Gerald Doane: Where’s the science?
Our political, health, and safety leaders have mandated the public adopt multiple countermeasures in combating the COVID-19 outbreak.
Except for developing a vaccine, their decisions that led to mandates were based upon infection, hospitalization, and death metrics. This is political science, not real science.
Countermeasures, like vaccines, must be studied scientifically to determine efficacy and safety.
What are the proposed countermeasures in combating the virus? Quarantine, sequester, treatment, testing, contact tracing, social distancing, hand washing, surface cleaning, sanitizing, and the use of personal protective equipment such as masks, shields,and gloves are considered reasonable countermeasures in combating a pandemic.
But our leaders misled us about countermeasure efficacy, safety, and consequences. Most of us recall we were told at the very beginning of the outbreak that masks were not effective. Why did they lie? Because there were not enough N-95 masks to go around. Talk about your ethical lapses. This was malfeasance on a grand scale.
Would it not have been more reasonable for our leaders to tell us something to the effect of: “This virus is new, and we are in the process of conducting studies as to the efficacy, safety, and consequences of all countermeasures, used either singularly or in combination, which we believe will prevent the spread of this virus. Until our studies are complete, we recommend the following: quarantine and treatment for those with the virus; sequester, where practical, those persons we believe to be at extreme risk; conduct wide-spread testing and contact tracing; practice social distancing, hand washing, surface cleaning and sanitizing; and use personal protective equipment such as masks, shields, and gloves when in public places. And for the government, business, and entertainment communities, take additional precautions to protect your employees, workers, and customers while conducting business.”
What do I mean by studies? Well, it is like any other study regime we learned in grad school: test group(s), control group(s), and statistics. All groups are demographically identical.
Test group(s) are given countermeasure instructions and/or equipment that is to be evaluated. Control group(s) are provided with some sort of placebo. Both groups are monitored, tested, and measured over a specific time period. The numbers are crunched using statistical methods in determining study outcomes.
Let us say I would like to study the efficacy and safety of personal protective equipment. The personal protective equipment I would like to study include a face mask, a face shield, and nitrile gloves. I specify or provide the type of equipment to be tested. This equipment must always be worn by the test group(s) participants when in public. I instruct the test group(s) to practice social distancing, hand washing, surface cleaning and sanitizing, where possible, when in public. I devise a method that enables me to monitor group activity.
The control group(s) does not use any personal protective equipment, but practices social distancing, hand washing, surface cleaning and sanitizing when in public.
All groups are monitored. The numbers of infections and treatments are crunched using statistical methods. Then I can say, “I have studied the use of personal protective equipment in preventing the spread and can reliably opine on the efficacy and safety of such equipment.”
I have researched published reviews on masks and social distancing on the internet. Most of these reviews are based on historic pandemic responses or on mathematical models. None suggest real life efficacy and safety studies using test and control groups with statistical analysis.
Our leaders have also failed to study the downside, the negative, or the unintended consequences of countermeasures they have mandated us to follow. Without studies, they could be making the cure worse than the disease.
There are glaring examples of how our leaders are making the cure worse than the disease. For example, there have been huge downside socio-economic impacts as a result of our leaders ordering so called “non-essential” businesses to shut down operations over long periods of time.
Yet these orders have not stemmed the tide of the virus. Our leaders put hospital patients in nursing homes with devastating results.
Where are the real studies that support these decisions?
Our leaders say they rely on hospital intensive care occupancy levels as the basis for their decisions. Perhaps our leaders should look at increasing hospital bed levels by bringing back the hospital ships, setting up military hospital beds, and using other resources such as teaming up with neighboring states or with non-governmental organizations that have the capacity to help.
Gerald G. Doane lives in Grass Valley.
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