So far, over 770,000 Americans have perished from COVID-19. With the winter and the holiday season at hand and COVID-19 surging in Europe, our infection rate and deaths will undoubtedly escalate. A majority of the hospitalizations and deaths since this summer have been in the unvaccinated.
Of the vaccinated people who died with breakthrough infections, many caught the virus from an unvaccinated person. Millions of Americans have not been vaccinated, allowing a highly contagious delta variant to spread through the country and increasing the likelihood of the emergence of other deadly variants. Most mRNA vaccines remain in the range of 95% effective in preventing severe symptoms and deaths. They are also effective in preventing asymptomatic infections and therefore transmission. The side effects of these vaccines include an infrequent incidence of the inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) that most recover from. There is a much higher likelihood of myocarditis if you get infected and get COVID-19.
Data from the many studies published in reputable medical journals around the world show that surgical and multilayered cloth masks are up to 70% effective in blocking respiratory droplets and aerosols that carry the viruses from an infected person. Over half of the infections are transmitted by the individuals who are asymptomatic. Masks worn by an uninfected wearer provides additional protection to them. In one study, with an infected person in the household, if everyone wears a mask, follows 6-foot distancing, washes hands frequently and wipes surfaces with disinfectants, there was a reduction of over 80% in the risk of transmission.
Efforts to twist the facts and spread misinformation have been astounding. A news outlet compared the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 going through the masks to mosquitos going through a chain-link fence. In reality, most of the viruses are carried by large aerosols and small droplets and are not individually lined up to go through the masks.
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During past national crises, Americans have united and made sacrifices for the common good. Our recovery from this pandemic requires a united effort to reduce severe illnesses, deaths and economic fallout. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that with 15% increase in masking, there is an estimated savings of $1 trillion. Masks should be a symbol of altruism and solidarity rather than anger and misinformation. Our leaders, who are there to serve our communities, should be preaching personal sacrifice for the good of the community instead of focusing on the "personal choice."
What is their intention? Is it to keep a wedge among us and keep their bases riled up for a higher turnout during the elections? If you are confused with conflicting information, ask your doctor, just as you would seek the help from a plumber for a pipe leak and not your politicians.
Dr. Amar Nath is a cardiologist in Des Moines.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Opinion: Vaccines, mask-wearing critical in COVID-19 fight