Winter Survival: Masks and Flu Shots

The testimony of Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, before a U.S. Senate subcommittee last week regarding the need for every American to wear a face mask in public to thwart the spread of Covid-19 was stunning for its sheer simplicity.

“A face mask is the most important and powerful public health tool we have,” said Redfield. “If we did it for six, eight, or 10 weeks, we could bring the pandemic under control. We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine.”

Dr. Redfield’s statement provided Americans with the most direct and easiest-to-understand medical advice that we have heard in our lifetime from any health professional regarding any illness or disease.

Face masks have been shown in the past to be effective against the spread of airborne illnesses. During the 1918 flu pandemic, American cities that required their citizenry to wear face masks in public had much lower incidences of the flu and much lower death rates from that deadly disease than cities that did not require the use of masks.

The other significant thing we can do for our individual and collective health this winter season is to get a flu shot as soon as possible. Although flu shots typically do not have 100% effectiveness, they nonetheless can provide significant protection against the flu for most Americans, thereby reducing to a large extent the number of persons who might require medical treatment and hospitalization.

We also would note that there is substantial evidence that flu shots also provide protection for the heart, although it still is not completely understood why.

Together, masks and flu shots offer our best chance to avoid the so-called “twin-demic” this coming winter. Indeed, if everyone masks up and gets vaccinated (as well as stays home when they are sick), this could be the healthiest winter our nation ever has experienced.

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