When I set foot in Japan in 1957, a callow 18-year-old U.S. airman, I was quickly treated to the surprising sight of many Japanese citizens wearing quaint, white masks over their noses and mouths.

I quickly learned that the masks were worn to protect others from the common cold.

Mask wearing in the interest of both personal and public health in Japan is traced back far earlier than the worldwide 1918-1920 Spanish flu pandemic that infected 500 million people and caused 50 million deaths in 1918-1920.

Interestingly, in the autumn of 1918, Japan’s National Public Health Bureau acted on information on San Francisco’s success through mask orders and launched its own promotion of face masks, which escalated to mandates.

I understand that 20 years ago Japan launched public campaigns in which mask-wearing came to symbolize love and care for family members, fellow workers, communities and nation.

Children began taking their own masks to school, proud to be a good family member, a good neighbor and a good citizen. During the present pandemic, many Japanese children proudly wear masks as a fashion accessory with stylish colors, flowers and cartoon characters.

With due respect to Daily News columnist Chuck Pezeshki and letter-to-the-editor writer Tim Moore (both May 22), their views are representative of millions of Americans who imagine their rights and liberties allow them to ignore the legitimate requirements of civilization.

This is a self-centered worldview that essentially claims that their wishes and demands are more important than those of their fellow citizens.

They are political, not science based, and reflect a misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution.

We should expect more from Pezeshki. He is a physical scientist, but the sciences involved in studies of pandemics are social sciences — such as statistics, which are an entirely different kettle of fish.

Pezeshki baldly claims that face masks aren’t preventative, but cites no research. And for a very good reason, I suspect there is none.

Moore claims “Masks are a clever ruse,” and asked “anyone to supply a shred of real scientific evidence to the contrary.” Sadly, the ruse is that masks don’t provide very important protection from COVID-19 with benefits to both wearers and people with which they associate.

There is a plethora of scientific studies, dating well back in history, that demonstrate the effectiveness of masks in preventing air-borne infectious pathogens.

The Old Testament reports the use of mouth coverings to prevent leprosy, but data — if any — apparently hasn’t survived. However, there is an overabundance of good research that shows masks are effective and important in public health.

Unfortunately, there also is an abundance of weak — dare I say, poor — research and misinterpretations of mask research.

Scientists cannot conduct controlled studies on mask wearing simply because they cannot control all of the circumstances and conditions necessary to do so.

The best study I’ve seen is that of the University of Hong Kong’s Kwok-Yung Yuen who researched mask wearing with infected and healthy hamsters in adjoining cages.

Virginia Tech/Blacksburg environmental engineers have found that even the cloth in a cotton T-shirt is highly effective.

Pezeshky and Moore, and anyone else who has fallen for Trumpian disinformation, are welcome to read Lynne Peeples’ peer-reviewed article in the journal Nature. It reports many research articles, including those cited above.

Simply go to nature.com/articles and type in “Face masks: what the data say.”

Day is a retired Washington State facultymember and a Pullman resident since 1972.He encourages email to terence@moscow.com.

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