THE FOCUS (2/11/2021)

The Masking of The World  

Science Becomes a Tool to Push Ideological or Power Agenda  

Does the use of facial masks really help reduce the spread of coronavirus? Well, this is a simple question, but the answer can be so convoluted that even the smartest person in the world perhaps cannot sort it out. Why? Because there is so much vested interest at stake. First, if we say masks do not help prevent the spread of the virus then given the slow spread of the virus (only 1.3% of the word population got contracted with the virus even after more than one year since its first outbreak in December 2020), the whole narrative that the virus is very contagious will crumble. Second, if we say that it helps reduce the spread of the virus but then it poses various health risks such as shortness of breath, a weakened immune system and chronic respiratory conditions, then we are dealing with a cost-benefit issue. And it may well be the case that the costs outweigh the benefits. Again, this may lead people to question the true danger of the coronavirus.

Science on Mask

The whole thing about coronavirus is mysterious, from its origins, the number of cases, the number of deaths, the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a cheap prophylaxis drug, to the effectiveness of masks, social distancing, and lockdowns imposed by governments around the world. To be sure we have something that can shed light on the aforementioned issues, namely science. Alas, science can be corrupt especially it is under the influence of interest groups. Or, if the people behind it have some ideological agenda. Or simply, science doesn’t give us the answer we want. Science on climate change is just one example.

And the science on masks is another. Just as one can find studies that show the evidence that wearing masks is helpful in reducing the spread of coronavirus, one can find numerous studies that found little to no evidence of the effectiveness of face masks in slowing down the spread of the virus.

 

The following is taken from Swiss Policy Research "Are Face Masks Effective? The Evidence."

  • A May 2020 meta-study on pandemic influenza published by the US CDC found that face masks had no effect, neither as personal protective equipment nor as a source control. (Source)

 

  • A Danish randomized controlled trial with 6000 participants, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in November 2020, found no statistically significant effect of high-quality medical face masks against SARS-CoV-2 infection in a community setting. (Source)

 

  • A July 2020 review by the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine found that there is no evidence for the effectiveness of cloth masks against virus infection or transmission. (Source)

 

  • A May 2020 cross-country study by the University of East Anglia (preprint) found that a mask requirement was of no benefit and could even increase the risk of infection. (Source)

 

  • An April 2020 review by two US professors in respiratory and infectious disease from the University of Illinois concluded that face masks have no effect in everyday life, neither as self-protection nor to protect third parties (so-called source control). (Source)

 

  • An article in the New England Journal of Medicine from May 2020 came to the conclusion that cloth face masks offer little to no protection in everyday life. (Source)

 

  • An April 2020 Cochrane review (preprint) found that face masks didn’t reduce influenza-like illness (ILI) cases, neither in the general population nor in health care workers. (Source)

 

  • An April 2020 review by the Norwich School of Medicine (preprint) found that “the evidence is not sufficiently strong to support widespread use of facemasks”, but supports the use of masks by “particularly vulnerable individuals when in transient higher risk situations.” (Source)

 

  • A 2015 study in the British Medical Journal BMJ Open found that cloth masks were penetrated by 97% of particles and may increase infection risk by retaining moisture or repeated use. (Source)

  • An August 2020 review by a German professor in virology, epidemiology and hygiene found that there is no evidence for the effectiveness of cloth face masks and that the improper daily use of masks by the public may in fact lead to an increase in infections. (Source)

As the charts below show, in states that have mask mandate, the daily new cases per 1 million population are higher than the states that have no mask mandate. Similarly, Sweden that has no mask mandate generally has lower cases per 1 million population. And the chart on Hawaii clearly demonstrates mask mandate has no effect on the daily cases of the coronavirus infection. 

Ian Miller at Rational Ground provides Post-Thanksgiving mask charts that show no evidence that masks work.

From spring to fall of 2020, several Scandinavian countries did not have mask mandates. In supermarkets, on buses, and along the streets of capitals -- such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Reykjavik -- face masks were a rare sight, worn only by a small minority, many of who were tourists. Yet, their coronavirus cases are comparable to European countries that have mask mandates.

More from the Swiss Policy Research "Are Face Masks Effective? The Evidence."
 
  • There is increasing evidence that the novel coronavirus is transmitted, at least in indoor settings, not only by droplets but also by smaller aerosols. However, due to their large pore size and poor fit, cloth masks cannot filter out aerosols (see video analysis below): over 90% of aerosols penetrate or bypass the mask and fill a medium-sized room within minutes.

