It Was Always Clear Masks Don’t Work In Stopping Respiratory Viruses

It Was Always Clear Masks Don’t Work In Stopping Respiratory Viruses

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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.

It’s science.

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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  1. JR Ewing

    I realized pretty early on in the spring of 2020 that the reason the politicians were mandating the masks was to make the “emergency” feel more real and to make the people more pliable. It caused a subliminal panic in the people, even the people who knew better.

    They also did dumb stuff like close parks and limit occupancy in stores and then repeatedly kept saying, “the next wave is coming” precisely because they needed to justify their emergency powers. It was gross, to use an unsophisticated term.

    It was all propaganda designed to enrich a certain subset of elite businesspeople and politicians. I don’t think most of these local politicians were smart enough to understand what they were doing, they were just doing what they were told and they were caught up in the same fear and irrationality they were pushing on the civilians.

    A pox on all of them.

  2. The masks worked. They were a compliance test straight out of mind control 101. Force you to submit and then enthusiastically embrace pointless ritual because authority demands it, even when you know it’s nonsense.

  3. Gemma Star

    Thanks for writing this article afresh.

    Now I don’t have to trawl through your past articles to find the information on masks that you’ve posted in the past GOING BACK YEARS.

    And yet, I still see mask wearers. Still. After all this time.

    They even believe that the jab is effective — and, of course, “safe”.


  4. Yawrate

    One reason masking was required was simply because it was the only thing that could be done. Lockdowns kill the economy so you can’t do those for long. But you can still do masks. Politicians need to be seen doing something, anything apparently, to enhance safety.

    Masks for everyone!

  5. Jeff

    In my experience here in Seattle it wasn’t difficult to get people to admit masks were flawed. The problem was that if there was ANY perceived benefit, no matter how slight, even if it helped even a teeny, tiny, Itty little bit then everyone should wear masks all the time.

    And those stupid graphics saying it was like peeing on a fence and see how effective it is? I got many people to admit it’s more like peeing on a chain link fence. No matter. It stopped a bit of splatter so it was worth it. And if you disagreed you weren’t kind and loving because masks weren’t that big of a deal.

    There is no reasoning with these people. There’s no logic. It’s just hysteria and control.

  6. Vermont Crank

    I still see not a few folks wearing masks in Wellington, Florida. I see a few of them wearing masks in a Publix Supermarket in town and even more of those sad souls wearing them in Costco.

    One poor woman (likely a snowbird) wears one to the Divine Liturgy where me and The Bride go. I think she should be excommunicated

  7. Kenan Meyer

    Masks do work IF the borders are carefully and completely sealed off airtight. That’s how effectiveness has been tested – on dummies, of course. Don’t know whats the definition of “working” was that they applied. Seen a video of this on a private TV-station.

  8. Jeff “because masks weren’t that big of a deal”

    This ^^^ was always the fallback position.

    Kenan: Masks do work IF…

    Airtight? Seriously? Then how do you breathe? Or are you talking about around the edges? In which case you should probably go back and look at the studies that Briggs linked to. Cause they don’t really.

  9. Edgewise

    ?Can you weigh-in on this European correspondent’s reaction?—

    “ if that is true, please answer to me a little riddle …
    in an average year vienna has more than a hundred bad influenza cases in the hospitals (in really bad years a lot more – and only the BAD cases land in hospital)
    why was then the number of influenza cases in the hospitals at least one order of magnitude lower in the two years mask mandates were enforced ..?
    [that is hard data – which is also supported by my anecdotal experience of not hearing about a single case of influenza in my family or friends on those two years]

  10. spudjr60

    I always used a one-word refutation to mask mandates.


    If masks actually worked, then you would have required everyone to be clean shaven (e.g. OSHA since at least 1995 stated that if you are required to wear a respirator i.e N95, then you must be clean shaven.) Since there was no clean shaven mandate, then that is a tacit admission by the public health authorities that masks don’t work.

  11. spudjr60

    >>> ?Can you weigh-in on this European correspondent’s reaction?

    The reason there was no Flu in 2020-2021 was that they weren’t looking for it. Secondly, you probably missed it because it was only in the news for a few hours before it was suppressed, the highly lauded PCR test actually couldn’t distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 and other viral infections. Haven’t you wondered why the PCR test isn’t being used anymore and hasn’t been discontinued for quite a while.

