Many of you have written to the City Council expressing your views regarding a Mandatory Mask Mandate. Here are my thoughts about it.
I do not support a Government Mandatory Mask Mandate.
I worked for 13 years for the NJ State Dept. of Health, in the Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control from 1973-1986. I was trained at the CDC and met Dr. Fauci during the AIDS Epidemic.
I respect the work of the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and all of the dedicated Federal and State Epidemiologists who work in disease control programs. I know from experience that these folks can be very political and phrase things in their reports and grants that push their agendas as much as President Trump has pushed his.
That said, I have studied the transmission of COVID-19 and the utility of the following disease prevention strategies: (1) handwashing and sanitizing, (2) coughing into one’s armpits or tissues to avoid dispersing droplets containing viral particles, (3) social distancing both indoors and outdoors, (4) masking, and last (5) isolation/quarantine/lockdowns. They all work and have been used in the past to control other outbreaks, but no major outbreak (including AIDS) has ever been stopped until effective treatments and/or vaccines became available and widely used.
This is the first outbreak in history that has received so much media attention and early public release of information. Because of this, “preliminary” findings related to COVID-19 transmission, disease development, testing, and treatment were often contradictory and eventually replaced with more solid data as we learned more about the disease.
The initial goals of managing an epidemic where the case fatality rate is low (such as COVID-19 with a death rate hovering around 1%) are to slow the spread and develop herd immunity and protect those at greatest risk of dying until effective treatments and vaccines become available. This is done by using the 5 aforementioned strategies.
This didn’t work completely with COVID-19, and the initial lockdowns caused devastating economic effects that I’m not sure some people will ever recover from. Millions of people lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of people lost their businesses and life savings because of the ineffective lockdowns.
That left us relying on the first 4 strategies until we could get a vaccine and effective treatment.
The three ways to develop herd immunity are (1) let the disease spread through healthy people who are at low risk of dying while protecting those at high risk or (2) vaccinate a high percentage of people once a vaccine is available or (3) combine strategies 1 and 2.
We are close to being able to control COVID-19 because we now have effective treatments and three vaccines nearing public release. This factors into why I do not support “mandatory” mask policies at the Farmer’s Market or anywhere else on Marco Island, closing businesses, or locking down the city.
I also believe that we must be responsible for our own behavior and protecting ourselves despite whatever the government does. Each of the first four strategies I identified (handwashing etc.) is effective and can be done voluntarily by people who are at greatest risk—like myself at 69 years of age with asthma. Government mandates would not change that.
Even if a person came into contact with someone who had COVID-19, if she/he used strategies 1-4, there would be little chance of getting infected.
Most indoor public spaces on Marco Island already require masks. I do not think having a government mandate will increase this significantly. With mandates come penalties and enforcement. I do not want our citizens or Police Department to become mask mandate enforcers. We are already divided enough as a City and Country and do not need policies that pit citizen against citizen as we struggle to fight this disease.
I hope all of this makes sense and gives you a better understanding of my position on mandatory masking policies.
City Councilor Richard Blonna