  • The WHO admitted to the BBC that its June 2020 mask policy update was due not to new evidence but “political lobbying”: “We had been told by various sources WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying. This point was put to WHO who did not deny.” (D. Cohen, BBC Medical Corresponent).

  • To date, the only randomized controlled trial (RCT) on face masks against SARS-CoV-2 infection in a community setting found no statistically significant benefit (see above). However, three major journals refused to publish this study, delaying its publication by several months.

  • An analysis by the US CDC found that 85% of people infected with the new coronavirus reported wearing a mask “always” (70.6%) or “often” (14.4%). Compared to the control group of uninfected people, always wearing a mask did not reduce the risk of infection.

  • Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that the infectious dose of SARS-CoV-2 is just 300 virions (viral particles), whereas a single minute of normal speaking may generate more than 750,000 virions, making cloth face masks unlikely to prevent an infection.

  • Japan, despite its widespread use of face masks, experienced its most recent influenza epidemic with more than 5 million people falling ill just one year ago, in January and February 2019. However, unlike SARS-CoV-2, the influenza virus is easily transmitted by children, too.

  • Austrian scientists found that the introduction, retraction and re-introduction of a face mask mandate in Austria had no influence on the coronavirus infection rate.

  • In the US state of Kansas, the 90 counties without mask mandates had lower coronavirus infection rates than the 15 counties with mask mandates. To hide this fact, the Kansas health department tried to manipulate the official statistics and data presentation.

  • Contrary to common belief, studies in hospitals found that the wearing of a medical mask by surgeons during operations didn’t reduce post-operative bacterial wound infections in patients.

  • During the notorious 1918 influenza pandemic, the use of cloth face masks among the general population was widespread and in some places mandatory, but they made no difference.

  • Asian countries with low covid infection rates, most of them neighboring China, benefited not from face masks but mainly from early border closures. This is confirmed by Scandinavian countries Norway, Finland and Denmark, which didn’t introduce mask mandates but closed borders early and saw very low covid infection and death rates, too.

  • German scientists found that in and on N95 (FFP2) masks, the novel coronavirus remains infectious for several days, much longer than on most other materials, thus significantly increasing the risk of infection by touching or reusing such masks.

Studies claiming face masks are effective

Some recent studies argued that cloth face masks are indeed effective against the new coronavirus and could at least prevent the infection of other people. However, most of these studies suffer from poor methodology and sometimes show the opposite of what they claim.

Typically, these studies ignore the effect of other measures, the natural development of infection numbers, changes in test activity, or they compare countries with very different conditions.

An overview:

  • A meta-study in the journal Lancet, commissioned by the WHO, claimed that masks “could” lead to a reduction in the risk of infection, but the studies considered mainly N95 respirators in a hospital setting, not cloth masks in a community setting, the strength of the evidence was reported as “low”, and experts found numerous flaws in the study. Professor Peter Jueni, epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, called the WHO study “essentially useless”.

  • A study in the journal PNAS claimed that masks had led to a decrease in infections in three global hotspots (including New York City), but the study did not take into account the natural decrease in infections and other simultaneous measures. The study was so flawed that over 40 scientists recommended that the study be withdrawn.

  • A US study claimed that US counties with mask mandates had lower Covid infection and hospitalization rates, but the authors had to withdraw their study as infections and hospitalizations increased in many of these counties shortly after the study was published.

  • A German study claimed that the introduction of mandatory face masks in German cities had led to a decrease in infections. But the data does not support this claim: in some cities there was no change, in others a decrease, in others an increase in infections (see graph below). The city of Jena was an ‘exception’ only because it simultaneously introduced the strictest quarantine rules in Germany, but the study did not mention this.

  • A Canadian study claimed that countries with mandatory masks had fewer deaths than countries without mandatory masks. But the study compared African, Latin American, Asian and Eastern European countries with very different infection rates and population structures.

  • A small review by the University of Oxford claimed that face masks are effective, but it was based on studies about SARS-1 and in health care settings, not in community settings.

Conclusion

There’s little scientific evidence that the various face coverings we call “masks” do much if anything to stop the spread of the coronavirus. If the coronavirus is indeed transmitted via indoor aerosols, cloth masks are unlikely to be protective. Health authorities should therefore not assume or suggest that cloth face masks will reduce the rate or risk of infection. For general population, masks should be voluntary, not mandatory. To make matter worse, now the government via CDC is endorsing double masking.

The mask mandate is a way to remind people of constant unnecessary fear of the coronavirus as well as the fear of the authority. It has become a mask of fear and obedience. With little to no scientific support, or at least with some conflicting scientific evidence, a mask mandate is a purely political move intended specifically to create fear, anxiety and most important of all, obedience to government edicts.

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