Coming To Grips With the Facts About Masks

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By James D. Agresti

Allegations that “masks work” and “don’t cause harm” have been enforced by governments and corporations around the world for more than 18 months through arrests, firings, censorship, fines, and denial of access to schools, supermarkets, hospitals, streets, and other public spaces. This has made it virtually impossible for many people to live without complying with mask mandates.

In recent weeks, however, more medical scholars and media outlets are coming to grips with facts about masks that Just Facts has been documenting for more than a year and painstakingly compiled in a September 2021 article sourced with more than 50 peer-reviewed science journals. Here’s a sample of people who are speaking up about the facts and their implications:

Dr. Vinay Prasad—an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco—has written an article that examines the scientific evidence for masking children and concludes that:

  • “most of the masks worn by most kids for most of the pandemic have likely done nothing to change the velocity or trajectory of the virus.”
  • “there are downsides to face coverings for pupils and students, including detrimental impacts on communication in the classroom.”
  • “masking is now little more than an appealing delusion.”
  • decisions to mask schoolchildren are “ignorant, cruel, fearful, and cowardly.”

Dr. Chad Roy, who specializes in airborne infectious diseases and is a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University School of Medicine, has told the Washington Examiner that:

  • “cloth and surgical masks do absolutely nothing for protection from ambient virus.”
  • “all this song and dance of wearing cloth masks with some presumption that you’re being protected from ambient virus is completely and positively 100% counter to how masks and respirators work.”

The Atlantic has published an analysis of school masking policies by three medical scholars—including Dr. Margery Smelkinson, a specialist in infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health—in which they wrote:

  • “We reviewed a variety of studies—some conducted by the CDC itself, some cited by the CDC as evidence of masking effectiveness in a school setting, and others touted by media to the same end—to try to find evidence that would justify the CDC’s no-end-in-sight mask guidance for the very-low-risk pediatric population, particularly post-vaccination. We came up empty-handed.
  • The “overall takeaway from these studies—that schools with mask mandates have lower Covid-19 transmission rates than schools without mask mandates—is not justified by the data that have been gathered.”
  • “As with our existing school-mask policies, no real-world data indicate that these [N95] masks decrease transmission in school settings—data that matter greatly, as these masks require a very tight fit to function effectively, and that may not be possible for many kids.”
  • “Over the past 21 months, slowly and with much resistance, the layers of mythology around Covid-19 mitigation in schools have been peeled away, each time without producing the much-ballyhooed increases in Covid-19. Schools did not become hot spots when they reopened, nor when they reduced physical distancing, nor when they eliminated deep-cleaning protocols. These layers were peeled away because the evidence supporting them was weak, and they all had substantial downsides for children’s education and health.”
  • “Covid-19 hospitalizations have “remained extremely low among children, on par with pediatric flu hospitalizations during a typical season.”
  • “Imposing on millions of children an intervention that provides little discernible benefit, on the grounds that we have not yet gathered solid evidence of its negative effects, violates the most basic tenet of medicine: First, do no harm.”

In an article published on Christmas Eve, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen confessed that “cloth masks are little more than facial decorations” and “this is what scientists and public health officials have been saying for months, many months, in fact.” Yet, she fails to tell the entire truth and instructs people to wear N95 masks without conveying their harms or the fact that gold standard studies have only found inconsistent benefits from N95s in healthcare settings, much less community settings.

Fox News has published an article about how YouTube suspended Rand Paul for questioning the effectiveness of cloth masks and that the CDC is edging closer to Paul’s view. The article then links to Just Facts’ research on masks to document the fact that “several studies have shown” cloth masks “are not effective in stopping the spread of viruses like the coronavirus.”

Still Leading People Astray

Some of the most powerful proponents of masking continue to spread destructive fictions and withhold genuine facts from people. For a prime example, Google-owned YouTube recently censored a video from Just Facts about the dangers of N95 masks. Even though every fact in the video is documented with data from peer-reviewed science journals, OSHA, and the CDC—YouTube purged it with callous disregard for the health of people, especially children.

Likewise, the New York Times recently reported that Google-owned YouTube suspended conservative talk show host Dan Bongino “after he posted a video saying cloth and surgical masks were useless in stopping the spread of Covid—a false claim that violated the company’s misinformation policy.”

In reality, those “misinformation” policies and other pronouncements of tech giants, government officials, media outlets, and fact checkers often flout basic principles of academic integrity, spread deadly falsehoods, and suppress facts that could help people.

The cracks that are opening in the dogma that “masks work” are just the tip of that iceberg.

James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a think tank dedicated to publishing rigorously documented facts about public policy issues.