  12. Ann Cherry

    Wow, great comments here.

    Just before I opened Briggs’ post (one of my favorite parts of the day), an Australian friend sent me an article about that Cochrane study:

    ‘Little to no difference’: Massive mask meta-study undermines remaining COVID mandates | Just The News

    “An international research collaboration that reviewed several dozen rigorous studies of “physical interventions” against influenza and COVID-19 through last year failed to find even a modest effect on infection or illness rates from masks of all qualities”:

    Mask studies generally focus on whether they stop viral transmission (they don’t), while often ignoring the positive HARM:

    1) Most “surgical” masks (really just dust masks) contain micro-plastics and graphene fibers, some of which are inhaled, and may affect the lungs in a way similar to asbestos;

    2) Masks are biologically filthy after just a short time; moist breath turns them into petri dishes; people touch dirty surfaces, such as public restroom doors, and then adjust their masks; people take dirty snot-imbedded masks in and out of dirty purses and pockets, and strap them on to “stay safe.” Then, the mask wearer goes about breathing their warm, fetid mask germs on all around them. Thanks for sharing!

    3) Masks make people look like IDIOTS. Ignorant fools. Don’t think for a moment, we aren’t inwardly rolling our eyes at how stupid you look.

    3) Used masks create a terrible litter problem, on the land and in water, and the ear strings make them especially hazardous to animals, fish and birds.

    Lastly, does anyone REALLY think these masks, mostly manufactured in Communist China, are STERILE out of the box? Do you know where YOUR mask has been, prior to strapping it across your pie-hole? Probably lying in a heap on some rat-infested sweat-shop floor.

  13. Rudolph Harrier


    That’s exactly right. The normie mind does not process the relative size of risks and benefits at all. The question is not “is the benefit of this procedure worth the costs and risks associated with it?” but rather “does this procedure have any benefit AT ALL (no matter how slight)?”

    But the situation is worse due to the pliability of normies. This can be seen in two ways. First, if the narrative is that something is good, they will not even process the possibility of risks or costs. Hence the “masks are no big deal” response, even from people who admit that they barely do anything and who complain about the discomfort and grossness of wearing a mask all day in hot weather even while exercising.

    But the second is that they only apply their “reasoning” to topics which are in the current narrative. For example, you could easily argue that wearing latex gloves at all times in public, except while eating, would have some benefit for preventing disease. If you wore gloves like that and were careful to not touch your face, and to always use new gloves whenever you put a pair on, it would prevent germs from being able to get from your hands to your throat easily. But no one, not even those most terrified about COVID, goes around in latex gloves. And if you tried to force normies to do this along with every other activity that might slow disease spread a tiny bit, even they would revolt. But the only difference between glove wearing and mask wearing, as far as their “reasoning” goes, is that the news hasn’t told them to wear gloves. (And if the news ran a bunch of stories saying that mask wearing was pointless but glove wearing was very helpful, you can bet that most normies would be seen in latex gloves.)

  14. Rudolph Harrier

    And there’s an additional problem beyond all of what I said: once normies have decided on an activity, they will retroactively try to find other benefits to it, no matter how absurd.

    My favorite example of this is hearing from a mask fanatic that people would probably stop using scarves in cold climates, because surgical masks were so much better at keeping your face warm.

  15. Vermont Crank

    Why does mask propaganda work?

    Because propaganda and controlling the people is a function of big govt.

    I saw this today at Lou Rockwell:

    “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

    ~ Edward Bernays, Propaganda

  16. The self-annointed elites who conspired to sow panic and shut down Normals’ normal lives, using the excuse of a bad cold making the rounds—from school-business-church-park-theater-etc. closures, masking, travel limitations, and much more–are beginning to quake in their Crocs.

    Signs of this fear began with the pansy suggestion in The Atlantic that we need to move on, with no retribution.

    A great op-ed this week in Newsweek (covered by Zero Hedge in the link below) written by a wannbe elite–a grad student in public health and med school–lays the groundwork for his ilk to eat crow and ‘fess up.

