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Dig deeper into data for facts on covid-19

The Democrat-Gazette's June 19 front page included the mind-numbing report of a new spike in covid-19 cases. I counted 53 statistics buried in the report. To the casual reader, these data would seem alarming.

None of these data points mentioned the number of tests that had been conducted to produce this "spike." Without that information, one cannot conclude that there's a spike at all, for two reasons. First, if there were, say, 60,000 conducted that resulted in 600 Positives, that's only 1 percent! But nowhere in these data are we told how many tests were performed, so we can't determine whether further restrictions on our personal freedoms are warranted. Secondly, there's a serious time-lag issue in these data. Since the vast majority of positives were asymptomatic, we have no idea how long these people may have been carrying the virus around. It could very well have been in their system for 4 months. Again, this is hardly a "spike in new cases."

Rather than bombarding us with undigested data points, try writing stories with a little bit of analysis and context. I realize that would require more thought, but it would also result in a better-informed public, at least among those of us who read beyond the headlines.

Dennis Lawler


With recent covid-19 rise, might masks be culprit?

Not long ago, Fayetteville was embroiled in a heated debate over legislation to prohibit a business from refusing to serve patrons it did not agree with. Mayor Jordan was staunchly in favor of this ordinance. I was shocked and angry to read the mayor's June 15 letter to Fayetteville businesses urging owners to deny service to patrons he does not agree with. One day later, the City Council, in lock step and without any public notice or input, has passed an illegal ordinance requiring people to wear face masks in public areas of businesses. This is all being done for our own good.

If the face mask is the panacea for prevention of covid-19 spread, why didn't our cases explode in March and April when nobody wore a mask? We packed into Lowe's and Walmart by the hundreds and the case load in Northwest Arkansas remained minuscule. Only recently have our positive cases increased at an alarming rate. What changed?

The Arkansas Department of Health tracks of new cases and their relationship to the recent re-opening of closed businesses. There is no connection to the rapid increase in positive cases, so we can rule that out. There is another obvious change that nobody is questioning: the prevalence of the face mask.

If face masks are supposed to prevent the spread of covid-19, why are positive cases skyrocketing with the increased use of face masks? I have spent a lot of time talking to people about their masks and observing people wearing their masks. What I can tell you is nobody is doing it correctly. Very few people understand that once the mask goes into the public, it should be considered contaminated. They wear it from place to place, never changing it or cleaning it, carrying any contaminates with them as they go about their daily lives. I have never seen anyone take the mask off by the side loops, it is always the front. In other words, they are touching the contaminated area of the mask. It was unnerving to learn how many people wear their masks several days without cleaning it. Nobody washes their hands after handling their masks.

There is a lot of information out there about why we should wear a mask, how to make a mask and how to clean a mask. There is not a lot of information about the risks of wearing a contaminated mask all over town. Is it possible we are unknowingly spreading covid-19 through poor mask etiquette? It is a fair question to ask. Maybe an intrepid reporter seeking facts will ask Dr. Nate Smith that question during the daily press briefing.

This disease has become an emotional issue. Yes, covid-19 is real and highly contagious. And yes, to a small segment of our population, it is dangerous. That is precisely why decisions need to be based on facts and data, not emotions. It is OK to ask questions and demand answers of elected officials when restrictive policies are put in place.

Robert Williams


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