Dueling experts: Debate over mask mandate continues in public square, with doctors - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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Dueling experts: Debate over mask mandate continues in public square, with doctors

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Even as Alaska House Democrats posted a press release on Wednesday saying that hundreds of doctors want a face mask mandate for Alaskans and that additional resources are also needed to enforce health mandates across Alaska,” not all doctors in Alaska are on board.

Three doctors testifying at Tuesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting had a different viewpoint than the ones aligned with House Democrats.

[Read: Is your doctor on this list? Docs who signed demand for mask, also for recall of governor]

Dr. Shawn Degler, an Anchorage anesthesiologist, told the Assembly that he can be considered a subject expert in face masks because he wears a mask all day due to his work but takes great pains to never touch his face.

He testified that personal liberty is a high societal value and that a mask mandate should only be used in extreme circumstances “where there’s compelling data and such interventions will merit the violation of the public’s rights.”

“To be clear, I’m not against wearing masks,” Degler said, adding that he has taken many precautions since the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, even going so far as to self-quarantine from his family during times he was caring for possible COVID-19 patients.

But he said this is not an extreme circumstance that overrides liberty:

Dr. David Paulson, a neurosurgeon, also spoke to the Assembly, observing that everyone who was wearing masks on the Assembly panel was constantly adjusting their masks and touching them, an unsafe practice that defeats the purpose of the mask:

Dr. David Paulson, a neurosurgeon, discusses why there should not be a general mask mandate.

Throughout the meeting on Tuesday, Assembly members and some of the public testifiers pulled and tugged at their face masks, contaminating everything they touched with their fingers afterward. Testifiers pulled their masks down to speak, then used their hands to adjust the microphone, and then touched their masks again to put them back on.

Jasmin Smith, organizer of a Black Lives Matter rally earlier this year, pulls down her mask to testify on Tuesday about a grievance she has with an Assembly member, touching her mask in a way that is not recommended by medical professionals.

Assembly Chair Felix Rivera was one of the most visible repeat offenders, sitting in the center of the panel of elected officials and constantly fidgeting with his cloth mask while he kept the agenda moving.

Then came to testify Anchorage resident Rosalyn Griffin, a neighbor of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who said she observes him every day not wearing a mask — when not on camera.

Berkowitz is preparing to mandate face coverings for Anchorage residents and visitors through the use of his emergency powers granted by the Assembly. He said during the meeting that he’s likely to do so within days because “there is disregard for some of the public health measures that have kept us safe to this point.”

Griffin said that the mayor is setting the standard by his own behavior and she will not wear a mask if he won’t.

“Don’t put into law what you’re not doing at home,” Griffin said. The room applauded her enthusiastically.

Berkowitz was later seen in the back of the Assembly chambers conferring closely with Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson. He had no mask on, and was whispering into her face, which was only covered with a homemade cloth mask.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz in the back of the Assembly Chambers, with no mask, speaking closely to Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson.

Many businesses and public buildings, such as Costco, Anchorage City Hall, and state ferries now require people to wear face masks when inside those facilities.

Other states and cities around the country have implemented mask mandates such as the one that Mayor Berkowitz is prepared to roll out. None of the mandates around the country that Must Read Alaska researched come with expiration dates on them — they are open ended laws.

[Read: Who must wear a mask in California? What happens if you don’t?]

The mandates have wide variability between jurisdictions. In Orange County, Florida, the home of Disney World, the county mandate makes an exception for government workers:

In Lincoln County, Oregon, the mask mandate comes with an exception for persons of color who feel that wearing a mask will expose them to racist profiling.

What are your thoughts about mask mandates in Anchorage and Alaska? Leave your comments below.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • The push for mandates is not based on science, but is simply a manifestation of the Left’s lust for controlling every minute detail of people’s lives.
    A science and data based means of keeping yourself safe from the Kung Flu is very simple. It means making some sacrifices, but is very simple……get your A1-C down to 5.0 or lower, and your vitamin D levels way up.

    • More rumors from someone with no evidence. And I am a far right Republican with sound mind.

      • Which part? Put on your damned mask because it is the thing to do by slowing the spread. The mask isn’t about keeping me safe from you, it’s about keeping you safe from me. You may have it without knowing it, and spread it everywhere.

    • Right on!

    • The push for mask mandates is not based on science, or, at least, real science, but the belief that it is a leftist plot isn’t based upon any evidence of any kind.

      • Most health folks disagree.

    • Racist bigotry and politics should not be setting standards during a public health emergency! Science and medicine says masks can reduce transmission by 80%!!! Only ignorant, uneducated, backwoods covidiots would think otherwise!

    • Tim, your comment rules you out as a credible poster. Cheers

  • Cloth masks have been tested for their ability to stop, reduce or protect the wearer !! They have been proven to have little or no impact on the spread of the virus !! masks have been tested for oxygen transfer and has been shown to “decrease” an individual’s oxygen level by 3.5% to slightly over 5.0% !! Besides it’s a nothing more than a power grab by those in power that want to eventually enslave or “rule” us in manner of their choosing !! Insert peons here as an example !! Plus they needed something to disrupt President Trump’s smoking hot economy prior to November !! The same way Mayor Berkowitz wants power and control over the November elections for “his” political agenda !!

