A GRIPE FROM A READER: Although you do a great job answering questions in a thorough manner, you should avoid publishing advice such as wearing of masks as in your Saturday byline. There are studies claiming a mask prevents COVID-19 but there are also several studies that found masks do not prevent the spread of COVID-19. Actually, masks can restrict the oxygen level in a person’s blood and may provide a false sense of protection. I would guess you are NOT qualified to give advice on COVID-19 and thus should not!

ANSWER: You’re right that I’m not qualified in and of myself to give advice and should have been simply clear that I’m reiterating the advice of the people we’ve hired to get us through this pandemic — the people who have made their life’s work studying epidemiology and this kind of global pandemic. Those are the people I trust right now, not because they’re perfect but because they’re truly trying to save lives, even if they might make a misstep or two. So, yes, the Centers for Disease Control recommends masks. So does the Mayo Clinic, and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Oh and the state of Texas requires them in most public places ... it’s just a lot of people have decided they only care about law and order when it’s fitting for their purposes, not when it helps us protect each other.

Here’s some specific guidance from the CDC: “SARS-CoV-2 infection is transmitted predominately by respiratory droplets generated when people cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe. CDC recommends community use of masks, specifically non-valved multi-layer cloth masks, to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets (‘source control’), which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others, and who are estimated to account for more than 50% of transmissions. Masks also help reduce inhalation of these droplets by the wearer (‘filtration for personal protection’). The community benefit of masking for SARS-CoV-2 control is due to the combination of these effects; individual prevention benefit increases with increasing numbers of people using masks consistently and correctly.”

Here’s some good information from the Mayo Clinic as well: “Can face masks help slow the spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19? Yes, face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus.

“So why weren’t face masks recommended at the start of the pandemic? At that time, experts didn’t know the extent to which people with COVID-19 could spread the virus before symptoms appeared. Nor was it known that some people have COVID-19 but don’t have any symptoms. Both groups can unknowingly spread the virus to others.”

”These discoveries led public health groups to do an about-face on face masks. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now include face masks in their recommendations for slowing the spread of the virus. The CDC recommends cloth face masks for the public and not the surgical and N95 masks needed by health care providers.”

I couldn’t find any credible study about masks reducing oxygen levels. Send me a link so I can see what you’re talking about, but I suspect that your idea of credible and my idea of credible are not in agreement.

Q: How do emergency vehicles gain access to gated communities?

A: Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton told me those issues are worked out in advance with the community, before an emergency occurs. The communities file gate code information that the city’s public safety communications department — the people responsible for dispatching police officers and firefighters — keeps on file.

“When our guys get there, our dispatchers can tell them the code,” Thornton said. “Sometimes, we’ve been down there so much, we just know the code automatically.”

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