A hallmark of Covid-19 pandemic policy has been the failure of political leaders and health officials to anticipate the unintended consequences of their actions. This tendency has haunted many decisions, from lockdowns that triggered enormous unemployment and increased alcohol and drug abuse, to school closures that are widening educational disparities between rich and poor families. Mask mandates may also have unintended consequences that outweigh the benefits.
First, consider how the debate has evolved and the underlying scientific evidence. Several randomized trials of community or household masking have been completed. Most have shown that wearing a mask has little or no effect on respiratory virus transmission, according to a review published earlier this year in Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal. In March, when Anthony Fauci said, “wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better” but “it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think it is,” his statement reflected scientific consensus, and was consistent with the World Health Organization’s guidance.
Almost overnight, the recommendations flipped. The reason? The risk of asymptomatic transmission. Health officials said mask mandates were now not only reasonable but critical. This is a weak rationale, given that presymptomatic spread of respiratory viruses isn’t a novel phenomenon in public health. Asymptomatic cases of influenza occur in up to a third of patients, according to a 2016 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases, and even more patients had mild cases that are never diagnosed. Asymptomatic or mild cases appear to contribute more to Covid-19 transmission, but this happens in flu cases, too, though no one has called for mask mandates during flu season.
The public assumes that research performed since the beginning of the pandemic supports mask mandates. Policy makers and the media point to low-quality evidence, such as a study of Covid-19 positive hairstylists in Missouri or a Georgia summer camp with an outbreak. These anecdotes, while valuable, tell us nothing about the experience of other hairdressers or other summer camps that adopted similar or different masking practices. Also low-quality evidence: Videos of droplets spreading through air as people talk, a well-intended line of research that has stoked fears about regular human interactions.
Rather, the highest-quality evidence so far is studies like the one published in June in Health Affairs, which found that U.S. states instituting mask mandates had a 2% reduction in growth rates of Covid-19 compared with states without these mandates. Because respiratory virus spread is exponential, modest reductions can translate into large differences over time. But these shifts in trajectory are distinct from the notion that mandating masks will bring the pandemic to an end. Based on evidence around the world, it should be clear that mask mandates won’t extinguish the virus.
The most reasonable conclusion from the available scientific evidence is that community mask mandates have—at most—a small effect on the course of the pandemic. But you wouldn’t know that from watching cable news or sitting next to a mother being forced off an airplane because her small children aren’t able to keep a mask on.
While mask-wearing has often been invoked in explanations for rising or falling Covid-19 case counts, the reality is that these trends reflect a basic human need to interact with one another. Claims that low mask compliance is responsible for rising case counts are also not supported by Gallup data, which show that the percentage of Americans reporting wearing masks has been high and relatively stable since June. Health officials and political leaders have assigned mask mandates a gravity unsupported by empirical research
Are you referring to the 229,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths thus far, including the 1,004 added yesterday, or to the increasingly alarming CDC projections of the count by February 1, 2021? All indicators presently suggest we’re on the cusp of a huge wave of infections. The best case projection is now at nearly 2 million dead. I don’t even want to think about the top line on the graph, which is the worst case projection.
We have been lead toward a catastrophe. Joe Biden wasn’t doing the leading. The guy who was is blaming everybody but himself. He thinks he should be chosen to lead us out of a situation that he won’t even acknowledge exists.
I suppose the death of 4 million Americans—mostly older or ill—would be a big help in reducing Social Security and Medicare costs.
@Ronald J. Ward:
If you’re not here for the entertainment factor, then you really have no reason to be here.
@Greg: You are a liar If he didnt think it existed he wouldnt have had ventilators made, the Army corps of engineers would have produced hospital beds, he wouldnt have sent the tons and tons of PPE.
The virus released by China not Trump only the very very insane blame Trump.
Again you cant rewrite history we have the Democrat Governors praising the response they got from Trumps Covid 19 team.
Masks for the general public do not work.
My vote cancels yours.
God Bless America.
@Ronald J. Ward: No… the problem is you don’t answer. Another problem is you are a liar. I never said I would vote for Hitler. You asked a stupid, vapid, totally nonsensical question and I answered in the opposite of what you recount. Because you are a liar that cannot help yourself but lie.
Now, you support Biden, a confirmed racist, credibly accused rapist and, based on actual evidence, a corrupt criminal.
And what about the mounting crisis in Europe? Is that Trump’s fault, too? Did they follow Trump’s plan? Did they “do nothing”? Blaming Trump for the deaths caused by the failures of China and WHO because you have NOTHING else to criticize him on is pretty immature and dishonest. But, what would anyone expect from liberals?
He has been repeatedly telling his unmasked rally crowds that we’ve turned a corner; that the COVID-19 situation is rapidly getting better. The exact opposite is true, and his rallies are likely contributing to the increasing rate of new infections.
@Deplorable Me, #54:
That’s simply what the virus does when it begins to be taken less seriously. It doesn’t matter where that happens. If the opportunities for spread increase, spread increases. It’s human behavior that matters, not the politics behind it.
