Covid fatigue is real. As the pandemic continues to overstay its welcome it’s more important than ever to disassociate science from politics. By addressing the 4 following myths about covid we can keep the numbers low in the community of Santa Barbara.
Myth: Masks don’t work:
Truth: They do! They do what they’re intended to do, which is to limit the quantity and distance of droplet transmission; this is the method of transfer in the majority of cases of Covid 19. This goes beyond the obvious examples, such as coughing or sneezing: Masks limit the droplet spread that’s been demonstrated via natural speaking as well. Its more important than ever to wear a mask whenever the 6 foot social distance principle is compromised.
Myth: Masks cause harm by preventing proper oxygenation:
Truth: Masks have NO bearing on oxygen delivery into the body, nor do they impact carbon dioxide transfer out of the lungs. We demonstrate this daily in the office when we measure arterial oxygenation (pulse oximetry) on each and every patient, and it invariably holds steady. I postulate that this myth has gained popularity simply because of covid fatigue, and that masks can be uncomfortable for extended times. This can be overcome with training. Remember, our colleagues in the hospital and operating room wear masks for 12 hours or more daily to protect all of us.
Myth: Increased testing accounts for the spike in cases we’re seeing in Santa Barbara:
Truth: I wish this were true. Increased covid case identification can account for higher numbers, of course, but the math doesn’t add up for 2 reasons: 1. The rate of infection rise significantly exceeds the change in testing. If testing alone accounted for the increase in cases, then the infectivity rate would be the same, and unfortunately, it’s seen a marked increase this last month. 2. The number of hospitalized covid patients has increased significantly since the reopening of Santa Barbara. Just a month ago Cottage had 4 covid patients hospitalized, as of July 10 this number was 31. The 7-fold increase in hospitalizations supports that we’re not simply identifying asymptomatic cases.
Myth: Social distancing is doing harm by delaying “herd immunity”.
Truth: False. Orders of magnitude more harm would result by ignoring social distancing and “hoping” for natural development of immune defense. Herd immunity is defined by natural disease mitigation through antibody development via exposure. Unfortunately, this is playing with fire when the virus is not even completely understood. Imagine if this is how HIV was handled in the 1980s? What we’re learning is that Covid is extremely infectious; it enters cells with very little effort, and has shown to overwhelm any healthcare system within weeks if left unchecked. Infectivity is the term used by Virologists, and its strongly linked to its ability to mutate and continue to cause disease despite antibody production. This is why its so important to develop a vaccine, but equally important in the interim to wear masks, keep distance, and take control over the terms of engagement.
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Dr Viglione is a concierge medicine doctor in Santa Barbara, CA