Dear reader, a full-on spacesuit equipped with oxygen tanks, or with filters down below the viron level, will protect you from inhaling a respiratory virus. As long as you have it on. And don’t have to change the filter.
And you don’t eat. Or drink. Or use the facilities.
So it can be said “masks work” in blocking the spread of bugs.
But the flimsy plastic cheesy gappy snot-filled breath-soaked “surgical masks” the panicked hand-wringing shaking fear-filled hersterics made it a crime not to wear?
Those are crap. So that below when I say “masks”, these and their cloth cousins are the kind I mean, always acknowledging that spacesuit-like masks will work, but only for the time they are worn.
This was always obvious. Obvious, that is, if you weren’t judging the evidence from the “I’MGOINGTODIE!I’MGOINGTODIE!I’MGOINGTODIE!” mindset. Which, to be fair, was the only mindset to have if you watched any TV in 2020, or listened to almost any American ruler.
Panic softens minds. Panic destroys rationality. Panic kills.
But, Oh!, do we love a good panic! It’s the true American way.
And, say, did you think that you during the doom panic were the first to think of trying masks to stop the inevitable? Sigh.
During the Spanish Flu a century ago, which was really something to worry about, we had our first experience with mask mandates. Certain cities made people wear them. They didn’t work.
Science magazine on 30 May 1919 (no typo) had an article by George Soper, late of the Sanitation Corps, entitled “The Lesson Of The Pandemic.” He concluded, though he was not against masks, that “It is not desirable to make the general wearing of masks compulsory.”
That wasn’t the final word. Science didn’t sit still. It’s been a long century of accumulating evidence, over and again, long after it was plain that masks don’t work, that masks don’t work in stopping the spread of respiratory viruses.
Here’s one of many lists of old studies that show masks don’t work (and here’s one on cloth masks). Take “Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures” by Xiao et al. in Emerging Infectious Diseases from May 2020 (meaning it was likely written before the panic really got going). Quoting myself “This picture (of several) is of a meta analysis of studies looking at mask use combined with hand hygiene (if used by participants) in ordinary settings (like shopping, walking).”
And how about “Universal Masking in the Covid-19 Era” in NEJM on 9 July 2020 by Klompas and others, in which they tried to walk back their earlier sane conclusion that “wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection”, a conclusion that caused the intelligentsia to go bat-guano apoplectic. Best they could do, though, was to say “We didn’t really mean what we sad.” Hilarious.
Two of many such papers, dear reader. Many.
And we all recall the Fabulous Fauci on 60 Minutes early in the panic telling the truth about masks, before he started lying about them.
“Ah!” said critics. “Those old studies were for flu and the cold! Masks might still work in stopping coronadoom!”
But soon there came studies showing—marvel of marvels!—that all that old work was wrong, and that the panicked rulers were right. Masklessness should be criminalized, said science.
Wow! How did this happen, when prior study after study after study after study—even studies showing surgeons need not wear them to reduce infections: “Is a mask necessary in the operating theatre?” by Orr in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England—showed the opposite.
In a word, motivation. The new papers were of the kind “We strapped a mask to a dummy and modeled laminar and turbulent flow in a closed room, with no movement, eating, talking, sneezing, wheezing, or other realities.” And, lo, these papers all showed masks work. But only if you wore at least two, or possibly three.
Or they were like the CDC, which embraced the epidemiologist fallacy with a grip tighter than a drag queen pawing the kiddies behind the stacks after Reading Hour. They didn’t use infections or deaths, but bizarre derived measures, like rates of change of change (no typo), to “prove”, using wee P-values, masks work. See also Harvard.
There were two big new studies, like the one in Bangladesh which shows at best a population seroprevalence reduction of doom viruses of 0.0026%, and likely smaller.
And the one in Denmark, which actually measured what you were supposed to measure, a big experiment with one large group wearing masks as they would ordinarily do and one group mask-free, and they found no difference in infections. The reaction to this from hersterics like Taleb was amusing. They shouted things like “Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence!” and “You psychopath!” (the second is a real quote).
Finally this week comes another (this was not the first) Cochrane review, by Jefferson and others, entitled “Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.”
Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of influenza-like illness (ILI)/COVID-19 like illness compared to not wearing masks (risk ratio (RR) 0.95, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.84 to 1.09; 9 trials, 276,917 participants; moderate-certainty evidence. Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza/SARS-CoV2 compared to not wearing masks (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.42; 6 trials, 13,919 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Harms were rarely measured and poorly reported (very low-certainty evidence).
…We are very uncertain on the effects of N95/P2 respirators compared with medical/surgical masks on the outcome of clinical respiratory illness…The use of a N95/P2 respirators compared to medical/surgical masks probably makes little or no difference for the objective and more precise outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection…
They were squeamish in their language, likely because they authors recall what happened to others who questioned the Cult of the Mask during the panic. Still, they manned up and came to the right conclusion. Masks don’t work.
And what’s that about harms of wearing masks? Why, yes, masks can cause harm.
The most infamous example was the banshee shrieking that appeared after “Facemasks in the COVID-19 era: A health hypothesis” by Vainshelboim was published. That paper showed some very specific masks harms, a science move which was verboten. The Cult of the Mask would not stand for it, and didn’t. But, as I show in the link, their attempts at murdering Vainshelboim’s ideas fail.
Anyway, we didn’t need these papers. It was obvious as could be that masks cause one specific and deadly harm: they spread fear and panic.
How many times has this happened to you dear maskless reader? You walk up to or past a group of mask wearers, and they move to their faces to tighten their masks? If their panicked minds, that you are unmasked means you are probably infected, and that just being near you increases their chances of dying.
And, say, how about the brilliant The Science where you didn’t need a mask in a restaurant while sitting down, but did while standing up? That is the special kind of idiot fear that can only be spread by masks.
Now none of this evidence about the uselessness of masks, or the positive harm they cause, will mean anything to those in the Cult of the Mask, or in those cultures, like East Asia, that have a near-religious belief in masks. They know masks work, because, they insist, masks work.
How can you argue with that?
Answer: you cannot.
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