The fact that hospitalization rates are plummeting means that we have turned a corner. Also, it is clear that you are not watching Trump’s rallies. Most people are masked. The masks are handed out at the rallies, along with hand sanitizer, after an attendee’s temperature is taken.
Likely? In other words, you don’t know so once again, you lie about something you have no knowledge of. Do you Commies have no shame? Fear is all you can sell.
Senior officials on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign are increasingly worried about insufficient Black and Latino voter turnout in key states like Florida and Pennsylvania with only four days until the election, according to people familiar with the matter.
Despite record early-vote turnout around the country, there are warning signs for Biden. In Arizona, two-thirds of Latino registered voters have not yet cast a ballot. In Florida, half of Latino and Black registered voters have not yet voted but more than half of White voters have cast ballots, according to data from Catalist, a Democratic data firm.
In Pennsylvania, nearly 75% of registered Black voters have not yet voted, the data shows.
The firm’s analysis of early vote numbers also show a surge of non-college educated White voters, who largely back President Donald Trump, compared to voters of color, who overwhelmingly support Biden.
The situation is particularly stark in Florida where Republicans currently have a 9.4% turnout advantage in Miami-Dade County, a place where analysts say Biden will need a significant margin of victory to carry the state.”
They AREN’T plummeting. Per the CDC, October 30, 2020:
Four days ahead of the election, your sources apparently have no compunction whatsoever about lying to you. This is a reflection of Trump’s own tactics. He tells whatever lies he calculates will help him, or hurt his enemies. HE’S A LIAR. LYING IS PART OF HIS NORMAL BEHAVIOR.
@Greg: Trump is just presenting the numbers. You and your ilk have to either lie or distort the truth.
Covid deaths are what they were expected to be if we did things right, the economy is recovering at lightning speed, we’re faring much better than other Western Nations, and four-year more years of Trump is pretty much guaranteed.
Epic win for the United States.
China’s plan failed.
The erroneous polls of the last couple of months will even out pre election. But President Trump will win easily.
The CDC isn’t lying. It’s telling people what the data says. News coming in from random rural areas tells us what the data means in the real world.
October 30, 2020 – Rural Idaho Hospitals Are Feeling The Pressure As Coronavirus Cases Fill Up Beds
Perhaps someone needs to explain this to you:
Expected to increase, not are increasing, dumbass.
Click on “weekly rates” then choke on your own bile:
You want to talk about liars, change the subject to Bargain Basement Joe Biden. Or yourself as you are the biggest liar on this site.
The wuhan red death scare will be gone on November 04, 2020.
There’s always a lag involved because it takes time for all reports for a closed week to come in. Trump is claiming declining numbers when the dip at the end of the chart only reflects incomplete tabulation.
The last week for which all data is in was week 39, ending September 26. At that point, the plot number was ascending. It continues to ascend after that, even with reports still out. The downward turn represents the current week, which isn’t even over yet. That part of the plot line tells us next to nothing.
What they anticipate is based on where the line was headed at the last point when all data was in. The entire predictive value of plotted data is a matter of anticipating the near future from what’s known about the past.
Today we had over 90,000 new COVID-19 infections reported in a single day for the first time since this began. That does not indicate we’ve turned a corner.
October 29, 2020 – Sweden sets another daily COVID-19 case record as hospitals feel strain
Yes it does. You continue to use the false premise that “infections” are what we are trying to stop. It’s not.
Flatten the curve, save lives, keep moving.
Your ignorance of how viruses work and spread is hard to tolerate. Using infections as political fodder is foolish, and not working on the average American voter.
@Curt: @Greg: A new “record” is often a sly way of obscuring the facts.
That’s 276.6 infections per 1 million people, to use Curt’s graph above.
Still far, far below.
I love how the Leftwing media simply WANTS more infections and death for their own hollow goals.
Can’t wait until Trump starts to flush all the traitors in our government, and media…starting next week.
@Curt: Unfortunately, the cowardice and complete ignorance of just citing “cases” works for the shrinking number of Left-wingers in this country.
Look at how hard greg is working to instill more false narratives….
It’s always been about control. I’ve been amazed since day one how quickly people become sheep.
Biden can, as long as the corrupt liberal media will not call him out. It’s all he’s done since he came out of his basement is lie about the virus response. He’s lied about his actions, he’s lied about the Democrat’s actions and he’s lied about Trump’s actions. He can tell any lie he wants, KNOWING he gets a pass from the media. Well, truaninonashufodopressure, I guess.
So, all it takes is for Trump to just suddenly “take it less seriously” and suddenly there’s an outbreak? It doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else? Nothing to do with riots and protests, just Trump taking it “less seriously”? How about a scientific study to back that up.
CDC study shows wearing masks does NOT prevent contracting COVID19
CDC: COVID19 not spread by airborne transmission… or is it? Or… isn’t it?
