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Wearing N95 masks prevents infection

FILE - In this June 18, 2020, file photo a discarded face mask and cigarette butt litter the sidewalk outside the Eastern Market in Washington. On Friday, June 26, Vice President Mike Pence said Americans should look to their state and local leadership for modeling their behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. The comments only days after President Donald Trump held two campaign events that drew hundreds of participants but few wearing masks. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

In this June 18, 2020, file photo a discarded face mask and cigarette butt litter the sidewalk outside the Eastern Market in Washington.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Since 2000, with 560,000 new jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona ranks fourth in the nation in job creation.

This is not just a function of a thriving economy creating new jobs, it is also a function of limiting the damage of Covid-19 to our current economy. While states like Michigan, New York and New Jersey lost over 24% of their jobs and have regained less than half that loss, Arizona lost less than 10% and has already regained half of those jobs lost.

Many states now have fewer jobs than they had in the mid 1990s, some have even been thrown back into the 1980s. Arizona’s setback was less than a few years, one of the lowest in the country.

In the mid 14th century, the most famous plague in history hit the world, the Black Death, also known more accurately as the Bubonic plague. Countries like England saw more than half their population wiped out. The U.S. is currently suffering a death rate of 600 deaths per 1 million population.  In the Bubonic plague, England suffered a death rate of over 600,000 deaths per 1 million population.

Bubonic plague history gives a strong cautionary message concerning our current situation.  Although we patiently wait for the virus to mutate to a less benign form or to simply go away, the Bubonic plague ravaged Europe for over six years after hitting Florence in 1348.

John Huppenthal

John Huppenthal

Then, horribly, it returned 15 times in the next 135 years, an average of once every nine years.

Simple fact – we don’t know what the Covid-19 future will bring. We need to mentally prepare for all possible outcomes.

Early in the outbreak, a Wuhan (the infection epicenter) hospital administrator ran a random control test of masking to forestall infection. The group wearing N95 masks incurred zero infections. Informed by this research, all 42,000 surge workers pouring into Wuhan to deal with the infection all wore N95 masks. They also incurred zero infections.

This research and knowledge built upon knowledge that we first received from Hong Kong following the SARS infection in 2003 and again in the research following H1N1.

We know now, from laser light research and other research, that many types of masks do not provide complete protection, neither to the wearer nor to the people around the wearer.

The U.S. has a $21 trillion economy with about $3 trillion in idle capacity. Yet, we have no retail N95 mask market. This is now nine months after we first received word of this infection – yet we have a bizarre middle ages economy of individual people building their own masks on home sewing machines. Many of these masks are ineffective, not much better than nothing and in some cases, worse than nothing.

If the CDC had simply said go!!!!!, we would have been swimming in N95 masks by the end of April. Unfortunately, CDC was peddling the idea that mask wearing by the public would propagate infection all the way till April 3. The die was cast by that time, we already had over 260,000 infections.

The CDC’s malfeasance also turned masks into an ideological issue, a near religious issue. This should never have happened.

Lessons can also be learned by studying the tip of the iceberg. While two typical zip codes in Arizona have a combined 230 infections, we have several pairs of zip codes with over 4,000 infections. These top ten zip codes intrigued me such that I drove to several of them in Maricopa County, stopping at over 40 retail establishments to see if the problem was masks. No. By the first week in August, these high poverty, high minority zip code were close to 100% masked up. The only exception being very small retail shops.

The evidence suggests that most infections are taking place in the homes and that household density is now driving these high infection zip codes.

This suggests that getting people out of those homes is the most effective way to reduce infection rates low. Opening schools, if principals and teachers can maintain the discipline of wearing masks at all times, will reduce infections in those zip codes, not increase it. Properly managed schools will be the safest place for people to be.

The governor and counties have done their jobs. The infection rate in prisons and jails are miniscule.

We should consider this pandemic a baby trial run knowing that a much bigger monster is on the horizon. Anti-biotic resistant bacteria will inevitably break out before long, expected to kill over 10 million per year by 2050. And, another more lethal virus, perhaps a mutation of Covid19,  is certainly waiting out there.

John Huppenthal is a former state senator from Chandler and former state superintendent of public instruction.

 

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