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Opinion | Hey Mike Shirkey, questioning face masks is just ignorant

Sen. Mike Shirkey,

In response to your recent guest commentary questioning the value of face masks in schools and the seriousness of COVID-19, I would highly suggest you actually read the Brookings Institute article you referenced to support your opinion. The information presented in the article encourages politicians and the media to promote accurate information in order to be free from the pandemic.

Shirkey opinion: Science— not politics — should guide policy on masks in schools

Angela Reed
Angela Reed is a self-employed certified pediatric nurse practitioner consultant with 30 years of experience in pediatric healthcare. She lives in Holland, MI. (Courtesy photo)

The Brookings Institute demonstrated how inaccurate information, including that politically promoted by you, such as the lack of need to wear masks in schools, actually harm children and the economy by keeping them out of school, and businesses operating at reduced capacity or not at all. The Brookings Institute rightfully advocated in the December 2020 article for common-sense measures, such as masking, until a vaccine is available. Yes, Senator, a vaccine.

While you continue to perpetuate the harms of wearing masks in schools and vaccinating, these are the exact measures we actually need, and are those encouraged in your referenced article, to get children safely back in schools and maintain an open economy. The Brookings article was written in December of 2020, prior to the onset of the Delta variant becoming the primary strain causing COVID-19. We know that the Delta strain is 40 percent to 60 percent more transmissible, and those infected have 1,000 times more viral load in the upper respiratory tract, than those with the Alpha variant. We also know that 99 percent of those currently being hospitalized or admitted to the ICU are unvaccinated.

My question for you is this – how do you suppose we get children back in school and not vaccinate and not have them wear masks? If we want children to benefit from sports participation and in-person school, we need common-sense measures to protect students, the teachers educating them, and the support staff supporting them from infection so they can stay in school.

No science in mask wearing? I beg to differ. Reading articles that support your opinion (confirmation bias) is irresponsible at best. This study demonstrates that both mask wearing and physical distancing are highly effective in reducing viral transmission:

Advocating for natural immunity to a virus that has killed 4.3 million people worldwide in a year and a half is plain ignorant. This number doesn’t even reflect collateral damage of those unable to gain emergency access to medical services during the pandemic. How many more people need to die, Senator, to reach natural herd immunity? I find it ironic that you support the polio vaccine and Dr. Salk, but can’t support a vaccine to COVID. Polio killed 35,000 people per year, and polio was eradicated through the implementation of a mandated childhood vaccine policy.  Yet, COVID has killed 4.3 million people in a year and a half and you’re fighting against people wearing masks and getting vaccinated?

Natural immunity. Yes. This can be effective if you survive the initial infection, but for how long? A recent study has demonstrated that natural immunity is actually 2.34 times less effective than vaccination at preventing reinfection, and doesn’t hold up for variants.

Research on viruses has shown scientists that continued spread of infection from person to person leads to viral adaptations that have the ability to become more infectious (such as Delta), and potentially more deadly. According to Dr. Vaughn Cooper, ASM’s Council on Microbial Sciences-elected board director and evolutionary biologist, stopping the virus is key. “The more infections, the more chance that mutations will occur and thus the more likely selection will enrich the best mutations to improve the virus,” he explained. “Vaccination is the best weapon in the fight to curb transmission.”

I’ll trust my life and those of my children to a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh with PhD in Zoology, Ecology and Microbiology from Michigan State University over a pandering-for-votes state senator with engineering degrees all day. You might want to check out the professor’s videos about the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 on YouTube. I also suggest information from the Unbiased Science Podcast.

Then you might base your opinion on #RealScience.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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