FARGO — Bismarck city commissioner Mark Splonskowski joins the growing list of North Dakota officials to say silly (and potentially dangerous) things in their opposition to a mask mandate to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
At a six-hour meeting Tuesday, Oct. 27, Splonskowski punctuated his opposition to a mask mandate (individual choice, freedom, liberty, slippery slope, etc.) by continually saying the science behind wearing a mask is unsettled (no, it isn't) before deciding to play doctor (he's a Burleigh County tax appraiser for his day job).
Late in the meeting, in what is clearly a "I'm just spitballing here" moment, Splonskowski suggests that instead of a mask mandate, the city of Bismarck suggest to its citizens that they wear a mask, social distance and ... take vitamin D.
He says vitamin D is "scientifically proven" and "scientifically backed" to be effective against COVID. It is not.
Bismarck city commissioner Mark Splonskowski has the secret weapon against COVID that will prevent liberty from being trampled by a mask mandate. pic.twitter.com/0zRrKIep6t— Mike McFeely (@McFeely_Inforum) October 28, 2020
That is a top Bismarck official's solution to a pandemic that has seen record cases and rising deaths as it has spread uncontrolled through North Dakota: Take vitamin D, an unproven and possibly completely ineffective way to stop a person from catching or recovering from the coronavirus.
Splonskowski also says that among the reasons he can't support a mask mandate is that "rape and strangled victims" will face psychological issues if they are forced to wear a face covering.
"They have some psychological issues going on, major psychological issues," Splonskowski said. "I don't even want to know what they go through when their breath is stifled."
But Splonskowski's main issue was that he wanted to tell citizens to take Vitamin D, as an apparent safeguard against COVID-19.
"Maybe a lot of people don't know about the Vitamin D, this vitamin or this vitamin," he said. "Just trying something new, completely out of the box that nobody's ever tried before because we might get different results. People might say, 'Hey, you know what, I've never heard of that. They didn't force me to wear a mask so you know what, out of respect for them, out of respect for me, I'm going to try that. I'm going to do that.'
More Splonskowski ‘splaining about the miracle anti-COVID drug known as Vitamin D (there is no proof Vitamin D is effective against COVID, BTW). He literally says if we take Vitamin D, COVID deaths will go down. pic.twitter.com/MRBJTKpkAE— Mike McFeely (@McFeely_Inforum) October 28, 2020
"We might not see our COVID cases go down, but we'll sure as heck see our deaths go down. And that's the important thing. Just food for thought."
There is no evidence — zero — that taking vitamin D increases an infected person's chances of surviving the virus. One recent study in Spain showed that 80% of coronavirus patients tested had low levels of vitamin D. But there are so many other variants in the patients that it's unclear exactly what role the vitamin deficiency played.
"Researchers ... didn’t find any link between vitamin D deficiency and severity of the illness, with no significantly higher rates of ICU admission, ventilator use, or death among those with inadequate levels of the sunshine vitamin," according to one media report.
Again, there is no evidence to show vitamin D helps prevent COVID infection or lower the risk of death from it. Yet the commissioner states, as fact, that taking Vitamin D will result in fewer COVID deaths, a claim that is easily found to be false.
Bismarck city commissioner Mark Splonskowski says a mask mandate can’t work because “rape and strangled victims” will face psychological issues if they have to wear a mask. (He seems to reference that it was brought up earlier in the meeting by somebody else). pic.twitter.com/f7sOL5ZYZ2— Mike McFeely (@McFeely_Inforum) October 28, 2020
The Mayo Clinic web site has a COVID question section and one of the questions specifically asked is whether vitamin D protects against or is effective in the treatement of the coronavirus disease.
The answer, Mayo says by citing major health organizations, is that there isn't enough information to say definitively.
"There isn't enough data to recommend use of vitamin D to prevent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or to treat COVID-19, according to the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization," the web site says.
Mayo does say there was one study showing "that those who had a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 than people who had normal levels of vitamin D" and other research "has observed high rates of vitamin D deficiency in people with COVID-19 who experienced acute respiratory failure. These people had a significantly higher risk of dying."
Mayo said the jury is still out on whether Vitamin D reduces COVID infection or mortality.
"Further research is needed to determine what role, if any, vitamin D and vitamin D deficiency might play in the prevention of and treatment of COVID-19," the web site said.
Splonskowski joins Fargo city commissioner Dave Piepkorn and Mandan mayor Tim Helbling in the pantheon of North Dakota local politicians who'd be better off rethinking their reasons for opposing mask mandates.
Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 451-5655