Masks and COVID-19: an Open Letter to Robert Kennedy Jr and Children’s Health Defense

I join with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in opposing mandatory vaccinations. I have no faith in products like vaccines that are developed for profit under American capitalism. Manufacturing and marketing occurs without utilizing the precautionary principle, without sufficient testing, and with aluminum-based and other dangerous adjuvants and impurities. The Food and Drug Adminstration’s administrators and regulators come from the corporations they’re supposed to be regulating. They’ll return to the same corporate behemoths when their time in government service is ended, via that revolving door between Big Pharma and U.S. regulatory agencies. Given all of that, how could one not oppose unsafe and compulsory vaccinations? That is why I support Children’s Health Defense, as well as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s great environmental work.

Which is why I found Dr. Alan Palmer’s utterly one-sided review against wearing facemasks during the Covid-19 pandemic to be appalling. I’m greatly saddened that CHD published it without rebuttal or quotes from people who hold opposite views.

It is possibly true that wearing a mask for extended periods and doing heavy workouts while wearing one may cause a shortage of oxygen temporarily, although the small size of the Oxygen molecule easily fits through most any kind of paper or cloth mask. So how about presenting other solutions, if that is a real concern? How about going inside away from other people and taking your mask off every 15 minutes or so, to breathe freely? Why isn’t that even being considered here? Or propose other alternatives to supposedly being sickened by wearing a mask — and there are many work-arounds. When you don’t even broach that possibility, then it becomes clear that the writer is using so-called objective “facts” to sell us a bill of goods.

I wear a mask when I am around others in narrow spaces, not because it will protect me from getting sick but because I don’t want my germs poisoning another person who may be at higher risk than even I am (and I am in the high risk category).

We live in a culture where people are currently thinking only of themselves, demanding what they misperceive to be their “freedom” (as per your disgraceful picture of the young white female whipping off her mask), when in some areas like Washington D.C. Black people are contracting and dying from Covid-19 at two and three times the rate of whites, in some areas even more. The Guardian writes that “across the country, African Americans have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans.

“More than 20,000 African Americans — about one in 2,000 of the entire black population in the US — have died from the disease.

“At the level of individual states, the statistics are all the more shocking. Bottom of the league table in terms of racial disparities is Kansas, where black residents are dying at seven times the rate of whites.”

But, the white people you feature rip off their masks as though that represents “freedom”; they exhibit not a care in the world for anyone else. And the image encourages readers to do likewise, which puts others (like me, and most everyone I know) in jeopardy. 

Dr. Palmer – a chiropractor – turns to the country Sweden, which he claims as having successfully “flattened the curve” without lockdowns. But that is not true, and CHD should have corrected his error. In fact, Sweden’s more limited shelter-in-place order primarily for elderly and immune-impaired people, with relatively free movement for others, and its leaving restaurants and businesses open for business, resulted in a Covid-19 contagion rate higher than any of its Nordic neighbors and a death rate actually higher than the US! Like Boris Johnson in England, Sweden’s prime minister acknowledged that they’d made errors in their approach.

So why leave such wrong information to be presented as true? Why not stop opportunistically catering to and egging on people who are following their president in not thinking or caring about how their actions may affect others? That lack of empathy is truly sickening.

Another “reason” Dr. Palmer provides for not wearing masks is that quality N95 masks are in short supply, so better to save them for health professionals who really need them. What? Are you serious? The United States of America is crumbling because the government is not able to supply masks for nurses and doctors? And yet, all over the internet there are advertisements for businesses selling masks. If they have a single mask left in stock that they have not DONATED to the heroic nurses and doctors, frankly they should be dragged to the guillotine, as far as I’m concerned. I watch my friends dying; I watch medical personnel risking their lives with improper equipment, and these greedy corporate bastards are trying to profit from others’ misery by simply hoarding masks to sell — how can you stand it? Really?

So why hadn’t the government, at all levels, prepared properly for this? Why are Trump and Pence directing FEMA to hoard equipment, instead of dispensing it? Why did Cuomo shut down hospitals in the lead-up to this pandemic, and why has he now submitted a NY State budget that CUTS Medicaid to seniors and others? What is wrong with these people, Democrats and Republicans alike?

Palmer’s medical observations are as bad as his political views, and they are equally invalid. Over and over again he gives the argument that “there is no evidence to suggest that face masks worn by healthy individuals are effective in preventing people from becoming ill”. Not exactly — there’s lots of evidence that face masks protect from the virus. Doctors, nurses and medical technicians wear surgical masks, day in day out, and have no health effects. Health professionals, including dental hygienists, oral surgeons (and their staff), dentists, nurses, surgeons, anesthiologists, all wear masks for 12 hour shifts their entire working life and have no negative health effects. Simce O2 (the oxygen molecule) is only 1.2 angstroms (.12 nanometers) in diameter, and the pores in N95 masks are  around 100nm, Oxygen molecules have no problem getting through the mask just fine.

The SARS CoV-2 virus – the virus that causes Covid-19, on the other hand – is a large virus, approximately 120 nm in diameter, larger than the pores in the N95 mask, which keep the virus from getting through the mask under usual circumstances. There is no doubt that masks — even cloth bandanas — block droplets of moisture containing the virus from one’s exhale, reducing the transmission of Covid-19. But even if “there is no evidence to suggest that face masks worn by healthy individuals are effective in preventing people from becoming ill,” so? Poorly done or inconclusive research that Palmer says cannot confirm that a mask can contain the virus — what kind of a ridiculous argument is that (and it’s not even true)? There is no evidence to suggest that my pointing a gun at you will necessarily mean I will pull the trigger. Do you want to find out, the hard way?

I can go through some of the other medical rationalizations one by one — some are valid, but need to be weighed for the possible devastating effects they would cause if the doctor happens to be wrong, as has been known from time to time to occur. But CHD doesn’t present those alternative arguments for readers to weigh. It presents a propaganda piece, and it leads me to distrust other things that CHD has written — not because I disagree with their conclusions but because it becomes apparent that it is just propaganda, sophisticated propaganda, for a particular agenda, trying to manipulate me, and others, into adopting what it perceives as “the correct line” through fraudulent means. And I, who have defended CHD in many arguments with others, now find my intelligence (and health) insulted by the one-sidedness of your presentation, while you claim it is an objective account.

Look, RFK was great against Monsanto. He’s very good in fighting against mandatory vaccines for children. That’s why I find this article so shockingly dangerous, as it comes with RFK’s imprimatur.

I always hate it when medical professionals are so cocksure of themselves and their “line” that they never ask themselves, “What if I’m wrong?” Here, the claim that so-called “healthy” people should not wear masks could, if Palmer and CHD are wrong, lead to people contracting the illness and dying. And it’s such a small thing, to wear a mask! If a so-called healthy person had been exposed to the virus, even if they themselves are asymptomatic, they may be carriers and pass the virus along to others who are not as healthy, to Black people, to Latinos, to heart patients, to immune compromised people, to people with high blood pressure, to obese people, to those who are pregnant — all of whom are put at risk.

Yes indeed, wearing a mask helps protect OTHERS — a foreign concept, I know, in this era of me me me me. Wearing a mask in crowded public places (like stores, laundromats, elevators) presents a very small risk to healthy carriers of the illness themselves, but not wearing one presents a great risk to many others.

Please publicly retract Dr. Palmer’s story now, and rethink who it is that is on the firing line of your advice.

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Mitchel Cohen is Coordinator of the No Spray Coalition in New York City.

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