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Japan, that Wonderful Exemplar of Masking

By August 8, 2021Commentary

The screen shot is from Worldometers, Active Cases in Japan, with near universal masking.  Look at the recent line.  Could it go up any faster.  A reader complimented me on my recent columns but said she didn’t like the opposition to masking and used Japan as an example of how people should just all do it out of consideration for others.  My reply was probably a little too heated, as I do have strong feelings about especially the forced and abusive masking of children.  But how can anybody look at charts like this and think that masks make any difference in slowing community spread. Seriously, how could you?  But oh yeah, the science is crystal clear.

And while you are at, can someone explain wave theory to me, something very complex is going on, look at the pattern of these waves in Japan.  Kind of bizarre monthly pattern.  Very classic epidemic curves, but odd spacing.  I am thinking we are missing something important that governs the start and end of rapid spread.  Almost some purely mathematical factor.

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • The Dark Lord says:

    all the uninfected are not in the same place at the same time … in fact they don’t really move … the virus has to come to them … so the virus moves to one place and a spike happens … then dies off and the virus finally moves to another place and another spike happens …

  • Colonel Travis says:

    There are people who aren’t convinced by this chart, saying since most infections in Japan are at home, and this means the masks outside the home are working. I am not sure how they make that leap.

    • Kevin Roche says:

      the implication is that the virus floats around in the air and can get into homes and infect people there. if that is true, and I don’t think it is, then how could anyone think we can suppress CV-19

  • Micronetia says:

    I don’t totally disagree with you.


    1. You need to check the absolute numbers as well as the relative differences. Japan is now seeing ~15,000 cases a day. This is 10/100k of the population more or less and yet is the worst it has ever been. Compared to almost nay other country that is exceptionally low as in about an order of magnitude lower than other places. For reference the UK, having recently seen a large FALL in cases, reports (according to the official website) about 270/100k

    2. Deaths are miniscule. Despite the rise in cases there has been no corresponding rise in deaths. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the majority of susceptible individuals (the elderly) have been vaccinated

    3. related to 2. In the news in Japan they have started reporting the infections by age decade. The vast majority are people in their 20s and 30s. A fair few are in their teens or 40s and there’s a large drop off as we get to people over 50.

    Masks may or may not work, but they definitely don’t work when not worn and from my personal observations in rural Japan, people – especially younger people – are no longer bothering to wear them as religiously as they used to and definitely not while out drinking in the evening. My conclusion is that the increase is basically that the younger generations have done the sums, realized they won’t kill grandma anymore and so have had it with masks and have started going to bars, live houses, karaoke boxes and the like again in large numbers and are not wearing masks while in these close, confined and poorly ventilated places.

    • Kevin Roche says:

      I completely agree with you on the need to look at absolute numbers as well as percent growth and that Japan has not had a severe epidemic. I make this point to Ianmsc on Twitter regularly, as he has done good work but sometimes talks about percent growth in very low prevalence countries. I haven’t been to Japan for about a year and a half and there obviously was no epidemic, so what I saw of mask wearing was different, but use was pretty high on subways. The usual surveys show it is very high during the epidemic but I don’t know if that is completely trustworthy. In any event, I see enough from the epidemic curves in a lot of different places to not think the macro evidence suggests benefit from masks at a population level. And I obviously agree that we just have to accept and adapt, we can’t suppress this thing.

  • James Zuck says:

    It baffles me how we as a nation have spent so much on formal education and so many people do not understand what enables a basket ball to pass through a basket ball hoop. Hint the ID of the hoop is lager than the OD of the ball. If you understand that you should have a basic understanding why it is so difficult to stop a virus with a mask. Then there is the leakage issue. My grand daughter got an eye infection which almost caused sight lost in that eye. I suspect the mask played a part in the infection. Her eye became scratched which left a pathway for the infection. She wears glasses, leakage around the mask is funneled right into the eye. We know the mask overtime becomes a diaper bag of infection. It is all about physics, airflow, pathway of least resistance – what is so hard to understand?

  • dirtyjobsguy says:

    First the thing to remember about any Asian country is people wear masks a lot for no reason at all. Figure 25% of the population will be wearing masks in subways etc. pre-covid. So in my mind it really indicates masks have very little protective value. The sharp rise and drop would indicate a high degree of inhomogeneity geographically. Geographic plots would help understand this. We saw the same thing here in Connecticut. The first spikes all clustered around the commuter rail lines from NY City. Only later did they move to cities and towns farther away.