  • Any mandate regarding a mask has been ignored by myself because there existed over 6 months that the virus was in the population without any such mandate, so to require it now is so illogical it is nuts. I will not be wearing a mask or participating in any activity, like flying, where a mask is demanded. I made it 63 years without a friggin mask, I will go with what has worked for me this far.

    • Just wait! The virus will find those who are not bright

      • So does drunk drivers, sharp knives, pools, airplanes, fatty foods, other strains of flu, the list goes on. Unless you want to live in a bubble, you risk your life every time you leave your house. Just this last week we’ve seen two deaths on the Seward Highway, one death from an apartment fire, and a man stabbed by his girlfriend. Where those people “not bright”?
        Just like abortions, I think masks should be a personal healthcare decision. If you want to wear one, kudos to you. But kudos to those who choose not to. No one should be shamed for something that is a health decision (again, like abortion).

        • Nice try. Killing babies is something that you are proud of?

        • Speaking of abortions, what happened to “my body my choice”? I do not believe any person has a right to destroy a life in the womb (which is not the same DNA as the mother’s), but the obvious hypocrisy is blatant. We should be able to wear a mask or vaccinate if we choose, but forcing others to comply with someone’s belief is not what liberty is all about.

  • Exactly. I see daily when I’m out people with these masks on constantly touching them while in the store, moving it to their chin.. Adjusting for the ‘look’. Its ridiculous! Only people that should be wearing a mask are the elderly and immune suppressed. The rest of you? Your gonna get yourself and your family sick quicker using a mask improperly. This is about control from what I have deduced… I don’t bow to any of that. No more masks unless you’re sick! If you’re sick you better be home anyway.

    • When you wear a mask, you protect me. When I wear a mask, I protect you. Over 134,000 Americans are dead. The economy has been devastated and people want to argue about wearing a mask in public? Seems legit.
      I’m an RN at a local hospital. I recently notified my manager of my departure. Carry on.

  • Why aren’t we discussing Hydroxychloroquine? This is a drug that has been safely used for decades. It is FDA approved and very inexpensive. Perhaps big pharmaceutical companies don’t want us to find out that this is really effective and readily available? They will loose millions if people just get a prescription for less than $50 and recover quickly.

    • Because….TRUMP!!!!!!!! Their hatred and rage overwhelms science and logic.

    • Well if the drug is not curing anybody there is no profit in it. Think about it….the health industry would be open arms about the drug if it actually worked.

    • We aren’t discussing hydroxychloroquine because there is no evidence it is effective against Covid-19. It also appears not to be as dangerous as some “evidence” had indicated earlier.
      It’s hard enough to keep track of SARS-CoV-2 without all the noise that is being generated by bad information. Let’s stick to the best info we have at the moment, which is that cloth masks are, at best, likely to be of limited value and that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective against the virus.

      • Like the best information we had in March from Dr.Faucci that masks don’t work? Or from WHO a month ago that masks don’t work? Or from CDC in March that masks don’t work?

    • hydroxychloroquine is not being discussed because the emerging science is not supportive of its use. Here are a few of the many recent results search google scholar for more:

      New England Journal of medicine May 7,
      “In this observational study involving patients with Covid-19 who had been admitted to the hospital, hydroxychloroquine administration was not associated with either a greatly lowered or an increased risk of the composite end point of intubation or death. ”

      Médecine et Maladies Infectieuses
      Volume 50, Issue 4, June 2020, Page 384
      “No evidence of rapid antiviral clearance or clinical benefit with the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in patients with severe COVID-19 infection”

      Med, June 5, 2020
      Outcomes of Hydroxychloroquine Usage in United States Veterans Hospitalized with COVID-19
      “Hydroxychloroquine (HC) use did not reduce the risk of ventilation or death
      “HC with azithromycin (AZ) did not reduce the risk of ventilation or death
      “HC, with or without AZ, was associated with longer length of hospital stay”

      In light of the science the FDA revoked the Emergency Use Authorization for the drug (with some exceptions) recently:
      FDA News Release, June 15, 2020
      Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Revokes Emergency Use Authorization for Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine
      “Based on its ongoing analysis of the EUA and emerging scientific data, the FDA determined that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses in the EUA. Additionally, in light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects, the known and potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine no longer outweigh the known and potential risks
      for the authorized use.”

  • I deem it as personal choice and I have chosen not to wear a mask. I have not seen any iron clad proof as to how effective a mask really is. Let people think for themselves.

    • Tom, you managed to ignore all the evidence out there showing masks are extremely effective in reducing the transmission of covid. So you thinking for yourself doesn’t work so well…

      • What evidence Jerry?

  • Everyone has a cellphone.
    Every cellphone has a video camera.
    Everyone has access to YouTube.

  • No law that violates the individual personal freedoms will be tolerated. I will not comply.

    • Cannot fix stupid!

