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Mask Mandates STILL Have No Science Behind Them
With the return of cold and flu season (aka, “winter”), the purveyors of the Pandemic Panic Narrative are resurrecting the one of the most explicitly anti-science measures enacted during the “pandemic”1: the mask mandate.
There is exactly zero science behind the concept of universal masking. To make matters worse, there has always been zero science, and even the “experts” now pushing mask mandates have previously declaimed their efficacy and utility.
Yet mask mandates are making a comeback, as school districts and communities react to the fear porn of the (non-existent) “tripledemic” by demanding people return to the face diaper.
The School District of Philadelphia will make masking mandatory for students and staff after returning from winter break. The mandatory masking will be from Jan. 3 to 13.
The School District announced in August that it planned to implement the temporary mandate in its 2022-2023 school year general COVID-19 protocol.
Nor are they alone: The State University of New York is reinstituting a mask mandate at one of its colleges.
One of the State University of New York's top liberal arts colleges announced Tuesday it was reinstating its indoor mask mandate for thousands, citing high COVID-19 transmission levels that have prompted a flurry of renewed advisories across much of America in recent weeks.
SUNY Purchase said it believed it was the lone Westchester County college to reinstate the mask rule amid rising COVID cases. The announcement included a current case total of 165 for the county, though New Yorkers know that number is likely well underestimated.
The CDC, of course, is still on the face mask bandwagon, arguing unscientifically for face masks when the Community Level of COVID infection is Medium or High.
This much must be understood straight away: universal masking has been discredited as a public health strategy literally for decades. This is not “new” science. This is not even controversial science. While very few areas of biomedical research can ever claim to be “settled science”, the topic of universal masking is one of the areas where that claim can begin to be taken seriously.
As I documented in April of 2020—at the very outset of the COVID pandemic—there were at least 4 peer-reviewed Random Controlled Trials (the “gold standard” of biomedical research) on the topic of universal masking, none of which found any demonstrable or statistically significant benefit to universal masking.
Further investigation by statistician Jeffrey H. Anderson found ten more RCTs on universal masking and none of those found any demonstrable or statistically significant benefit to universal masking. A few of those studies specifically addressed COVID cases.
The crowning indignity regarding mask mandates, however, has to be the horrendously tainted Bangladeshi study on universal masking, which aimed to settle the universal masking question once and for all—only the study was so horribly corrupted by poor protocols and lack of adherence to controls as to completely invalidate the author’s conclusions.
Even the large Bangladeshi study which the CDC claimed showed positive impact fails to deliver on that claim when one looks closely at the data—which is what Denis Rancourt, researcher with the Ontario Civil Liberties Union in Canada did, and found the study “fatally flawed.”
The cluster-randomized trial study of Abaluck et al. (2021) is fatally flawed, and therefore of no value for informing public health policy, for two main reasons:
The antibody detection was performed using a single commercial FDA emergency-use-authorized (EUA) serology test that is not suitable for the intended application to SARS-CoV-2 in Bangladesh (not calibrated or validated for populations in Bangladesh; undetermined cross-reactivity against broad-array IgM antibodies, malaria, influenza, etc.).
The participants (individual level, family level, village level) in the control and treatment arms were systematically handled in palpably different ways that are linked to factors established to be strongly associated to infection and severity with viral respiratory diseases, in particular, and to individual health in general.
Once one looks at the entire data set, as statistician William Briggs also did, the demonstrated efficacy of face masks in that study was 0.0026%.
Which means there are at least fifteen Random Controlled Trials which show “limited to no impact” for universal masking strategies.
Fifteen studies which show that universal masking is ineffective at controlling the spread of infectious respiratory diseases—that is the state of “the science” on mask mandates.
That there are fifteen studies which reach the same broad conclusion is important, just as the number of studies demonstrating levels of efficacy for Ivermectin as a COVID theraputic is important: the number of studies means we have reproducibility, which means universal masking research is not another exemplar of the “replication crisis.”
Over the past several decades, concern has been growing on the low success rate of replication studies within the fields of social, biological, and medical sciences. In social psychology, for example, rigorous replication studies have failed to replicate many previously published scientific findings. In fact, a 2015 large-scale replication study included 100 experiments from three high-ranking psychology journals just to find that only between 30% to 50% of the original findings were observed in the repeated studies.
Unlike much of what is promoted and shilled by a propagandistic corporate media, which have at most one or two studies and little or no effort to confirm study results through independent efforts at replication, mask mandates have been scrutinized thoroughly and repeatedly. They have multiple times been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
So thorough is the scientific case against universal masking that when Los Angeles County attempted to reinstate a mask mandate in April of this year, the stated rationale by LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer was little more than “the CDC said so.”