    Now is the time for Normals to strike. Tribunals, legislative and judicial investigations, public boards of review, and other actions must begin immediately. Subpeona, depose, litigate, whatever is necessary to expose the contemptible crews that wrought destruction across the nation. Expose and then punish, civilly, criminally, professionally, every way possible.

    The iron’s hot. Who’ll wield Thor’s Hammer?

    Dr Briggs’ contemporaneous archive from the Days of Doom would be an excellent resource for tribunals to identify the actual science known during the Days of Doom The Science follies.

  17. Rob

    There is a back story on this Cochrane review here:

    Not only was the publication delayed for six months, but it was published together with a (political) statement about not waiting for evidence that masks work before mandating use. Clearly the evidence didn’t fit the narrative and therefore had to be trashed. Kudos to Tom Jefferson and Carl Hennegan for sticking to their evidence.

  18. Incitadus

    The roll of masks is vital in priming the population to embrace the post
    apocalyptic DDR lifestyle. Though Americans are not as fit as post WW2 East Germans
    hardened by years of war time depravations, this observation may be ameliorated as
    there always seems to be time for a long war, (any war anywhere). And who can forget the
    wonderful wartime imagery of people in gasmasks or balaclavas with guns. Masked
    anonymity has a robotic quality all its own.

  19. Paul Daly

    May all the scummy, filthy face rag mask use enforcers & protagonists, burn in the fires of an eternal hell & stuff like that.

  20. Cary Cotterman

    Three years now, and every doctor’s office and hospital still requires you to wear their cheap little blue surgical mask to enter. Of all the people who should know better. It’s obviously nothing more than imposing control, but for what reason, I can’t imagine.

  21. Cary Cotterman

    The Los Angeles County Arboretum still requires you to wear a mask to enter, even in the outdoor gardens. The place is run, of course, by wealthy leftists who wallow smugly in this opportunity to advertise their virtue.

  22. Cary Cotterman

    They changed “global warming” to “climate change” when it wasn’t warming and they needed to keep that panic going. Now that Kung-flu is on the wane they’re pulling the same trick–insisting we need to keep wearing masks to stop flu and colds. They are desperate to keep the face-diaper cult alive forever!

  23. KGB

    Regarding beards, I have to be fit-tested once a year for the use of a full-face respirator that will interdict phosphine gas (used as a pesticide in containers such as rail cars). Three years ago, just before the Doom, the third party trainer doing our yearly fit test, to ensure OSHA compliance, made me leave my place of work to go shave because I had the makings of a 5 o’clock shadow. That’s how strict the requirement is. But sure, the bandana draped over full beard was impenetrable.

    The best refutation, after all this time, of universal masking lies in Japan. With over 95% compliance, they still endured waves of CoronaDoom in 2022 that, on a per capita basis, outstripped anything seen in the United States. They may not have had the equivalent number of deaths, but masks are only supposed to stop transmission, not severity, and on that count they failed spectacularly.

  24. Forbes

    My brother noted walking out of the supermarket, when masking was then required, and passing workers on a smoke break. He noted the smell of cigarette smoke–through the mask–and commented he didn’t need a study to tell him masks don’t work. It was as obvious as the smell of smoke through the mask!

  25. mechP

    Absolutely love this post. With that said, though…

    I think at least some are wearing them to prevent spray. What say you? Worth it then, in crowded spaces?

  26. Pal Dealy

    In fact, it’s been demonstrated that the result of a virion shedding, filthy face rag cloth mask wearing Hades / fires of eternal damnation candidate is to considerably reduce the size of droplets & increase their number & increase their infectivity rating / airborne time which is definitely a bad idea in a crowded place.

  27. C-Marie

    ALoved one still wears a mask, though not thought of as protective against viruses, when out grocery shopping, as it is believed that the wearing of it, reminds others to keep their distance, whether they think the wearer is silly, sick, or still cautious. Works somewhat.
    God bless, C-Marie

  28. JH

    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.

    Dear Mr. Briggs, we, East Asians, are not as dumb or ignorant as you think or as you want them to be. It should not be hard for smart people like you to see the good in East Asian cultures through how they have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… instead of whatever you tried to achieve with the above paragraph.

  29. Briggs


    Ian Miller shows that mask wearing rates in places like Japan, Taiwan, China, and South Korea is very high, well over 90%, and that even some of these places still have mask mandates in place (like China).

