I hate the whole mask thing. If you had any doubt that they make no difference in slowing transmission, the nonsense in the last week about wearing two, three, a hundred masks should eliminate that doubt. If they worked, advocates wouldn’t suddenly be saying it is all our fault for not wearing enough masks. I have a suggestion for those people, protect yourself by taking a plastic bag and tying it tightly around your head. That will definitely keep the virus, and anything else, from getting in or out. Of course, you might then be literally as well as figuratively brain dead. I will say a kind word about one member of the Axis of Evil. Dr. Osterholm, who clearly doesn’t think masks work anyway (largely because they cause a real mess when the Osterheimlich maneuver is used), pushed back hard on the two mask advice. And real meaningful research is not being done–randomized trials on mask use, case control studies, etc. The one I have suggested for some time, just randomly approach people wearing masks, both the public and workers and take their mask and test it for pathogens. The bulk of the research finds no benefit in reducing cases; the research on the physics of flow and particle penetration make it clear why they don’t work; and most importantly, just look at the case charts. Notwithstanding that, we have a plethora of recent, terrible studies on the supposed benefits of mask mandates or mask wearing. These studies are all methodologically insipid. One of them has an extensive critique at Lockdown Sceptics that applies to all of them. I encourage you to read that critique.
But here are the studies, you can read them and decide for yourself if they make any sense. The first one purports to link mask mandates, adherence and outcomes. (Medrxiv Paper) So let’s be clear, when you read the introductory paragraphs of these studies, you can tell right from the start that the authors have already made up their mind that wearing masks does make a difference, so the default assumption has to be that they will set the study up in a way and analyze the data in a manner that supports their already decided conclusion. This is not real research designed to elicit real information. The time period here is February 1 to the end of September. Not long enough to pick up the fall/winter wave which has demolished any analysis suggesting masks make a difference. By the fall, mask wearing was extremely high everywhere. I would also note that they used mask mandates, not actual mask wearing behavior, as the measure. This is inexcusable at this point, there are multiple sources of data on mask-wearing behavior and that is what matters. There is literally no good attempt in this study to deal with the multiple problems of confounding. One outcome measure is percent of hospitalizations that are CV-19. That is a joke, given that the states and even the hospitals themselves had a wide variety of policies regarding particularly elective admissions, and there are many issues with how a CV-19 admission is defined. From a statistical perspective the most laughable thing about these studies is the wide range of variability, the cone of uncertainty is usually larger than the supposed effect.
Another paper to the same effect. (Medrxiv Paper) And equally weak methodologically. At least this one uses mask-wearing data, oh wait, no it doesn’t. It purports to compare mask wearing in a month with cases the next month, by state. Ooops, look, the study ends in September. Wonder why? I am not wasting any more time on this weak bullshit.
This Lancet study is the one that got torn apart by the Lockdown Sceptics’ critique. (Lancet Study) They did a far better job than I could. (LS Critique) The link takes you to the second part of the critique, it has a link to the first part. The study purports to use survey data collected on the internet to link mask wearing to the reproductive number, which has to be the most worthless statistic ever in regard to this epidemic. We have no idea how many infections there are, how fast they spread or even what a real infection is. Very small sample numbers, poor effort to adjust for confounders, on and on. Garbage in, garbage out.
One more mask thing, and I am done for a long time on this topic. And thanks to the reader who made my day so much better by sending this to me! (That was sarcasm, I always appreciate readers sending me information.) (PNAS Study) The authors focus on the claim that masks reduce the likelihood of transmission and of course conclude that they do. Just another piece of confirmation bias research–we know masks work, so look we found evidence in our literature review that masks work. Read the paper and let me make two obvious points. One is that masks are literal virus collection devices, and other pathogens are collected as well. Do that study I mentioned above. Not only do they collect pathogens, they concentrate them. So it isn’t a trivial possibility, given the way that masks are worn and the types of masks used, that they could actually facilitate transmission in some cases. For the 800th time, do a study on what happens on a mask over time. Secondly, just think about the numbers for a minute. Let us say that a mask was 90% effective in either preventing transmission from an infectious person, or keeping the wearer from getting infected. That is way higher than reality, considering the types of masks used and typical wearing behavior, but let us assume that. Now let us assume that the average person comes into close enough contact with an infectious person or the virus to become infected ten times a day. You can see what will happen. Odds are you are going to get infected by the end of those contacts. Now spread that over a large number of people, and assume even fewer contacts per person or a more effective mask, and you still are going to get lots of cases over time. Given the amount of mask-wearing in the country, you simply wouldn’t see the number of cases we do, growing at the rate they have grown if masks prevented transmission at high rates. And it would be very simple to use either contact tracing or case control studies to demonstrate that they are effective. Why don’t we see those studies? Because as usual in this day and age, science is not science but perverted ideology.
The lockdowns made little to no difference in case trends, that is clear just from looking at case charts. Research supports that hypothesis as well.
This paper examines in multiple countries the effects of lockdown-type restrictions on mortality levels. (Lancet Paper) 50 countries were included, and certain health and other factors were also examined. Obesity was substantially linked to mortality, as was an older population. They found no benefit from strictness of lockdown on cases or deaths. Get this, a longer time to implementation of a lockdown was linked to fewer, not more, cases. Other odd findings, lower income dispersion and more smoking were associated with fewer critical cases and deaths. Regardless of the results, one of the problems with these studies is wide variability across countries in regard to testing policies, identification of cases, and attributions of deaths to CV-19. I haven’t seen anyone completely adjust for these factors.
Another study on the same topic, similar conclusion, little effect of lockdowns. (SSRN Study) This study looked at the body of research on the effect of lockdowns in the first Spring wave and attempted to ascertain voluntary behavior change effects versus mandated government ones. They found, based on their literature review, that 91% of any benefit was due to voluntary behavior changes.
This piece of research looked at supposed adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions. (JAMA Network) This was a survey study of over 7000 people from April through November, in the US, asking about behavior in regard to lockdowns, etc. You would have to read carefully to realize that they aren’t always talking about mandated behaviors, but adherence to recommendations for maximally protecting yourself against infection and spread. Adherence to this package of behaviors peaked in April, according to the survey responses and thereafter declined to a plateau through most of the summer, before rising again, although not to the spring level. The behaviors with the most decline were not staying at home, not seeing non-household members, and not eating out. The behavior with the biggest increase was mask wearing. Made a big difference too.