So Amanda raised an interesting objection that I hadn't considered before in detail during this morning's session. It hinged on the assertion: "Masks save lives, and that's the most import thing, so even if they do make life very difficult for some people, we all have to wear them to save lives."
My instinct is NOT to go down the rabbit hole too much, but perhaps in some cases, having a discussion that touches on facts is unavoidable. What do you think?
I've had a few ideas for how to respond to this, which I've included below:
1) Do you know the last year that we had more people dying prematurely than we did in 2020?
Explaining the indisputable ONS fact that, once adjusted for an older population, there were no more deaths in 2020 than in 2008 and every year before that dating back to 1990 (link here if you need to share it).
2) If masks saved lives, and never costed lives, I would absolutely agree with you that masks should be worn. However, they also increase isolation, very acutely for certain groups in society, and if those people begin to feel life is hopeless and no longer worth living, masks could also cost lives.
3) Whether or not masks save lives is something that experts have different views on. As far as I can see, there is agreement that there is no evidence of a substantial difference in transmission of COVID occurring at the same time as mask mandates. Without correlation, it's hard to attribute causation.
4) If masks saved lives, and never costed lives, I would absolutely agree with you that masks should be worn. However, wearing a mask can ONLY save lives if the person wearing the mask is infectious, or someone around them is infectious, so making everyone wear masks all the time, might be a bit like insisting everyone in England walks around in a mosquito net to avoid deaths from malaria, because at times nobody nearby is infectious with COVID.
5) That's an interesting assertion. Why do you think masks save lives?
This line of questioning could take you to "How much have you read up on the subject?" and whether they have investigated much around the evidence to support the assertion. Perhaps a few fact based questions, like whether they have read the Danmask study, might sit okay here. Or referring to the WHO guidance from May 2020 which listed possible increase in self-contamination and transmission through incorrect mask-wearing and people wrongly believing that they are safe in the mask and not socially distancing.
They would probably agree that, because we know masks definitely cause harms (eg. I have a friend who is deaf and exempt from mask wearing, who has been asked to leave public spaces and had people refuse to take of their masks so she can understand them), then it makes it much more important to be sure that they actually work, rather than just doing it on the off-chance.
Can you think of any other good ways we could respond?