After a closed-door, invitation-only meeting with Spearfish school officials and parents Monday, Governor Kristi Noem deigned to take questions from the local press. The Black Hills Pioneer‘s apt fact-checking of Noem’s wishful anti-science shows why Noem prefers to speak to Fox News from her private video bunker in the Capitol:
Q [BHP]. “You obviously didn’t require lockdowns when we were first starting to experience (the pandemic), you’ve also been resistant to mandating masks, can you tell me why on the masks, why not mandate that?”
A [Noem]. “I don’t think that’s my role, to mandate that. And also the science is very mixed on masks. There hasn’t been universal guidance on what types of mask, what type of sanitation filter issues there should be dealt with, the effectiveness of it especially with children, what happens when people are touching their masks, removing their masks all the time, and then the ability for that to actually slow down the spread of the virus especially as it relates to our kids in schools. We know that kids do not pass the virus like they do in other ages in individuals as much.”
(Editor’s note: Although studies have shown that children only transmit the virus at a rate of about 3.5% as the adult rate of transmission, Dr. Shankar Kurra, vice president of medical affairs with Monument Health has stated that there is no scientific evidence that children of any age are physiologically less likely to transmit the virus. Instead, Kurra points to the prevailing theory, which cites more controlled social distancing as the reason for the discrepancy. See Saturday’s Black Hills Pioneer for the full interview with Kurra.) [link added; staff, “Noem Discusses School Opening,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2020.08.11]
So challenged, Noem had the gall to suggest the scientists the press is talking to aren’t reading all the science the way she is:
Q. “When you said that the science isn’t concise about the benefits of masks, the overwhelming majority of science is showing that it does protect not only you on the outside of the mask but then, the mask wearer, there’s more evidence that it’s protecting them. Why not go with the preponderance of evidence?”
A. “Which studies are you referencing?”
Q. “Every physician that we’ve talked to, the CDC, the W.H.O., they’re all saying, ‘wear a mask.’”
A. “Well they’re recommending that but they’re not pointing to studies and the science behind it and that’s what’s challenging. And none of them are saying what kind of mask to wear. A lot of the studies are being done on different types of masks, there’s some that indicate that N95 masks may be effective if you’re switching out the filter every single four hours, that that might be beneficial for certain populations, but yet the reality of people doing that I think is extremely challenging and having access to that kind of a mask with those kind of filters and that supply level. And also, people that are wearing masks are they touching their faces? We know that people are doing that quite a bit more when they’re wearing their masks, they’re not wearing them consistently, that the cloth masks aren’t being laundered, that it is creating some complications and that especially in the younger populations that the science is much more mixed. So I’m not confident enough to say that it is extremely effective, I know that we can point to one or two doctors and others having differences of opinions and getting into arguments over it, but when you look at science and studies, it isn’t clear” [“Noem…” 2020.08.11].
Noem blows a lot of smoke there. She’s talking about lots of things people can do wrong while wearing masks, but that doesn’t prove her main contention, which is that masks don’t prevent the spread of coronavirus and thus aren’t worth requiring. Making masks a formal requirement in schools and other indoor public places is step one of a longer, more responsible process of coaching everybody, children and adults, on how to use their masks most effectively.
If Kristi Noem had been Governor back in the 1990s, she’d have heard Dr. Anthony Fauci’s call to use condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS, and she’d have replied, “Well, no studies are telling us which kinds of condoms to wear, and people use condoms incorrectly all the time, so why bother? Let’s bareback!”
Black Hills Pioneer patiently recites the facts, the most salient of which is that Governor Noem is resisting good public health practice:
(Editors note: Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) and the World Health Organization, (W.H.O.) acknowledge that there are varying degrees of efficacy regarding masks dependent on the type of mask and the potential exposure risk to the virus. All recommend wearing a mask. The WHO does not recommend widespread use of non-medical cloth masks among the public for control of COVID-19. However, for areas of widespread transmission, with limited capacity for implementing control measures and especially in settings where physical distancing of at least 1 meter is not possible – such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments – the W.H.O. advises governments to encourage the general public to use non-medical fabric masks.)
Dr. Kurra told the Pioneer: “What we’re doing with the mask is basically preventing your droplets from coming into contact with another person, and it’s the most simple and the most efficient, and most effective, profound way of slowing the spread of the disease.”) [“Noem…” 2020.08.11].
Masks are “the most simple and the most efficient, and most effective, profound way of slowing the spread of the disease.” Why is that so hard to admit, Kristi?
Save some lives today, Kristi: wear a mask, on camera, and tell everyone it’s a good idea.