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Letter to the Editor, 8/4/20

I recommend the councilors vote against the proposed facemask ordinance. There are times when draconian government action is required, but this is not one of those times. This is not London; we are not suffering a Blitzkrieg.

Yes, we are threatened by a dangerous virus, one probably more deadly than the flu for those over 65. There have been about 21,000 cases in New Mexico and 651 deaths. Of the deaths reported in The Grant County Beat, most are people over 70. In Grant County there have been 67 reported cases. I believe the population of Grant County is about 28,000. There have been two reported deaths here.

Those numbers certainly warrant caution, but not panic. While the spread of Covid-19 may be slowed by all of us wearing facemasks, there is no consensus that facemasks are very effective, if at all. I cite two articles below.

The proposed ordinance is an overreaction, an abuse of power that will prove very divisive. To require facemasks when "walking or running in public," or "during outdoor physical activities," is more dictatorial than medical.
Apparently, you can get fined for not wearing a mask while playing tennis in Silver City, but not if you are trying to tear down a statue of Juan de Onate in Albuquerque.

New Mexico is also releasing prisoners early in order to slow the spread of Covid-19. Here in Grant County, manager Charlene Webb said that "judges have issued guidance asking law enforcement to use their discretion" when making arrests to "limit the number of people coming into the detention center" during the Covid-19 crisis.

A cynic could make the case that criminals are being released all over New Mexico to make way for facemask violators, but not rioters. This is a very poor time to threaten joggers and bikers with get-tough laws.

Finally, as an 80-year-old, I am especially at risk and will be using a facemask where appropriate, and taking other measures to safeguard my health. I do not need government threats to do this.

1) From an article in The Sun, 8/3/20: SCIENTISTS in the Netherlands have said face masks in public places are "not necessary" and might even have a "negative impact." The Dutch have not made it compulsory to wear face coverings in public - despite a rise in coronavirus cases.

2) Here's one from this side of the pond: Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-19 Era – New England Journal of Medicine - May 21, 2020 - List of authors. Michael Klompas, M.D., M.P.H.; Charles A. Morris, M.D., M.P.H.; Julia Sinclair, M.B.A.; Madelyn Pearson, D.N.P., R.N. and Erica S. Shenoy, M.D., Ph.D.
As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to explode, hospital systems are scrambling to intensify their measures for protecting patients and health care workers from the virus. An increasing number of frontline providers are wondering whether this effort should include universal use of masks by all health care workers. Universal masking is already standard practice in Hong Kong, Singapore, and other parts of Asia and has recently been adopted by a handful of U.S. hospitals.
We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

Peter Burrows

Silver City