Category: COVID-19

COVID-19 — Facemasks and Psychologists

During the course of the current COVID-19 pandemic, facemask wearing has become a point of massive contention with many authorities insisting on their use by people in public places and even issuing fines for people caught not doing so. In some cases this has led to ugly and often unnecessarily violent confrontations between members of the public and sometimes with police.

Meanwhile, the science on the issue has seemed to shift so that at one time people in positions of authority were saying they were unnecessary and even inappropriate for general public to use and then the same authorities shifting to recommending them and even making them mandatory by all.

In this connection, a section of recent ABC News article dated 9 September entitled “Majority of Australians support mandatory face masks in public places, survey reveals” caught my eye: 

Masks ‘not yet ingrained’

Dominika Kwasnicka, a behavioural psychologist at the University of Melbourne, said mask-wearing is not yet a “social norm” in Australia.

“It’s definitely not yet ingrained in our culture,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to break [social norms], but we are very successful with changing and breaking them.”

But with time, she added, a change in attitudes may come.

“We can see in our history, for instance when we started encouraging people to wear seatbelts,” Dr Kwasnicka said.

“People didn’t consider them necessary, didn’t consider them as something that would save their lives. But with time we made them compulsory.

“I’m very confident that we can also change social norms when it comes to wearing a mask, but it’s going to take time.”

This raises some concerns about the role of a psychology professional in the support of facemask wearing practices being promoted by many authorities as the “new normal”. In particular, the apparently enthusiastic and uncritical acceptance of the very doubtful proposition that facemasks are an effective and appropriate infection control measure for an airborne influenza like virus (such as we are currently informed is the case with the COVID-19 pandemic). This is compounded by the implication of use of the interviewee’s professional and academic capabilities to support population behaviour modification activities that promote what many critics of the measure perceive to be a scientifically unsupported and physiologically and psychologically damaging practice i.e. the normalised and habitual facemask wearing by the healthy general public.

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Notes on the COVID-19 Pandemic

PCR Tests

It is beyond question that the PCR research tool was never intended to be used as a diagnostic test. Indeed, Kary Mullis, the developer of the method is on record as explicitly warning that PCR should not be used in this fashion. PCR was developed as a method for amplifying small samples of DNA and RNA so that they can be detected, period. The issue Mullis pointed out with PCR being used for diagnosis is that the number of amplification cycles the researcher uses is purely arbitrary and after around 35 cycles the test is extremely prone to false positives. Mullis went on to assert that after 60 cycles 100% of tests for any section of DNA would likely prove positive given that so much genomic code is shared across all living organisms. In the case of the current situation, we understand that the number of cycles used varies between laboratories and across regions (i.e. this implies that it has not even been standardised). While the number of cycles used is commonly not advertised in the press, it is understood from a number of sources that between 35 and 45 cycles is commonplace. That means the PCR test results must be assumed to be inherently prone to significant error rates. A second issue with PCR is that the method does not actually test for the presence of a virus, but rather for sections of DNA (or in this case RNA) that have somehow been identified as being uniquely associated with the genome of a target organism.

As such, a positive PCR result cannot actually be used to ascertain whether there was a live target virus was present or that the host from which the sample was obtained was in fact currently infected given that the test could just be picking up detritus remaining after an infected cell had been eliminated by the host’s immune system. This brings into focus the third issue with the PCR test and that is how the reference sections of DNA (or RNA) have been established. In this case, it seems that lung fluids from a supposedly infected person was obtained and somehow the researchers identified some supposedly unique sections of RNA that they assumed were from a new virus. Note that this was based on a diagnosis of the person as being infected by the SARS-COV2 based on the person having the symptoms; however, as we know, this disease has no unique symptoms —every one of the primary symptoms identified has major commonalities with those of seasonal influenza, pneumonia infections and even the common cold.

Continue reading “Notes on the COVID-19 Pandemic”