Fast fact of the day, 80% of the people who dropped out of the workforce in September were women. Yeah, closing schools is really good for everyone, children and parents.
No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to avoid mask stuff, and I honestly am pretty tired of it. People keep pumping out these modeling studies and regressions that purport to show that mask wearing reduces cases. I will again make the general point that this is not real research, it doesn’t prove anything. And one reason is an inability to account for confounding variables. I pointed out in the CDC study on mitigation behaviors that most people who don’t regularly wear masks also don’t engage in other mitigation behaviors. So if they get infected, which unused mitigation behavior was responsible? Here is an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal, written by a physician and emphasizing one of my primary points, which is that this obsession with masks ignores both the likelihood that they don’t make much difference, and distracts from other behaviors and aspects of the epidemic that should get more attention. (WSJ Article)
But that won’t stop studies like this one from getting the bulk of the media attention, because they feed the hysteria and the prevailing wisdom. (SSRN Study) The authors attempted to correlate mask wearing in a country with case trends. First of all the effect they purport to find is quite small on a daily basis, but they somehow compound it over time. Second, poor attempts to separate confounding variables, not that this could be done in any event. Third, the usual concerns about accuracy of survey data. Fourth and probably most important, nice cherry pick on the time periods chosen, stopping in July, maybe re-run that analysis now. Almost every one of the high mask-wearing countries in their analysis is experiencing a surge in cases, and for some weird reason, the countries with low rates, seem to be having lower case growth.
Of course, one problem with masks is whether people use them properly. Masks are virus collection devices and if people touch the masks they can spread the virus to themselves or others. This study looked at face and mask touching behavior. (SSRN Paper) Some of these papers from China are not well-translated. If I understand the paper, in areas where mask-wearing had not been common, i.e., the US, there was a higher rate of mask and face touching. Videos from before and after the epidemic were used. The researchers question whether mandatory mask-wearing makes sense if people just touch their faces or the masks more.
Another paper dealing with transmission dynamics. (Medrxiv Paper) Contact tracing in Barcelona, Spain was conducted among 314 index cases, with 753 contacts. The secondary attack rate was 16%, with household transmission most likely and the risk of transmission increasing with age. About 40% of the contacts who were positive developed symptoms, so there was a 60% asymptomatic rate. One great thing done in this study was to test viral load of the index case. Those with higher viral loads were much more likely to transmit a symptomatic infection to a contact. Sure would be helpful to have those cycle numbers reported to aid in contact tracing prioritization.
If you are fascinated by the complexity of the immune system, this is an interesting paper which correlates severe disease with certain alterations in the functioning of B and T cells. (SSRN Paper) The immune system can be overactive, contributing to prolonged disease.
Here is a paper defining a disease of “coronaphobia”. (SSRN Paper) I think we all recognize the symptoms. As the authors note, we have allowed unprecedented government control of daily lives out of fear and those actions are having worse consequences than the epidemic itself.
And just a quick comment on yesterday’s coronavirus briefing. The state is doubling down on testing, especially in young, asymptomatic people. This is a complete wast of time. Asymptomatic people don’t contribute much to spread, are not very infectious, and are much more likely to have false or low positives. Yet we keep trying to test everyone, every day. Why?