Letters, March 2: Not healthy skepticism

Readers slam New York Times columnist Bret Stephens for recently arguing against mask mandates. They argue his column was misleading.

Readers slam New York Times columnist Bret Stephens for recently arguing against mask mandates. They argue his column was misleading.

Hunter D'Antuono, MBR / Associated Press

Not healthy skepticism

Re: “Mask mandates were a fool’s errand,” Other Views, Feb. 23:

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens writes, “Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as ‘mis-informers’ for opposing mask mandates were right.”

In so doing, he forgets that those who opposed the mandate were generally not expressing rational, scientific doubt, but rather were generally anti-science, regardless of the cause, and doubtful that a pandemic that killed 1 million Americans was even real.

Such a position means we should never err on the side of precaution — even when people’s lives are at stake. Such a position leaves many, many dead.

Richard S. Pressman

Column is misleading

In Bret Stephens’ description of a meta-study on masks, he stated it was “the most rigorous and comprehensive” study of the effectiveness of mask use performed and that the results were “unambiguous.” He argues the study proves that mask use has no effect on respiratory viruses (i.e., COVID-19) and that proponents such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should apologize for recommending their use. Did he even read the study? I did.

Under “Authors’ Conclusions,” it states “The high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions.” It goes on to say, “There is a need for large, well-designed randomized controlled trials addressing the effectiveness” of masks.

Hardly “rigorous,” “comprehensive” or “unambiguous.” A review by “Science-Based Medicine” found the mask study to be “very limited in scope and is highly problematic in its methods.” It also found that “it does not show that mask wearing does not work or that mask policies don’t work.”

Perhaps Stephens should be the one to apologize for deliberately misleading his readers.

Don York

A political argument

New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens refers to a meta-analysis, a medical literature review, to assert that masking has had no value in preventing COVID-19 transmission.

The title is “Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses,” and anyone can access it by going to cochranelibrary.com. Yes, the review does include 78 randomized-controlled studies, but almost all are with lower transmissible viruses, such as influenza. There was only one completed study on COVID-19, and it hasn’t even been published.

The authors also state, “Adherence with interventions was low in many studies” and “The risk of bias (in the studies) was mostly high or unclear.”

Come on, Stephens, are you trying to make a medical or (more likely) a political argument?

Dr. Deborah McNabb