fight COVID? Where does it end?

For me, the above argument would be attenuated if the mask orders were highly likely to work or were strongly based in science: In some cases they are not science-based

As I previously wrote, I understand the urge to "Do Something!" We are all extremely frustrated by the coronavirus epidemic. But, sometimes the best advice is, "First, do no harm."

Update: 7pm Friday, 7/3

This paper, from the New England Journal of Medicine published May 21 has been brought to my attention. 
It states: 
We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

Keeping in mind that, in context, the article is referring to indoors, 
  • Masks do not work significantly well ("little, if any, protection"). 
  • "The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal."
  • "The desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic."
My conclusion is: if masks do not work significantly well indoors, what good are they outdoors where sunlight kills the virus?! 

Regardless, the city council of Wichita (my home) just passed as masking ordinance, enforceable by fines, that applies both indoors and outdoors.

All of this said: If you are in a high risk group (like me) be extremely careful. Masks likely give a false sense of security. When indoors, I wear both a mask and gloves when around people and I use virus-killing wipes. If you are high-risk, I recommend you do, also. 

© 2020 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC


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