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The Mask Nonsense Doesn’t Stop, Even From Unexpected Sources

By March 23, 2021Commentary

The Powerline blog, which I have great respect for, has a writer who insists on periodically writing on CV-19 even though he has no ability to understand research quality or results.  Yesterday this person put up a post saying “Masks Work”.   One of the two studies cited for the proposition was the Kansas mask study, which another reader pointed out was completely debunked and the writer had to acknowledge this in an update.  But the other study is even worse.  It is here,  (Mask Study)  and I believe I posted on it when it came out.  The study uses data from last spring, ending in May.  The Powerline blog post author insisted in a separate email that it uses data from the fall, but I took this link directly from his post and you can read in the abstract right up front when the data is from.   The authors were trying to ascertain whether lockdowns and/or mask mandates had an effect on spread.  So you see the first issue right up front–looking at a mask mandate, not mask wearing behavior.  The first is pretty meaningless, the second is what you need to study.

The researchers used the period March 1 through only May 18 and only the 15 states hardest hit at that time.  So only the spring wave states.  Can you say seasonal/goegraphic and time period bias.  Let’s also get this out of the way upfront, at this point in the epidemic, little testing was being done and the amount and conditions of testing were highly variable among states.  So looking at cases is inherently screwed.  The data is all over the place, just look at the table, but even when data is widely scattered, you can claim there is correlation if you use the right formula and that is what they did.  But the uncertainty level is as great as the so-called effect.  And they leave no lag for the supposed effect of the mandates on cases, the assumption is it occurs instantly.  Now what is really useful is to go look at the epidemic curves in these states.  They all look very similar and are pretty classically shaped, regardless of mask mandates or not.   This study reminds of the garbage preprint that purported to show an effect of mask mandates by county and then had to be withdrawn when a few weeks later the case waves completely destroyed their analysis.  Somehow that study never got updated either.  Really, this is a completely useless study and if extended through the fall and winter would reveal zero affect of mask mandates.  One hilarious note was that the authors said that New York and New Jersey had the greatest reduction in cases after they initiated their mask mandates.  Those two states have among the highest death rates in the entire world.

And of course, no mention anywhere in the post of the Danish study, which remains the only randomized study of use of masks in the community to slow CV-19 spread and which showed no impact.  Only someone who completely fails to understand research methodology would use the study cited to support the notion that masks work.  Everyone else has given up on these facile analyses because they don’t show an impact.  And as we are here in Minnesota, I would like to note that not once yet since our beloved Governor ordered the mask mandate has Minnesota had a several week run of cases in which there were fewer than in a comparable period before the mandate.  In fact, notwithstanding 90% plus mask compliance, Minnesota somehow had a massive case surge in October/November.

A couple of other notes on masks.  Germany has had one of the strictest mask mandates, including that people must wear medical masks.  Germany is going into full, complete lockdown, closing every business, because of case spread.  Masks simply do not work to stop the spread in the community.

And a medical professional reader writes to tell me that every day he sees people with contact dermatitis from mask-wearing and he has had to send several to the ER.  So don’t tell me they don’t have downsides, the government will just do everything it can to hide them.

Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Gary Boyd says:


    I saw your response on Powerline and was glad I did. You were much more composed and succinct than I would have been.

    Thank you for responding and for HealthySkeptic.

  • The Dark Lord says:

    yeah at Powerline Paul is long on snark but short on logic … he is a classic click bait troll on Powerline … he loves to stir the pot … oh and he NEVER responds to comments with a rebuttal … a DC swamp lawyer …

  • M. McRae says:

    We know who you are referring to, Kevin.

    I seem to experience a quasi-Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect when I read him; I invariably shake my head regarding his Coronavirus coverage, yet assume he knows what he is talking about in reference to legal matters.

    He has such a baffling intellect.

  • Debbie says:

    I read Powerline everyday and usually enjoy it….unless Paul pontificates about Covid-19 which he knows next to nothing about. The fear is evident in his writing, he sounds more like the sheeple than a reasonable conservative who has looked at the research. He should just stick to D.C.politics. Kevin, I was hoping you’d respond…excellent, as always! Thank you for the evidence based research and your succinct reply…

  • Matt says:

    Thank you for holding ‘friendlies’ accountable!

  • Colonel Travis says:

    Paul is a good guy, intelligent guy. I just wish he would put more thought into stuff. He is so content with what the media and official experts say. He’s not the only one, it’s a huge problem in this country.

  • Ganderson says:

    Col. Travis is right- and there are a lot of Pauls out there, normally smart people who are all in on panic.
    When I walk the dog in the afternoon I listen to the Howie Carr program from Boston. Howie’s great, and has been an anti panicker from the beginning of this madness: the app I listen to his show on is running a new set of PSAs from the CDC. Their message is even though there are vaccines (or as Dementia Joe calls it “Covid 9 Vactine”) you still need to mask up and stay 6 feet apart, and not have anyone over…

    This will be going on for a while.

  • Dan says:

    The author of that piece is the worst author on powerline. He wrote all kinds of crazy stuff during the election which totally turned me off of taking him seriously. I don’t understand why such an otherwise great blog allows him to continue posting such crap. He must have an ownership stake or something.

  • LeeS says:

    And don’t forget that silly mask study from Mayo Clinic that “proves” masks work – on Mannequins – Not real life! But people believe it cuz it came from Mayo or CDC.

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