I must admit that I have learned more about viruses and transmission in the last 10 months than I ever thought I would need to know.

Because I do not have a background in science— my degrees are in business and behavioral sciences — I realize that I need to rely on the “experts” in the field in order to understand. So, I turn to people like Dr. (Anthony) Fauci, Dr. (Michael) Osterholm and my friend Sheryl, who is an infectious disease doctor, to inform myself on the subject.

After spending a 30-plus year career as a college administrator, I developed a deep appreciation for research and the rigors of the scientific method in producing evidence to support or refute theories and test hypotheses.

So whenever I hear someone claim that “masks don’t work to stop the transmission of COVID,” I first assume that perhaps that individual doesn’t have a background in science, either. This past week, I read a comment from freshman Rep. Lisa Thomas, R-Lake of the Ozarks, in an article concerning the outbreak of COVID-19 in the legislature in which she claimed that “Masks don’t keep you from having viruses transmitted. It’s like expecting a chain link fence to stop a BB; it’s not going to happen.”

Initial assumption: no science background. So I turned to Google to find out. Imagine my surprise — a degree in biology and two degrees in psychology (a social science), a residency at MU Medical School in Clinical Psychology, medical director of the Missouri Physicians Health Program, member of the Governing Council of the Missouri State Medical Association and a member of AMA. Also, a member of the Red Cross Board and Boone County Mental Health Board of Trustees.

I don’t know how many of these activities are current, but nonetheless, I am dumbfounded. There is plenty of science-based evidence supporting the efficacy of mask wearing. Granted, some masks work better than others and they must be worn properly. And granted, mask wearing is not a perfect substitute for social distancing — which the legislative chambers don’t offer. But science does show that masks do reduce emissions of droplets and help decrease the inhalation of droplets.

I wonder if Ms. Thomas is choosing to ignore the science or are we really talking about politics. Would Ms. Thomas not wear a mask in her psychiatry practice? At in-person board meetings? During legislative sessions that don’t provide for social distancing?

So far, I have been fortunate to escape COVID. I choose to mask up and social distance in public because I choose to believe the scientists and the science. As importantly, I choose to be a concerned citizen — concerned for myself and those in my community with whom I come in contact. Until we’ve reached “herd immunity” with the COVID-19 virus, it is the least that I can do — aloing with keeping up with my science lessons.

Linda Smith is a Columbia resident and former college administrator.


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