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Much More Than Masks

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In response to the letter from Amy Gustin, "Must be the Masks" (Mailbox, Jan. 20), we must make comparisons that are more accurate. On Dec. 3, 2021, a study called Norway versus Sweden: A case study in COVID-19 came out by Biljana Stangeland PhD. The key information will be addressed.

The response to COVID in Norway, as well as other Scandinavian countries, was to implement lockdowns and restrictions. Sweden chose to be much less restrictive and continued life as normal. There were 1.16 million documented COVID-19 cases in Sweden, with 14,900 people who lost their lives to the disease. In Norway, during the same period, there were 193,000 cases and 871 deaths. Adjusting to population size, the number of cases was five times higher in Sweden, and the number of deaths was 12 times higher in Sweden than in Norway. In 92 weeks, Sweden fared the worst when compared with all of the Scandinavian countries. I wonder what percentage of Swedes would have gladly worn a piece of cloth over their face, if they knew it may have prevented a friend or family member from being hospitalized or buried?

At the present time, 82 percent of all Swedes are vaccinated with two doses or more. Norway has an 88-percent rate. In the United States, 63 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated (causing a higher death rate?). On Jan. 12, 2022, Sweden introduced the implementation of much stricter infection control measures, including the wearing of masks in public places. Is this in response to the data?

As for the economy, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have all fared better than they were before the pandemic on every measure. America has also performed reasonably well. This information is from The Economist's Jan 1, 2022, edition. Denmark ranked first, Sweden third, Norway fourth and the United States ninth out of 23 rich countries. Let's look at all the information before dispensing an opinion that masks and restrictions have been more harmful than helpful. That may not be the case.

Teresa Baginski, Eureka


I found it amusing, well more like irritating, that Gustin ("Must be the Masks," Mailbox, Jan. 20) chose the mask issue as her takeaway from her three months in Sweden. I lived in Scandinavia for six years and have friends in Stockholm, a town where I've spent considerable time over four decades. So what might be more significant to learn from time in Sweden?

To name a few — they believe in government and follow guidelines, they believe in the collective good and will act on behalf of what is best for everyone and they have universal health coverage, in other words, an excellent health care system to weather the numbers of people hospitalized or in need of medical care. None of these conditions exist here that might impact how we address COVID.

Stockholm center has cameras to record the license plates of every car that enters the downtown. If anyone driving in does not have a permit to do so, they are fined. This is to assure that anyone using a car has a purpose to be there and need of using their car. This policy reinforces using public transportation, which everyone does in Sweden. It comes back to their belief in doing what is best for the collective, in this case for the environment and health of a city. This would never fly here. It would be resisted by the proponents of so-called "freedom." Well, in Scandinavia there is real freedom because people are secure in knowing that their cultural and political representatives actually care about everyone's well-being.

I suggest Gustin read Jennifer Fumiko Cahill's editorial in this issue ("Fighting for Everyone", Jan. 20) where the very values in Scandinavia are reflected. These are the meaningful observations to learn about Sweden and to advocate for here. One more thing, voting happens in libraries, schools, etc. all over the country there and goes on days, making it easily accessible.

Pamela Ann Brown, Arcata


Amy Gustin's Jan. 20 letter gives a superficial and incomplete analysis of COVID and wearing masks. She notes that Sweden did not have a mask mandate when she was there last year and that its rate of deaths from COVID was less than in the U.S. Part of the social contract in Sweden is free universal health care, which gives rise to a much healthier population. Health conditions that increase the risk of death from COVID are much higher in the U.S. Our level of obesity is three times higher, while chronic lung and kidney disease and diabetes are more than twice as high here as in Sweden. Heart disease rates here are also significantly higher. Amy fails to take this into consideration.

In Sweden, nearly 80 percent of the population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated. The most vulnerable population is at about 95 percent. In the U.S., 64 percent are fully vaccinated, and only about 50 percent of the most vulnerable are vaccinated. If our country had the level of social cohesion she observed in Sweden, we would see a higher rate of vaccination and fewer COVID-related deaths.

Today, Sweden's level of COVID risk is very high and the CDC advises against traveling there. Sweden is now rethinking its position on masks. In Norway, masks are mandatory when you travel by public transport, or taxi, in shops, shopping centers and indoor areas. Sweden's COVID death rate is 10 times higher than Norway, where they wear masks. Do you think there might be some correlation?

The contrast between Sweden and Humboldt is stark and bleak, as Amy observes. While Swedes follow the best medical advice and get vaccinated, too many here refuse vaccines, thinking they know more than medical experts. And yes, Amy, many of us are getting sick and tired of it.

Diane Higgins, McKinleyville


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