CDC reports only 6% of COVID19 deaths had no other serious illnesses.
CDC (you know… science) recommends easing restrictions, but Democrats want the shutdown to go on forever (or until the election)
CDC director confirms monetary incentive to inflate COVID death count
Biden says he’s not going to shut down the economy, he’s going to shut down the virus. Tell us… HOW is he going to do that? Sounds like utter bullshit to me.
What we believe seems to depend on what we read:
From MEDPAGE TODAY, October 8, 2020 – Op-Ed: The Sweden Myth — How did the country outperform everybody on COVID-19? That’s easy — it didn’t
Faking ‘Science’ to Achieve Political Goals
These same politicians and health officials are so desperate to make people believe in masks that they doctor charts to make their case, even when their own data actually undermines them. So what is the actual science behind masks? Let’s begin by reviewing the leading scientific studies.
The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University summarized six international studies which “showed that masks alone have no significant effect in interrupting the spread of ILI or influenza in the general population, nor in healthcare workers.” Oxford went on to say that “that despite two decades of pandemic preparedness, there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks.” They prophetically warned that this has “left the field wide open for the play of opinions, radical views and political influence.”
A study of health-care workers in more than 1,600 hospitals showed that cloth masks only filtered out 3 percent of particles. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine stated, “[W]earing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection” and that “[T]he desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”
There are many other credible studies showing lack of mask efficacy, such as studies published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cambridge University Press, Oxford Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Influenza Journal, just to name a few.
Studies do show masks can help in the case of direct respiratory droplets, which would matter if somebody is coughing, breathing, or sneezing directly on your face. That happens normally in a tight and highly confined space.
But the plentiful evidence we have indicates masks would not meaningfully help with aerosol transmission, where two people are just in the same area, or even the same room. This is because the two people end up breathing the same air, with or without a mask.
Why Don’t Masks Work?
Why don’t masks work on the general public? For one, if you read the fine print on most consumer masks you will see something along the line of “not intended for medical purposes and has not been tested to reduce the transmission of disease.” Masks can work well when they’re fully sealed, properly fitted, changed often, and have a filter designed for virus-sized particles. This represents none of the common masks available on the consumer market, making universal masking much more of a confidence trick than a medical solution.
If we actually wanted effective masks, then manufacturers should be conducting scientific tests evaluating masks specifically for their ability to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The Food and Drug Administration and CDC should be making recommendations on which masks to use and approving masks based on their scientific efficacy rather than promoting the wrapping of any piece of miscellaneous cloth around your face.
Many powerful institutions have too much political capital invested in the mask narrative at this point, so the dogma is perpetuated.
Effective masks, if they exist, should then be distributed to highly vulnerable groups for use only in rare and extenuating circumstances. There would be little point for the population at large to wear masks all the time because while focused protection may be possible, it is not possible to eradicate the virus at this point or stop its spread.
Our universal use of unscientific face coverings is therefore closer to medieval superstition than it is to science, but many powerful institutions have too much political capital invested in the mask narrative at this point, so the dogma is perpetuated. The narrative says that if cases go down it’s because masks succeeded. It says that if cases go up it’s because masks succeeded in preventing more cases. The narrative simply assumes rather than proves that masks work, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.
The narrative further ignores places like Sweden and Georgia, which never required masks in the first place, and it suppresses new scientific evidence if it doesn’t support desired political results, such as data from the world’s only randomized trial investigating if masks actually protect from COVID-19. Even a Nobel laureate has been canceled because his COVID charts and data were found to be undesirable.
History does not bode well for times that politics meddles with science. Martin Kulldorff, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a leader in disease surveillance methods and infectious disease outbreaks, describes the current COVID scientific environment this way: “After 300 years, the Age of Enlightenment has ended.”
In the end, it will be the loss of credibility in our scientific institutions, and the unnecessary division they have sowed among us, for which masks will be remembered.
Yinon Weiss is a tech entrepreneur, a U.S. military veteran, and holds a degree in bioengineering from U.C. Berkeley.
Or what CNN tells you.
Yeah, those Swedish liars didn’t include everyone from terminal cancer patients to gunshot victims to traffic accidents in their COVID19 death tallies. Those dirty bastards.
@July 4th American:
Yeah, but that 3% is enough to MANDATE EVERONE to wear a mask and PUNISH those who don’t.
Gee, THIS technique sounds awfully familiar.
@Deplorable Me: Its the same old song and dance with Greg. The Virus is the new climate change. A way in which the all powerful and ever benevolent Government can control the people. Put out the most insane and ignorant information and we peasants must automatically believe it, and OBEY, else we are ALL GONNA DIE. Except this time its global, there is no where to run. Time magazine has layed out the agenda, and its backed up by all the Oligarchs aka the mini Popes. They are going to shove the One World Government and its dystopia up our arses with their fake “consensus” science.
@kitt: NO ONE believes in and trusts science less than liberals. EVERYTHING must support THEM and their agenda or it is not worthy.