Who is advising Mayor Ethan Berkowitz these days?

If you guessed Hong Kong Hamsters, you’re right. 

The Anchorage mayor said that a recent study in Hong Kong showed that hamsters with face masks were less likely to infect each other with the coronavirus.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has repeated A phrase that he is following the science and the data, not the calendar, in making decisions about when to allow Anchorage businesses to operate. He has Anchorage on semi-lockdown until Monday morning, but even when it opens, there will be rules, he said, not mere guidelines.

In his press announcement on Friday, he cited the study saying that the hamsters infected each other a lot less when using face masks.

The problem is the 52 hamsters in the study were not actually wearing the face masks. The researchers were using face masks as room dividers as they blew virus from one cage to another.

But that’s not how Berkowitz read the study.

According to Slate magazine, “Hamsters might reasonably use surgical masks as room dividers to slow the spread of the coronavirus, some unpublished research suggests. That is the real takeaway from a study that has gone a little viral, as studies are wont to do in this age of the coronavirus.

“Hong Kong University microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung first described his work to news outlets in Asia on Sunday. Fifty-two hamsters reportedly participated. Yuen and his team housed the hamsters in a series of cages, infecting the residents of half with the coronavirus (yes, a paper in review suggests hamsters can get the coronavirus). The researchers paired infected cages with uninfected cages, putting each side by side, explains the South China Morning Post. In one scenario, the infected hamsters had masks shielding their cages “as if they were wearing a mask,” as a Radio Television Hong Kong story put it. In another scenario, the masks were on the cages of uninfected hamsters. Cages in a control scenario had no mask dividers at all. Fans blew air between the cages, to help the virus travel.”

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