Friday, February 26, 2021

As an avid Jewish Link reader, I’m aware of The Link’s commitment to publishing a wide range of articles, whether they be controversial or overtly ignorant. However, an article that appeared last week in the “Health Link” titled “Unmasking COVID-19” (February 4, 2021) by Rabbi Dr. Yosef P. Glassman, MD, was not only ignorant but potentially dangerous.

As I write this article, I am quarantined in the attic of my house with a mild case of COVID-19. I suspect I got infected from my school, where an outbreak stemming from a party has forced my grade onto Zoom for the past week.

Rabbi Glassman notes that in ultra-Orthodox enclaves like Lakewood, masks are far from ubiquitous. He then tells of the dangers of COVID-19; of its high death and case rates. Rabbi Glassman then, however, notes somewhat superfluously that “The truth is that the deadly nature of COVID-19 is not necessarily the virus itself, but the underlying inflammatory state of the host.” This appalling and misleading statement, which leads at-risk community members to believe that COVID-19 is less deadly than it possibly is, could lead to countless unnecessary deaths.

Rabbi Glassman continues, coming after the known efficacy of masks, a key component to limiting the spread of COVID-19. He states that masks were proven 79% effective, though there were only “some studies that were not robust.” Rabbi Glassman then bizarrely writes that we need to protect ourselves most “from your nearby loved one, not the passing charedi at Whole Foods.” Rabbi Glassman suggests that people should be wearing masks at home, and not at the supermarket. Of course, this advice has no scientific evidence to support it. The CDC recommends, as most know, to stay at home with your household members in a closed pod, with no need to mask. Thankfully, after spreading anti-science and anti-mask misinformation, Rabbi Glassman concludes with the contradictory message that covid “is not a hoax.”

With Purim right around the corner, which for some signals the one year anniversary of the virus coming to our community, I plead with everyone to remain vigilant, and to not cause unnecessary illness and possible death. For accurate COVID-19 information, visit the CDC, the WHO, or even the RCBC, who have done an excellent job keeping our community’s shuls safe during the pandemic. Thank you and have a safe and uplifting Purim.

Nemi Helfgot
11th grader at SAR High School