If you've followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you'll know I'm no fan of mask mandates, or masking in general, yet this is the first time I'm really writing about them in detail.
Masking has become like a religion. I doubt many (most?) people who fervently wears masks actually know whether or not they reduce the spread of COVID, but I also doubt those people care. It's not about efficacy for them, it's about virtue signaling.
For those who wear them because they believe what they've been told by their government overlords, here's the unfortunate reality: masks worn by healthy people in the community are a waste of time because they don't help with the spread of COVID-19. How did I arrive at that conclusion? I followed the science and the data, plain and simple.
Out of Nowhere and Unsupported
The CDC's April 3rd 2020 recommendation for people to wear masks came completely out of left field. After all, less than 45 days prior both the Surgeon General and Anthony Fauci made very public statements saying people shouldn't be wearing masks.
Even after the CDC made its recommendation, organizations like the NE Journal of Medicine, CIDRAP, WHO, Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford, and even a study published in the CDC's own journal all indicated that there was no real scientific basis for the recommendation of mask-wearing by otherwise healthy people in a community setting. But as we all know, recommendations became requirements, and here we are almost 18 months later.
While the mandates are irritating, what's even worse is the hypocrisy by those same people who lecture us from their positions of power and authority that it's our fault people are dying and the pandemic is continuing because we're not vigilant with mask use. Oh really? Many of those same people couldn't be bothered to follow their own rules. Fauci wore his mask only while the camera was on. One DOJ official wore his mask just for the 15ft trip to the podium. CA Governor Gavin Newsom had an indoor dinner for lobbyists and then lied about it while CA was under strict gathering limitations, and the mayor of Austin urged Texans to stay home while he went on vacation to Mexico. Those are just a few of the many, many examples that exist. If COVID-19 was as dangerous as these people want you to believe and if mask wearing was as critical to the fight as they claim, then there's no way you'd catch these – or any – politicians 0r bureaucrats breaking protocol. The reality is the politicians and officials who were making the rules knew they were largely, if not exclusively, for show.
Where's the Science?
There have been a couple observational studies done in labs and with mannequins claiming to suggest that wearing a mask helps contain the spread of COVID. The government appears to have largely relied on those kinds of studies in support of their decree that masks work. Unfortunately for them, weak observational studies do not trump Randomized Control Trials, the gold standard for medical research. There have been a number of RCT's over the last 15 years all testing the effectiveness of surgical masks. A 2006 study found the benefits from mask wearing were "not statistically significant." This 2010 study "did not identify any trend in the results suggesting effectiveness of facemasks." Another 2010 study concluded "no additional benefit was observed when facemask was added to hand hygiene by comparison with hand hygiene alone." A study from 2011 found "transmission was not reduced by interventions to promote hand washing and face mask use." This study from 2012 found "masks alone did not provide a benefit," and finally, a study from 2020 found that the difference in outcomes between masked and unmasked individuals "was not statistically significant."
But what about the effectiveness of cloth masks? Michael Osterholm, a Biden COVID advisor was on CNN earlier this month and stated unequivocally "we know today that many of the face cloth coverings that people wear are not very effective in reducing any of the virus movement in or out."
If surgical masks basically don't do anything and cloth masks are even worse, what about N95 masks? N95s haven't been recommended or mandated yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if they are at some point. What does the science say about their efficacy? I couldn't find any RCT's specifically testing N95s, but the 5 observational studies I was able to find suggested they weren't any better than surgical masks.
Real World Data
Now, let's put aside all those studies and the associated arguments over methodology and interpretation of results for a moment and consider that we've all been a part of a 1.5 year global study on the effectiveness of masks in limiting the spread of COVID. And what are the results? Masks are an abject failure. That is the only rational conclusion you can come to after looking at the overwhelming data painstakingly curated by Ian, published on his substack.
If, despite all evidence to the contrary, you still think masks work, feel free to take the COVID Charts Quiz. There you can attempt to point out on various graphs when mandates were put into practice, how those States/Countries performed and so on. If you're so confident in masks you should be able to crush the quiz.
Honestly, I don't know why the CDC recommended masks in April of 2020. They did so in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom at the time and without any new scientific data to back it up. On top of that they've had multiple opportunities to walk back their position and reaccept the science, something I assumed they were doing in my last post, and they haven't. I turned out to be very wrong there.
There are many conspiracy theories regarding masks, all of which could be possible, but I think it's more out of incompetence and precedent. They changed guidance because they were being pressured, either from within or without, to issue some kind of behavior recommendation and they figured masks were as good a recommendation as any, and now that they have, they're stuck with it. It's up to us, the citizens to stand up and simply not comply. When enough people do that, the government will be forced to drop the charade.