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Letters to the Editor: Every American needs an N95 mask more than a stimulus check

N95 masks
N95 masks, which provide more protection against respiratory viruses than surgical or cloth masks, are in short supply.
(Ana B. Ibarra / California Healthline)

To the editor: I applaud the article comparing San Francisco’s and Los Angeles’ responses to the 1918 influenza pandemic with the current COVID-19 crisis. I am mystified, though, by the lack of coverage on the efficacy of wearing face masks, particularly those that are not N95 respirators.

A March 26 report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control warned that cloth masks “are not considered protective against respiratory viruses and their use should not be encouraged.” My feeling is that cloth masks, particularly ones that are homemade, give wearers a false sense of security.

A much better solution than recommending cloth masks for the general public would have been to ramp up production of N95 masks much earlier and to distribute them free to all Americans, particularly in coronavirus hot spots. A $1,200 stimulus check is great, but if every American had instead received $1,000 plus three N95 masks, it could have been more effective at fighting the coronavirus.

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are the real reasons the situation has not worsened dramatically in California. My hope is that Gov. Gavin Newsom and all Californians resist the temptation to reopen too early, as both Los Angeles and San Francisco did in 1918.

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We need more testing, more N95 masks and more science.

Jonathan Breton, Mission Viejo

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To the editor: Why would an otherwise excellent front-page article use the moniker “Spanish flu” for the 1918 influenza pandemic?

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Historians tell us the name originated — and stuck — because Spanish media were not censored in World War I, and their news reports told of the disease while other nations’ media outlets did not.

As the parent of a college student in Los Angeles, I appreciate the L.A. Times for telling me what’s happening in my son’s new city of residence. I learned much from this article, but I wish it would have simply referred to “the 1918 flu pandemic.”

We don’t need to blame Spain for that one, and we don’t need to blame any one nation for this one.

Paula Chambers, Richmond, Va.

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To the editor: We have learned important lessons from the 1918 flu, including the need to take highly contagious diseases seriously, that social distancing and face masks can help slow their spread, and that opening up too soon can have tragic consequences.

Now, we should combine the benefits of 20th century hindsight with 21st century technology to fight today’s pandemic.

Taiwan, whose population of 23.8 million souls is more than double Los Angeles County’s 10 million, has only about 430 confirmed COVID-19 cases, compared to our 15,000-plus cases and more than 670 deaths.

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If we use people’s smartphones for contact tracing, as Taiwan does, we would be able to quickly reopen our society and economy without the terrible rebound of infection that our ancestors experienced in 1918.

Robert MyaPe, Los Angeles

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To the editor: The article states that Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency on March 4. It failed to mention that four days later, the L.A. Marathon was allowed to be run.

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Dave Thoma, Ventura


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