On April 28, a Reddit post on the subreddit r/covidlonghaulers revealed that medical staff at Stanford Medicine had stopped masking when seeing Long COVID patients face-to-face as part of an ongoing clinical trial. The poster said that his wife quit and walked out of the study as a result. At least one other participant is confirmed to have also walked out on the trial. 

Clinical lab scientist Selam Bihon processes upper respiratory samples from patients suspected of having COVID-19 at the Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

“… Not only does it demonstrate a complete lack of regard and understanding for the illness in question, in my opinion it calls into question the legitimacy of the entire study,” the user said in the reddit post. “We’ve been traveling hundreds of miles for months in order to try to participate in their study and provide THEM with data about the illness, and this is what they think of us.”

The clinical trial, which is sponsored by Stanford University in collaboration with Pfizer and run by Stanford Medicine, seeks to compare the effectiveness of Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) with that of a placebo (and ritonavir) in treating post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), more commonly known as Long COVID. The study includes 200 participants with Long COVID who were randomly assigned to receive either Paxlovid or the placebo. Participants would take their drug for the first 15 days and come into the study clinic five times over the course of the next 15 weeks.

In early April, Stanford Medicine announced that masks are no longer required for staff, patients or visitors across the whole hospital system. Hospitals across the country have similarly been dropping mask mandates despite the spread of the new Arcturus variant.

The notion that hospital systems would remove mask mandates in health care can only be understood within the larger context of the abandonment of all COVID safety measures in the US and around the world to ensure the continuing enrichment of the ruling classes. In the US, this bipartisan policy has been spearheaded by the Biden administration and followed by state legislatures no matter which party is in control. 

On Thursday, the White House ended the national COVID-19 public health emergency, which means that the CDC will no longer track COVID-19 transmission at the “community level,” uninsured Americans will now have to pay full price for vaccines, tests, and other treatments, and millions of people are now at risk of losing their health coverage through the “unwinding” of Medicaid. This was preceded by the World Health Organization’s announcement formally ending the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), a decision with no scientific basis that serves to justify the ending of public health measures by governments around the world. 

The ending of masking, especially in a health care setting, puts society’s most vulnerable at risk. In addition, health care workers, burned out and already bearing the brunt of the mismanagement of the virus, are now facing increasingly unsafe conditions as even the nominal protection from masks is taken away.

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