      • Are you calling people “stupid” based purely because you disagree? You should change VALERIE to TRUMP or BIDEN because you’re acting just like them (or most other politicians these days). Childish name calling shows that you are actually the “stupid” person because you aren’t even able to produce a coherent rebuttal of why Shawn Kinney’s statement is (allegedly) “stupid”.

    • Define “individual personal freedoms.”

    • You wear shoes and a shirt into a restaurant don’t you?

  • Good observations on Mask use by the Drs. but I wouldn’t go to them for legal advice!

  • The “nuts” of Anchorage Assembly. Berkowitz is the biggest joke of the year. He hopes for popularity on the issues he turns into a circus. The Assembly group with Berkowitz would make a great team at API, helping each other down the hallways to their rooms. I think Crumm should create a mandate of the “nuts” of the city Assembly and the Mayor-Berkowitz. He, Berkowitz and they, assembly need to quit feeling their faces in such a manner and need to stop pulling at the strings, playing with the cloth to cover their words and their mumbling is really queer. This is what the neighborhoods voted into city government? Lordy, Lordy what next?

  • I would like to know this…I tested positive for COVID-19, no symptoms, quarantined, and remain fine. This means I now have antibodies and immunity. Why do I have to wear a mask?

    • Your antibodies are only good for a few weeks. Besides, it has mutated so a new strain is out there.

      • SARS-CoV-2 mutation rate is very slow.

      • You put a lot of garbage out against others you say have no evidence but fail to provide a shred of evidence yourself. Big mouth, little substance.

      • Good luck waiting on that vaccine then………

      • Live Science
        “Coronavirus seems to mutate much slower than seasonal flu”
        April 06, 2020

        U Michigan health lab May 15
        While “[Typical] RNA viruses mutate relatively quickly because they lack a proofreading mechanism to look for and repair errors during replication … SARS-CoV-2 and its coronavirus cousins are unique among RNA viruses, because they have a proofreading enzyme. … As a result, SARS-CoV-2 mutates more slowly than other RNA viruses. … only about 20 mutations have been retained in the genome so far since the beginning of 2020, despite the billions of times the virus has replicated. ”

        June 10, 20202
        Johns Hopkins
        “JHU scientists say they have seen fewer than two dozen mutations between the current versions they are studying and original viral isolates from China, which is a very small number. “This means a vaccine will probably work against all of them,” “

      • What evidence Greg do you have of this 2 week antibody claim? You always spout a lot of things like they are fact but never site reputable sources…and I don’t mean CNN, MSNBC, WHO..or other political propaganda sources.

  • If you feel compelled to sport a submission scarf (mask) you really should take a marker to it and put a large “666” across the mouth. Oh don’t worry….submit and you bear the mark even if others can’t see it.

  • Why do people think the medical group is the experts on the face masks? OSHA/MSHA have been in the work force for years and have studied the application of proper masks for different applications. Ask the fire departments if they share their masks? I know they have to be fitted and they maintain and clean their issued masks. Cloth masks do nothing other than expose the wearer to more contaminants, The N95 with exhaust does protect the wearer as breathing exhaust into a contaminated atmosphere but cannot be used effectively in other than dust and smog environments. Medical masks can protect for a limited time and have to be replaced and discarded. the humidity and moisture from normal breathing can build up micro-mold and start respiratory issues. If 6′ distancing works, why wear a mask? If a mask works, why the 6′ distancing?

    • Look it up yourself. I am not inclined to prove or disprove my points. This isn’t court where I could gladly spank your butt.

      • If you make a claim be ready to support it. Making claims not based on truth reveals your agenda, which is to use words to manipulate people. It’s called propaganda and communist governments are good at it.

  • Wearing burkas are next.

  • A mask mandate is absolutely necessary. Alaskans are doing a horrible job social distancing and following guidelines without enforcement.

    • Yup.

    • Yeah, that’s why we have some of the lowest death rates in the country. Definitely all that noncompliance. /s

      Masks can help stop drops in the air, but they give a false sense of security and lead to more germ spread through improper use. If you go by current CDC case data, waiting this long for a mandate feels far more political than anything.

      • It’s because of isolation. Nobody lives there mostly

    • No Legality in any mandate keep your comments to yourself.

      • Mandates are legal. Look it up Esquire.

    • Then stay home! Your choice! Don’t mandate my choices!

  • Three page article in today’s issue of Science: “Reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2” Available online. search for the title.

  • Wearing a mask does NOT: 1. Make you retain dangerously high levels of CO2. 2. Make breathing unduly difficult. 2. Lower your uptake of need oxygen. 3. Rob you of your constitutional rights any more than wearing pants or a seat belt. 4. Make you a sheep.

    It DOES: 1. Reduce the transmission of the virus by reducing droplet And aerosol deposition. A large meta-analysis of mask use in The Lancet shows efficacy. Yes, they need to be worn properly.

    This is not a big sacrifice, people. I wear one in the hospital for many hours at a stretch. Quit being big babies, grow up, and help out in the fight. Our parents and grandparents sacrificed to fight deadly world wars. This is our world war, so let’s get together and make a good fight. So far, we are losing, and compared with the rest of the world, we are the worst.

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