The county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the decision is based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's opinion that mask-wearing on transit remains an essential step to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Here's what Ferrer said Thursday in announcing the resumption of the rules.
"They are experts," Ferrer told reporters during an online briefing. "They made a determination that at this point having that requirement in place is necessary for the public's health, and that resonates with us."
At the time, Los Angeles County’s own COVID data did not even confirm there was a COVID crisis, and Ms. Ferrer simply ignored the best evidence of the state of COVID infections in her own county to genuflect to the opinions of the CDC.
Amazingly, as infectious respiratory diseases including COVID experience their seasonal resurgence in Los Angeles County and elsewhere, Ms. Ferrer this time is holding off on the mask mandate—contrary to the CDC recommendations.
During a press conference, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county had moved into the "high" COVID-19 community transmission category, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it would be sticking with its "strong recommendation" on indoor masking.
Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer left the option of a mask mandate on the table, but if and only if 10% of county hospital beds are filled with COVID patients.
Why Ms. Ferrer is choosing to stick with her county’s data this time around is unclear, as is how she arrived at the arbitrary threshold of 10% of county hospital beds going to COVID patients as the point at which universal masking would begin to work.
When New York City reinstated its mask mandate on December 9, it paid lip service to its own data on infectious respiratory disease before genuflecting to the CDC’s ill-informed opinion on face masks.
Everyone, even if vaccinated and even if they have had COVID-19 or flu before, should wear a mask as follows:
a. Wear a mask at all times when in an indoor public setting, including inside stores, offices, lobbies, hallways, elevators, public transportation, schools, child care facilities, and other public shared spaces, and when in a crowded outdoor setting.
However, the fatal problem with the NYC mask mandate is that it egregiously mis-stated the nature of airborne transmission of COVID and other infectious respiratory diseases:
WHEREAS, COVID-19, flu, RSV, and other respiratory infections are transmitted
predominantly by inhalation of respiratory droplets that contain the virus, or those droplets entering the eyes, nose, or mouth, and masks can reduce both the amount of respiratory droplets that enter the air by the wearer and the wearer’s exposure to droplets from others;
As an August 2020 review of available research concluded2, there is substantial evidence supporting the view that the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads via aerosols. That same study noted that transmission via large respiratory droplets did not have a comparable body of evidence, and was merely an accepted assumption regarding the virus.
Current evidence on SARS-CoV-2 has limitations, but is strongly indicative of aerosols as one of several routes of COVID-19 transmission. It should be noted that the equivalent evidence for contact and large droplet transmission is not available, but has been an unproven assumption from the outset.
Aerosol transmission defeats all but N95 respirators, properly fitted—which defeats mask mandates on economic and product availability grounds.
There are also health considerations regarding the impact of extended wearing of N95 respirators and their capacity to interfere with normal breathing, as was documented in a 2011 study regarding their use3.
…we found a mean increment of 126 and 122% in inspiratory and expiratory flow resistances, respectively, with the use of N95 respirators. From clinical viewpoints, an increase in nasal resistance is mainly attributed by nasal obstructions caused by anatomical deformities of the nose or edematous, which were commonly found in infectious or inflammatory diseases. However, in this study, it is probably due to an average reduction of 37% in air exchange volume with the use of N95 respirators.
Restricting air flow by more than a third is not something one does when trying to stay health as a general rule.
When fifteen studies show that universal masking does not work, when mask mandates ignore the data and mis-state the available evidence on both COVID transmission and the utility of both masks and mask mandates, what is left is a stance that is demonstrably, explicitly, even proudly “anti-science”.
Which is exactly where New York City, SUNY, and the Philadelphia School District stand—against scientific data, scientific research, and scientific thought.
As one with a strong belief in libertarian principles, I will never tell anyone they should take their mask off. If a person feels more at ease wearing a face mask, if they believe they are protecting their own health by wearing a face mask, that is their choice to make, and I respect their freedom to make that choice. However, when anyone tells me that I should wear a face mask to protect them, unless and until there is a body of evidence supporting universal masking comparable to the body of evidence rejecting it, my response will be a simple and almost polite “go to Hell.”
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By now, the data has amply demonstrated that the spread of COVID-19 around the world was many things, but a true pandemic on the scale of even the 1918 Spanish Flu was never one of them. We must therefore always include several grains of salt when using the term “COVID pandemic.”
Tang, Song et al. “Aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2? Evidence, prevention and control.” Environment international vol. 144 (2020): 106039. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2020.106039