The suburb I live in, Edina, is governed by the usual panoply of incompetent boobs, who have no capability to actually absorb and analyze information and who are highly politicized. With absolutely no basis in science or data, our city council has issued a mask mandate, and because they can foresee the future, they have said it will last until the end of the year. The supposed precipitating factor for this is a rapid increase in cases among young people from bonfires, house parties, cabin weekends, etc. The usual things young people do to try to socialize and have a good time. The risk to these young people, who are almost all under 25, is non-existent. We don’t have a single death under the age of 25 in Minnesota. Edina has 35 coronavirus deaths and, disgracefully, almost all of them occurred in long-term care facilities located in the city.
I will use this opportunity to again point out that multiple reviews have found little evidence to support the idea that masks prevent community transmission. Even if they did, just look around, most people don’t wear them correctly and a large number are wearing cloth masks which are worthless, may even help incubate and spread virus. Here is a reminder from a large randomized trial of cloth masks versus medical masks for respiratory illness. (Mask Study) The study occurred in Vietnam in 14 hospitals among over 1600 health care workers working in high-risk wards and looked at efficacy in prevention of respiratory illness. The endpoints were any clinical respiratory illness, any influenza-like illness and test-confirmed respiratory illness. The study lasted four weeks. Health care workers presumably know how to wear a mask properly, so you can assume the results would have been even worse if the study were done among members of the public. Penetration of cloth masks by particles was 97% and even medical masks were had a 44% penetration by particles. 31 workers wearing cloth masks contacted some lab-confirmed viral infection as did 19 of the medical mask wearers. 7.6% of the health care workers had a clinical respiratory infection, 5.4% had a lab-confirmed virus and 2.3% had an influenza-like illness. The comparable rates for medical mask wearers were 4.8%, 3.3% and .7%. So cloth masks were clearly worse than medical ones, and the authors recommended against heir use, citing a heightened risk of infection resulting from moisture retention, reuse, improper cleaning and poor filtration. Note also that while medical masks were better, they do not provide anything like complete protection over this four-week period. Over a longer period you would see even more infections. I can assure you that if it were studied properly, we will find cases of people being infected because of wearing a cloth mask. While a medical mask may be better than no mask (no mask obviously wasn’t studied in a health care setting, and it is a falsehood to claim that medical masks, much less cloth ones, prevent significant community transmission.
The second study has a hilarious side, because some of the authors are now mask zealots. (Mask Article) Written in the context of biosecurity, the authors were analyzing whether certain mitigation of spread measures, including masks, against something like an influenza pandemic had validity. You have to read it, especially the introduction, to see the wise words about the doubtful efficacy of such measures, and the likely widespread social and economic issues that could be caused by some measures, such as a lockdown. Note too, the expectation that in a widespread pandemic only 25% to 30% of the population would become ill. So much for 100% susceptibility or population immunity needing 70% or higher infection prevalence. And look, there is a strong warning about the lack of likely value of models to accurately predict all the effects of mitigation measures, so they should not be used to guide policy. And, ohhh, warnings about the problems caused by, for example, closing schools. And now, here is what they have to say about masks: “But studies have shown that the ordinary surgical mask does little to prevent inhalation of small droplets bearing influenza virus. The pores in the mask become blocked by moisture from breathing, and the air stream simply diverts around the mask. There are few data available to support the efficacy of N95 or surgical masks outside a healthcare setting.” Really. Same thing applies to coronavirus.
So again, wear surgical masks if you want too, don’t wear cloth ones, but don’t be under the delusion that they are doing anything to prevent community spread. And to the moronic city council members in Edina, please explain what possible evidence you have to show that mandating masks in indoor public places is going to do anything to limit cases among young people, when your own statements are that transmission is not occurring in indoor public places. And please show me one single case, verified by contact tracing, in which transmission from a young person to an elderly person, those who are truly vulnerable, over 70, has occurred. In the meantime, I simply won’t patronize businesses in a city that shows such complete distrust of its citizens to make their own decisions and I encourage everyone else to adopt the same attitude. I have deep sympathy for these businesses and the harm they have suffered due to the unnecessary shutdowns, but it is a short drive to the next town and those businesses deserve my patronage too.