Sunday, March 07, 2021

Editor’s note: The following is a letter from Dr. Yosef Glassman to Nemi Helfgot, responding to her letter to the editor which appeared in the February 11, 2021 issue of The Jewish Link (“‘Unmasking’ COVID-19 Misleading”), in response to his original article, which appeared in the February 4, 2021 issue (“‘Unmasking’ COVID-19”). A brief response from Helfgot to Glassman follows.

Dear Nemi,

I respect your disagreement with the content of my article, and your opinion is valued, but I think it is an over-exaggeration to label it “ignorant and dangerous.” As a physician who not only suffered the coronavirus’ scourge myself, but also who has researched over, treated and intubated multiple COVID-19 patients in the ICU, I hope that I am qualified to speak on the topic with some degree of scientific credibility.

First off, I wish you a refuah sheleima from your mild case of COVID-19. I am confident that you will be reading this response in a healthy way, and you should live until age 120. In fact, B”H, teens are 16 times more likely than older adults to survive COVID-19. On the flip side, however, over 1.4 million children in the world die yearly of regular pneumonia, prior to the current coronavirus outbreak. These cold stats should set off public health alarms as well, if not greater ones amongst vigilant teens like yourself. Where were the anxiety, hypervigilance, masks, quarantines and school shutdowns then? Likely, if everyone was wearing masks all of the time, even at home, there would be no transmittable disease, or very little. The problem is that we can’t live in a black and white bubble. Even if the CDC says that masks can be removed at home and at restaurants, one pause and think about its scientific validity. How do we know that silent brother Shlomie isn’t a silent carrier? He just coughed over the family hummus! Data-wise, most traceable cases of COVID-19 are transmitted at home, Nemi. Masks are only 100% effective if they are on for 100% of the time. Imagine a father with a silent infection snoring loudly—droplets everywhere. It can happen. That is not to say that I am advocating for an all-or-nothing mask policy, rather that the hypocrisy, randomness and arbitrariness of some of these rules be examined in an objective way. Please remember that anyone who opposes your opinion and/or challenges the CDC is not anti-science.

Indeed, it is true that COVID-19 can be a deadly and unpredictable disease in some patients, but not most. Most doctors have the same experience that I am having treating COVID patients: The more abdominal girth and/or the more one smokes, the more deadly the COVID-19 is, since the body is already in an inflammatory state. B”H, we should all be careful to wash our hands daily, especially Purim, and should all live to age 120. Purim is surely a good time for masking, but on the Shabbat post-Purim, may Hashem fully reveal Himself in the world, removing all of the masks.

Rabbi Dr. Yosef P. Glassman, MD


Response from Nemi Helfgot:

Thank you for your response. I want to apologize for the unnecessarily strong language I used in my letter.

Though I agree with your points on universal masking, I surely hope that Hashem will not “unmask” us on the Shabbat after Purim. Wishing you and all of our community a safe and enjoyable Purim.