Generalizations are assumptions that involve ‘painting with too broad a brush’ as is sometimes stated. One of the perils is simply assuming things that may not be true.
This concept has never been more relevant than it is in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Using the “third side of the coin” logic (click here to read our previous blog post on this topic), I sense that there are many “maskers” and many “anti-maskers” in our society.
Every so often, I need to have a patient in my office temporarily lower their mask so that I can acquire necessary information without lenses fogging up, etc. Occasionally, when I make this request, someone may say, “I don’t think these masks work anyway.” However, we have real data that show that they do.
I also have had people insinuate that masks don’t have any effect on one’s CO2 inhalation fraction – in other words, that they don’t cause any re-breathing. That’s nonsense – I found a clinical study published well before the pandemic that proves that masks do, in fact, increase the amount of expelled carbon dioxide that is re-inhaled. If in doubt, run on a treadmill for 10 minutes with a mask and tell me how you feel.
Science, like the calculator on my desk, has no political affiliation. Science doesn’t have a need to be right, to make an impact on social media, or to win an argument. The scientific method involves making an assumption then gathering data to support or refute that assumption. Science perseveres in the background despite all the noise in the foreground.
Another temptation to generalize is the following rationalization: I know a few people who have been positive for COVID-19 and they have only experienced mild cold/flu symptoms. Therefore, it really doesn’t impact our health any more than a garden variety illness.
But you also may consider those you know who have tested positive, but never developed any symptoms. So the chain of (il)logic may insinuate that the severity of effects could be predicated on the strength of one’s immune system or general health. You validate this assumption with the data that those of advanced age, or with other concurrent health challenges (obesity, COPD, diabetes) are more likely to die from it.
However, someone then tells you that his or her (family member, friend, etc.) recently died from COVD-19 and this person was young, in extremely good physical health, and this came as a complete shock to the family and the patient’s medical team.
The reality is that there is much we still don’t know. We don’t know about different strains of the virus and how different immune systems may handle it differently. We think we know that it mutates, but we don’t know all the ramifications of that. Learning all the different nuances is going to take months to years.
Dr. Joe Lstiburek, owner of Building Science Corporation, says “The things that will kill you are more important than the things that will annoy you.”
He was referring to robust practices of building airtight and watertight enclosures, but the logic also applies to our current pandemic.
As you consider this, keep an open mind. Do what you can to keep your family and those around you safe and make decisions that increase your chances of maintaining health and wellness.
Until next time,
Dr. Lee Newton
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