LA County’s reinstatement of the mask mandate has drawn criticism from pundits

Some experts slammed public health officials in Los Angeles County on Friday for saying the county is likely to reintroduce a local indoor mask mandate thanks to COVID.

“Three years later, there is little evidence that mask requirements had a significant impact on [COVID] fall rates,” said Dr. Margery Smelkinson, an infectious disease scientist specializing in influenza and COVID-19, told The Post on Friday. “Given this unimpressive track record, it is puzzling that many health officials are willing to return to mask requirements.”

At a news conference Thursday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced that the county is moving towards “high” viral activity, with an average of more than 2,700 new COVID infections per day — and that residents are wearing indoor masks -Mandate could be faced as early as next week.

“There’s this common mindset that the pandemic is over and COVID is no longer a problem, but these numbers clearly show that COVID is still with us,” Ferrer warned.

But dr Smelkinson said she remains concerned about the impact of such a mask requirement.

People wear a face mask while waiting at a bus stop along Hill Street on July 13, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Several studies show that masks are not always effective in preventing respiratory diseases.
AP

“Masks make it difficult for children to learn to speak properly and for the deaf and hard of hearing to fully participate in society,” she noted.

“Most Americans have already learned to live with the virus, and pandemic fatigue will ensure low compliance and further erosion of trust in public health officials. I fear that this, in turn, will lead to strong reluctance to address future public health emergencies,” she said.

Palos Verdes-based attorney and local school official Julie Hamill told The Post that the Los Angeles Department of Health “lost public trust a long time ago.”

A Los Angeles subway bus with an electronic display requiring a face mask is seen as the driver exits a bus stop in Los Angeles April 19, 2022.
dr Marc Siegel, a clinical professor and medical analyst, argues that mask requirements are evidence of compliance.
AP

Hamill, recently elected to the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, is representing a group of parents in a lawsuit challenging a county masking order. The group, which calls itself the Alliance of Los Angeles County Parents, calls for the “removal of all unnecessary, harmful and unjustified restrictions on children.

“[Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer] continues to ignore current scientific realities,” Hamill wrote.

“We know there is an extremely low mortality rate associated with COVID, particularly among children. We know that there are no randomized controlled trials with statistically significant data to support masking as a means of preventing respiratory virus transmission. In fact, hundreds of years of scientific data shows that masking does not prevent the spread of respiratory viruses,” Hamill said.

A commuter sits on a subway train in Los Angeles on July 13, 2022.
Los Angeles residents could face a mask mandate as early as next week.
AP

Nevertheless, there are several studies that suggest that masks are effective in preventing respiratory diseases. A research paper published by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in February 2022 showed that consistently using a cloth face mask or N95 respirator was associated with a lower chance of testing positive for COVID-19.

Another laboratory study, published in November 2020 in the journal Aerosol Science and Technology, showed that cloth masks blocked 51% of respiratory droplets when coughing, while N95 respirators blocked 99%.

But dr Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health and medical analyst at Fox News, shared Dr. Smelkinson’s skeptical position on mandates.

A security guard wears a mask inside Union Station on July 28, 2022 in Los Angeles.
A laboratory study showed that cloth masks blocked 51% of respiratory droplets when coughing.
AP

“[Masks] are political weapons, not medical tools,” he said. “I’m for the mask, but I’m against the mandate.”

dr Siegel advocated wearing a “fit-tested N95 mask” in a hospital setting, but said the mask’s overall effectiveness depends on the wearer.

“I’ve been patrolling the streets [during mandates]and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone wear it [their mask] right,” he said. “[Mask effectiveness] depends on whether the person knows what they are doing.”

Mask mandates, he argued, are merely demonstrations of compliance, not public safety.

“As soon as they accept the mandates, everyone takes off their masks!” he pointed out. “Where’s the public health in that? It’s just a matter of obedience.

like dr Smelkinson also commented on Dr. Siegel concerned about invisible costs of forced masking including ‘socialization issues, children with learning’

“[A mandate] won’t work,” he concluded. “That sets a bad precedent and shouldn’t be done.”

https://nypost.com/2022/12/02/la-county-mask-mandate-reinstatement-slammed-by-experts/ LA County’s reinstatement of the mask mandate has drawn criticism from pundits

JACLYN DIAZ

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