Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. John Adams

Sometimes, the simplest story is the best one. With the COVID-19 pandemic, two fact-based stories stand out. First, getting vaccinated is the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your community. The evidence is overwhelming, whether we’re talking about rates of infection, hospitalization, or death. With more than two billion doses administered around the world, vaccination stands as a historic, unqualified success,

In Kansas, with our great variation among counties in vaccination levels, we have every reason to think that those counties with higher rates will experience fewer new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Thanks to the research done by KU scholars Donna Ginther and Carlos Zambrana we do have solid evidence that another tactic — wearing masks — makes a big difference on containing spread, seriousness, and deadliness of COVID-19. That’s the second major Covid story, a straightforward social science narrative of how well-informed policies can produce positive results.

When Governor Laura Kelly announced a mask mandate, taking effect in July 2020, just fifteen counties, mostly large ones, complied. Conversely, 68 counties never adopted any mask requirement. Such a stark division established ideal conditions for a natural experiment. That is, we can compare how counties with a mask mandate fared during the pandemic as opposed to those who never imposed such a policy.

Veteran researchers Ginther and Zambrama are not epidemiologists; rather, Ginther is a distinguished professor of economics and the head of KU’s multi-disciplinary Institute for Policy and Social Research. Their work is straightforward analysis of basic data, with a single, clear policy difference. Moreover, the mask/no-mask dichotomy almost certainly underestimates the impact of mask-wearing, given its focus on overall county policy, not the actual wearing of masks.

When the mask mandate took effect, COVID-19 rates were three times higher in mask counties; in less than four months this trend reversed, with cases twice as high in no mask counties. Similar reversals occurred for both COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. The simple mandating of mask-wearing significantly affected rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

By the July 3 start of Governor Laura Kelly’s mask mandate, the medical/scientific consensus was clear that this policy would slow the spread of COVID-19. But many politicians, in and out of Kansas, battled the mandate and politicized the policy.

They were wrong. Governor Kelly and her advisors were right. The study concludes that the mask mandate saved at least 500 lives in Kansas. Following the known facts proved the better policy.

OK, you might say, in this limited study, good policy proved a better choice. But so what? Well, here’s what, on two major issues.

First, Medicaid expansion, with its natural experiment between states that did and didn’t expand. As of 2018, the expansion states experienced at least 19,000 fewer premature deaths than they would have without expansion, and medical debt dropped almost $1,500 per person.

Second, climate change. Thousands of studies form a consensus on the immense fiscal and health benefits of aggressively combating climate change. It’s difficult for a single state to do much, but as a society the facts demand that we act.

Science is powerful. And per John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Burdett Loomis is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Kansas.

(6) comments

MWS

This was a great article on the arguments for pro vaccination. It claims facts are stubborn things. I agree, especially when you leave out half of them. He did not mention the other facts: children don't need to be vaccinated, people who have had Covid and have the antibodies don't need to be vaccinated. These vaccines are technically experimental and have more negative side effects than all other vaccines combined. He did not mention blood clots in women, heart inflammation in teenage boys, bells palsy, sudden deaths, the fraud of wearing masks, the lies of the CCCP, WHO, CDC and Dr. Fauci and his email dump. What this guy really meant to say is; "facts are stubborn things, especially the ones I deliberately left out of my article."

Aim_High

I guess I'll have a crack at this steaming pile of misinformation... and yes, facts are stubborn things...

CDC says "Children 12 and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against COVID-19. " Pfizer is working towards vaccine approval for ages 5-11. "Children don't need to be vaccinated" is simply wrong.

CDC says "Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19" You only have immunity for around 90 days after recovering from Covid 19. Despite what you've heard, it is possible to get infected with COVID-19 more than once.

Most people experience zero side effects from the vaccine, and the ones who do have side effects are generally very mild. The most common side effects of covid 19 are; On the arm where you got the shot: Pain, Redness, Swelling and throughout the rest of your body; Tiredness, Headache, Muscle pain, Chills, Fever, Nausea. The effects of catching covid 19 are much worse and much longer lasting, and has so far caused 620,000 deaths. I can't even find anywhere that claims the covid vaccine has "More side effects than all other vaccines combined" Did you just make this up?

From CIDRAP: "Study: COVID much more likely than vaccines to cause blood clots"

With a test group of 40,000 people, "Two vaccine recipients in the Johnson & Johnson Phase 3 clinical trial developed Bell’s palsy, as did two people in the placebo group." They all recovered in about 10 days. Why are you so worried about bells palsy? Lol...

I'm not sure exactly how many people died a "sudden death" after their injection, but I do know its a tiny percentage compared to the number of people that have died a slow painful death from covid.

I don't think a vaccine that has over 177 million test subjects with proven results still qualifies as "experimental".

The fraud of wearing masks? You obviously have no clue what you're talking about, lol. There is plenty of evidence all around the world that masks are very effective at stopping the spread. Tons of evidence to prove it if you are willing to look beyond Facebook.

I don't think you should be upset with the author for sticking to the facts.

Rationa1

Thank you, Aim, for debunking MSW's false impressions.

MWS

I assume that whatever the CDC says you think is correct. Allrrriiigggghhtttyyyy then.

Aim_High

And I assume you trust pro-Trump Facebook groups over the experts at the CDC along with the huge amounts of data on masks from counties with and without mask mandates all across the US to back it up... Allrrriiiggghhhttyy then lol...

If you have some evidence that children don't need to be vaccinated that comes from a credible source, let's see it. Then we can move further down your list of nonsense...

Aim_High

MasKs ArE LiKe tRyiNg tO kEEp mOsQuiToEs oUt wiTh A cHaIn LiNk fEncE...

ThE ViRuS cAn gO RiGhT tHroUgH a MaSk...

GeTTiNg vAccInAtEd iS gEnE thErApY...

Science is powerful, but it's also useless if an entire political party doesn't care to understand it, and would rather just trust what they and their friends see on Facebook instead. ^^^

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