I am writing to protest the printing of yet another letter to the editor (“What if masks only protect us by 2 percent?” March 22) that is based on misinterpretation and mischaracterization of scientific studies. A misinterpretation that is exacerbated by the editor’s headline for the letter.
The referenced CDC report does not report the reduction in the number of COVID cases due to mask wearing or directly address the protection that is provided by wearing masks. The study examined the changes in “growth rates” of COVID cases and death rates in two cases: following the imposition of “mask mandates” and permission for on-site dining.
The study concludes that “Mask mandates were associated with statistically significant decreases in county-level daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates within 20 days of implementation.” It does not directly address in any measure the “chances of getting COVID-19” while wearing a mask — as was concluded in the letter to the editor and repeated in the headline. Given the effects of compounding in a rapidly transmitted disease, the decreases in “growth rates” following the mask mandates are significant.
The conclusion of the letter, that masks are “bad,” is unsupported by any information in the letter and is simply an unsupported opinion. That friendships and family relationships can be adversely affected over whether to wear a mask is unfortunately likely to be a fact.
I agree that “enough is enough.” For the next few months everyone should do the things in our control to slow the spread of the virus — wear masks where required, maintain social distancing and limit the size of gatherings. The philosopher Red Green hit the nail on the head in saying “I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.”
Many online providers have confronted the dilemmas in addressing misinterpretation, mischaracterizations and lies surrounding controversial issues that can lead directly to harm to our society. Apparently, this is not a topic that merits discussion among the members of The Sentinel editorial staff, because the newspaper continues to publish letters that are full of misinterpretations and misinformation. It is high time that The Sentinel editors established a higher standard for its letter writers, and perhaps engaged in some due diligence and fact checking prior to printing letters. A standard that seeks to advance our understanding of issues and potential actions by encouraging fact-based discussion of our differing viewpoints would be most welcome.