Governor Spencer Cox says he will wear a mask more often, but his comment on “extreme masker” has drawn criticism.
With some trepidation, Dr. Marc Harrison removes his N95 face mask in a room with state officials, health professionals, and reporters.
Harrison – the President and CEO of Utah’s largest hospital system, Intermountain health – told reporters at Governor Spencer Cox’s monthly COVID-19 briefing Tuesday about his medical history: He has multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer that is in remission after a bone marrow transplant and experimental CAR-T cell therapy, leaving him immunocompromised.
“Ordinarily I would avoid a group like this,” Harrison told reporters. “I hope that all of you who don’t wear masks don’t wear the Delta variant – because if you did, you could kill me. This is serious stuff. “
Harrison urged all Utahns to wear a mask in public facilities – as well as get vaccinated, stop the spread of misinformation and “virtually wrap their arms around” health workers.
The news even reached Cox, who said, “It’s well documented how much I hate masks” – and even planned to burn his mask for July 4th.
“As much as I don’t like it, I’ll try to wear a mask more often – especially when I’m around unvaccinated and immunocompromised people,” said Cox. “I’m going to work a little more so I can protect people like Dr. Harrison and others who are immunocompromised or have problems, and even those who have chosen not to get the vaccine.”
Cox admitted that he won’t be a perfect role model when it comes to wearing masks. “There will be times when I won’t have a mask on,” he said, “and someone will take a picture of me and some of you will go mad. And that’s okay. “
Later in the briefing on Tuesday, Cox seemed to show his desperation that masks had become a political focal point.
“The mask thing is so, so, so disproportionate,” said Cox. “Masks aren’t as effective as most pro-mask people argue. They are a tool and they have some effect. … We know it makes a difference. Probably not nearly as much as people think. “
Medical studies contradict Cox’s assessment and have shown the effectiveness of mass mask wear stop the spread of COVID-19 – although the use of masks has been found to be less effective.
Cox noted that both Grand County and Salt Lake City have put mask mandates in their schools that could become real test cases of how much masks work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“At the same time, masks are not evil as what others have portrayed them,” said Cox. “For most people, masks are an inconvenience at worst.”
Cox added that “The anti-maskers and the extreme maskers all have to get over themselves a little and try to have some common sense here. And unfortunately that’s missing in all of this discussion – a little common sense, a little nuance, a little grace, a little understanding. “
Cox’s sentence “Extreme maskers” Trigger a small firestorm on Twitter – such as a post that is referred to Jason Voorhees, the killer wearing an ice hockey mask from the “Friday the 13th” films as an example.
On his Twitter account, the Utah Democratic Party urged people to call Cox’s office to “ask him what the difference is between an ‘extreme masker’ and a ‘person concerned about a deadly pandemic'”.
Harrison said he appeared at the briefing Tuesday to highlight the efforts of health care workers “who are fighting valiantly in the face of this pandemic.”
At Intermountain’s referral hospitals – the “big ones,” Harrison said that handle the heaviest traffic – the intensive care units have 103% capacity. In the entire Intermountain system, the capacity of the intensive care unit is 105%.
Usually, Harrison said, intensive care units operate at around 75% capacity – they treat people suffering from emergencies like strokes, heart attacks, and car accidents. COVID-19, Harrison said, “makes things worse” and accounts for between 30 and 40% of patients who fill intensive care beds.
Last weekend, he said, Intermountain’s intensive care teams in Utah saw five patients with COVID-19, “and based on statistics, I suspect each and every one of them was a preventable death.” Doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit “are calling in somehow.” for death and destruction, ”he said,“ but most of it is unavoidable ”.
Harrison said, “When you lose a patient, it puts a little strain on your emotional bank account. A little capital is withdrawn. Usually we are replenished through large austerity measures to help families in exceptional circumstances and to help patients survive. Right now the balance is out of whack. The withdrawals far exceed the deposits. “