LETTER WRITTEN FOR SOMEONE SUSPENDED FROM WORK FOR REFUSING TO "ENCOURAGE" CUSTOMERS TO WEAR MASKS
This 2020 meta-analysis found that evidence from randomised controlled trials of face masks did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility. (2)
Another recent review found that masks had no effect specifically against Covid-19 (3).
Therefore we can reasonably conclude the risk to customers and staff from not wearing masks is minimal to the point of non-existent.
Conversely, the wearing of masks does present a number of risks to health, some of them serious.
A 2018 study found that healthcare workers’ surgical masks also were measured by personal bioaerosol samplers to harbour for influenza virus. (4)
Various respiratory pathogens were found on the outer surface of used medical masks, which could result in self-contamination. (5)
Surgical masks were also found to be a repository of bacterial contamination. The source of the bacteria was determined to be the body surface of the surgeons, rather than the operating room environment. (6) Given that surgeons are gowned from head to foot for surgery, this finding should be especially concerning for laypeople who wear masks. Without the protective garb of surgeons, laypeople generally have even more exposed body surface to serve as a source for bacteria to collect on their masks.
Where it comes to cloth masks, healthcare workers wearing cloth masks had significantly higher rates of influenza-like illness after four weeks of continuous on-the-job use, when compared to controls. (7)
The increased rate of infection in mask-wearers may be due to a weakening of immune function during mask use. Surgeons have been found to have lower oxygen saturation after surgeries even as short as 30 minutes. (8) Low oxygen induces hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1). (9) This in turn down-regulates CD4+ T-cells. CD4+ T-cells, in turn, are necessary for viral immunity. (10)
Given these compelling scientific findings, clearly I could not in good conscience sign a document labelled a mask-wearing risk assessment, that had not actually assessed the risks, as documented in a wide array of peer-reviewed medical literature.
Having studied the available evidence extensively, it is clear to me that mask-wearing is neither safe nor effective where it comes to preventing viral transmission, nor in promoting the optimal health and safety of our customers whilst in store, and so I will therefore not be complicit in encouraging it.
This is compounded by the fact, as I alerted you to in earlier correspondence, that I am not the appropriate person to be encouraging mask use. The law clearly defines who those people are and what qualifications they have, and I clearly do not fulfil these criteria.
As I also elucidated to you earlier, the law clearly states that those with hidden disabilities are exempt from mask-wearing, and that it is illegal under the Equalities Act 2010 and the Disabilities Discrimination Act to ask someone if they have a hidden disability or what it is. So were I to "encourage" customers to wear masks, I would be putting [employer name] at the risk of legal action. This is another risk that was not included in the document labelled a risk assessment, and not a risk I am willing to take for myself or my employers.
Given the above, I consider my suspension to have been made on wholly illegitimate grounds, and I expect to be reinstated immediately, or I will be obliged to take further legal advice.
1 T Jefferson, M Jones, et al. Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. MedRxiv. 2020 Apr 7.
2 J Xiao, E Shiu, et al. Nonpharmaceutical measures for pandemic influenza in non-healthcare settings – personal protective and environmental measures. Centers for Disease Control. 26(5); 2020 May.
3 J Brainard, N Jones, et al. Facemasks and similar barriers to prevent respiratory illness such as COVID19: A rapid systematic review. MedRxiv. 2020 Apr 1.
4 F Blachere, W Lindsley et al. Assessment of influenza virus exposure and recovery from contaminated surgical masks and N95 respirators. J Viro Methods. 2018 Oct; 260:98-106.
5 A Chughtai, S Stelzer-Braid, et al. Contamination by respiratory viruses on our surface of medical masks used by hospital healthcare workers. BMC Infect Dis. 2019 Jun 3; 19(1): 491.
6 L Zhiqing, C Yongyun, et al. J Orthop Translat. 2018 Jun 27; 14:57-62.
7 C MacIntyre, H Seale, et al. A cluster randomized trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers. BMJ Open. 2015; 5(4)
8 A Beder, U Buyukkocak, et al. Preliminary report on surgical mask induced deoxygenation during major surgery. Neurocirugia. 2008; 19: 121-126.
9 D Lukashev, B Klebanov, et al. Cutting edge: Hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha and its activation-inducible short isoform negatively regulate functions of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes. J Immunol. 2006 Oct 15; 177(8) 4962-4965.
10 A Sant, A McMichael. Revealing the role of CD4+ T-cells in viral immunity. J Exper Med. 2012 Jun 30; 209(8):1391-1395.