    Chinese measure smarter than others on standardized tests. But what they did to themselves in the panic makes you wonder about the questions on those tests.

    Check out

    for a running commentary from a Chinaman. The quarantine camps were my favorite.

    Of course, East Asians, even given their religious faith in masks, still beat the panicked shivering blobs of fear that are the Western intelligentsia, especially white women on the left, and most especially those on college campuses.

  30. Milton Hathaway

    mechP & Pal Dealy – “some are wearing them to prevent spray” – here’s my anecdotal evidence. Around the time Covid hit, I sat next to a guy at work that was a sneezer. He would sneeze exuberantly, with no attempt to deflect or contain the ejectate, proud to share his aerosolized saliva with the world. Having seen that YouTube video of a back-lit slow-mo sneeze and the resulting massive cloud of bodily fluids permeating the nearby environment, I’d hold my breath and vacate the area for a few minutes. Yeah, I know, stupid, but the eew factor was just too much for me. It got to the point where it was impacting my productivity.

    After Covid hit and masks were mandatory (we manufactured a product that was deemed critical to the Covid war effort, and the company got special dispensation to keep employees working in the office), I noticed that my coworker completely quit sneezing. My theory was that he got tired of having to get a new mask every time he sneezed.

    Masking is still required in all the local medical facilities. Recently I went in wearing a KN-95 (one of our kids gave us a large stack of them for Christmas). They stopped me and made me exchange my mask for one of those crappy blue ones.

    Ever seen someone vaping with a mask on? Goes right through like it isn’t there.

  31. Jan Van Betsuni

    Every week I visit a large masked-required Int’l Supermarket in Japan. The spectacle of 100% compliance (with anything) is not jaw-dropping here (its normal) – but incidents of elderly shoppers lowering ‘the mask’ just to catch-a-breath, cough, sneeze or lick open a plastic courtesy wrapping bag are ubiquitous. Cooperation is their creed. Its The Culture.

  32. KGB

    What you’re describing isn’t cooperation, it’s lemming-like behavior. Cooperation exists where there is reasonable belief that collective behavior assists the group; there is nothing reasonable about masking. It’s being done in a reflexive and unthinking manner. And I say this is someone who lived several years in the Far East and is married into that culture.

  33. The entire world recently underwent an exhaustive, three year study on the effectiveness of masks. The results speak for themselves – masks do nothing to stop (or even slow down) the spread of a viral respiratory disease.

  34. Here in Michigan the only place where you have to wear masks is at doctors’ offices. You can slip the mask down under your chin in waiting offices but not when you see a doctor or nurse. That has been true for over two years.

    Yesterday I demanded a significant change to my monthly treatment for a vision disability. The doctor completely agreed with me. Not trying to push my luck, after two years of mandatory masks in his office, I told my doctor I was going to ask him about masks next month.

    He responded by saying the masks that his patients wear do nothing but his N95 mask is useful.

    I responded by telling him that I read five scientific mask studies for respiratory viruses in 2020 and none had statistically significant results in blocking viral aerosols.

    He responded with the N95 mask argument again.

    I decided not to tell him the studies I read ALL were done with N95 masks,

    I’ll save that for next month.

    My doctor insists the Michigan Board of Health and the owners of the medical building both require masks.

    I responded by saying after two years I had no idea if he had a mustache, or a beard, or no teeth, because of his mask. He laughed and we continued a good relationship.

    Doctors requiring masks is anti-science and makes them appear to be ignorant. All we get from cheap masks is polyester microfibers into our lungs. Obedience masks have nothing to do with real science.

    My climate science and energy blog is where this article was the first one recommended yesterday in my Off Topic Recommended Reading column:

  35. There are slow motion photography studies that show a virus infected person violently sneezing or coughing can spray virus germs up to 20 feet. Any kind of mask can reduce the spray distance, which would still probably exceed the arbitrary 6 foot social distancing goal. A mask would not be meaningful indoors, where any cough or sneeze, masked or not, could temporarily “infect a room”.

    But the old school method of avoiding spread of respiratory diseases is better: If you are coughing or sneezing, and feel sick, stay at home. Don’t go out in publics coughing and sneezing through a mask at healthy people. People knew that centuries ago … but not anymore?

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