    I remember that early in 2020 here in the USA, Louisiana was a hot spot in New Orleans then that burnt out. Of course no one then was vaccinated it was all by acquired immunity. More rural areas had little or no cases to report. This appears to be the same in Japan

  • J. Thomas says:

    No valid test for C19 equals no valid data. No valid data equals no intelligent decisions, leading to the sh*t show we have been swept up in. I hope that history (and what’s left of the US and global legal systems) is really unkind to the political actors and actresses who’ve taken over the healthcare system, impersonating virology expertise. Every category of general health has been negatively affected by their hyper focused fraud on a contrived ‘pan(case)demic’.

    I certainly resect the work and time that’s gone into preparing and maintaining this blog, but it’s not something you can make any decisive statements or decisions from. We’ve all been had … I do admit that it’s probably been the best mental health vent that’s out there. Kevin’s gracious approach to hosting all input and steering the discussions toward moderate and sensible comments deserves some type of award !

  • Rob says:

    Fauci says we can suppress with 100% vaccination. And he should know, he invented the virus.

    Seriously, to think a constantly-mutating virus can be suppressed is pretty far-fetched. The bureaucrats make up lies until the media latches onto one as truth – and then it gets repeated until the truth slowly emerges; then the bureaucrats start the whole process of lying over again.

  • J, Thomas says:

    We just had an article in a PA paper that claimed many whitetails have tested positive for this coronavirus. The ‘animal reservoir’ was a new term to me that dealt with our inability to ever get rid of coronaviruses. In other words, as long as they are prevalent in other species, human vaccines don’t work. These viruses will always be in circulation and we have to adapt. Human vaccines are only good for viruses that are unique to humans .. which is why polio and small pox worked well. We’ll never have any success with corona’s or other’s which have non-human pools to maintain circulation. The worst thing that can happen is possibly what we’re seeing now, an upsurge in the summer because all of the folks who got the jab are now hyper sensitive to the virus without being very symptomatic … therefore easily spreading to others.

    Any thoughts and evidence to the contrary?

  • Bryon says:

    In response to Micronetia about Japan being far lower in infections and deaths than the UK:

    The UK also has near universal mask wearing. So you are comparing two heavily masked countries. The UK is a better example of how masks do not work.

  • Kelly says:

    What about Taiwan’s case? According to the Diplomat, they have nearly quashed the Delta variant with universal masking, tracking, lockdowns, etc. I wish someone would do some meta analysis regarding the Asian countries’ performance in “restraining” Covid.

    • Kevin Roche says:

      I completely agree that a thorough study of Asia would be enlightening. Unfortunately we won’t get anything useful out of China. But I look at the pattern in Japan and South Korea and I am really stumped to understand it. And countries in SE Asia that had very little last year, are having more significant case bumps now. Taiwan has the advantage of being an island nation and that generally seems to permit greater control.

  • J. Thomas says:

    I would also assume it’s much easier to reach herd immunity on an island with the controls put in place from their mitigation strategies. Mask science is not geographically different. Microns are microns, virus sizes are not bigger in Taiwan. I also believe (maybe by watching too many cooking channels lately) that Asians tent toward more awareness of personal health in their diets and lifestyles. I think there is plenty of evidence that obesity and diabetes are huge risk factors in this situation.

    We also don’t know if their medical systems were handcuffed regarding the use of therapeutics early in the treatments. Also, were they honest about reporting the ‘From vs. With’ situations? There are too many variables in the ‘death from Covid’ equation to compare our own states let alone other countries. Interesting, yes … meaningful to decisions about how to move forward, no.

    • Kevin Roche says:

      I think it is a very valid point that you can’t generalize from the experience of island countries

  • Debbie says:

    And then, there’s Iceland. Highly vaccinated, virus spread supposedly in check, and today, cases surging. The virus always wins….

  • Jody says:

    One of the things I remember from reading ‘The Great Influenza’ by John M. Barry (1917 pandemic history – excellent) was that one large city in the US (think it was San Fran?) avoided the first big wave in the fall of 1917 by implement masking, social distancing, etc. The deaths were far lower than all other parts of the US. However, they were no longer doing that when the next wave came around and then they suffered exactly as the other cities had in the earlier wave.

    And much like other pandemics thoughout history, that one came in multiple waves, although none were as bad as the ‘first’ one. I say first like that because interestingly enough there was a more ‘normal’ flu type outbreak around 6 months before the bad one. Those who got sick in that earlier outbreak and went through a normal type flu did not get hit with the bad one later that year.

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