by James A. Bacon
The number of new deaths in Virginia attributed to the COVID-19 virus fell to three yesterday, according to data published this morning on the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard. That’s the lowest number since April 6.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals fell to 857, the lowest number since the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association began tracking the number in early April. And in yet another sign that the epidemic is receding, at least for now, the seven-day moving average of tests that yielded positive results for the virus fell to 7.2%.
And in other coronavirus-related news…. A study by Virginia Commonwealth University professor Christopher T. Leffler and colleagues finds that wearing face masks can dramatically reduce the per-capita death rates of COVID-19. The study examined 198 countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19; death rates varied from an average of one per million people to 94 per million. Researchers analyzed a range of public health factors to examine which had the biggest impact on the differences in death rates.
Significant factors included the percentage of the population living in densely populated cities, the percentage of population over age 60, the prevalence of obesity, and international travel restrictions. In places that recommended mask wearing, the death rate increased by 8% each week, compared to 54.3% in places where the wearing of masks was not recommended, reports The Virginia Mercury.
“They are the single most important variable that you can control,” Leffler told the Virginia Mercury. “We have a graph that makes it very clear that mortality is hundreds of times lower if you use masks.”
According to Leffler, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contributed to widespread confusion over the effectiveness of face coverings. Both agencies initially discouraged mask use for the general public. WHO said their use could “create a false sense of security.”
“Unfortunately, they completely made the wrong call,” Leffler said. “Many governments just took control of masks and said, ‘We’re going to distribute them how we see is best.’ They prioritized the health care workers. So, rather than lying to people, health officials should have told the truth, and if they needed to control the distribution, done so.”
Mask wearing was politicized here in Virginia as well. Governor Ralph Northam was slow to implement a mask requirement, which became effective on May 29. Republican Party leadership criticized him, saying that the mandate “further burdened the lives of Virginians.” The state GOP did not oppose the wearing of masks; rather it argued that residents were “responsible and sufficiently informed to make these determinations for themselves without coercive threats from their leaders.”
Bacon’s bottom line: The evidence is overwhelming that wearing masks is one of the most effective tools there is for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We can invoke libertarian principles to argue that the wearing of masks should be not mandated. I tend to agree. But I would argue that it is a moral necessity to wear masks in public places. Wearing masks is far more effective and far less intrusive than epidemic-control measures that shut down places of employment and commerce.
The epidemic is receding. Let’s work together to ensure that it continues to recede. Let’s not give Northam an excuse to put Virginia’s economy back in lockdown.There are currently no comments highlighted.