Masks seemed to make sense back in April/May/June 2020. On a risk management basis, it made sense to use masks. Had we seen inflections in the infection curves across geographic areas across the world with the onset of mask mandates, who would argue against it just on a risk management basis?
In my view, science starts with skepticism, and it is the burden of science to prove something holds in the face of all attempts to falsify the hypothesis. There are too many things out there that falsify the masking hypothesis. And a strong bias among public health officials to not falsify it. In other words, politics and poor science.
The stunningly variable science on masks (and the flip-flop of “experts”) suggests that masks are more about social conformity than a useful tool—COVID theatre. Why didn’t infection curves slump when mask mandates came online everywhere? Why can’t we quickly ramp down infections with masks... perhaps because they can’t achieve that effect?
But most of all: how could infection rates soar when hardly anyone is without one? I am open to a “masks work but people screw up in other ways” hypothesis, but then what is that hypothesis? And if so, what is the point of masks?
Personally, I’d wear an N95/N100 mask if someone is visibly sick, and especially coughing or sneezing. I am much more skeptical outside those parameters. Even so, I am OK with wearing a mask in close quarters. But mandates everywhere, including the idiots bicycling and walking and driving alone? What I see is a populace trained in mindless irrational conformity, which has chillingly dangerous implications for freedom.
There are of course studies that show that masks work. There are also studies that refute that claim. Science has a long history of false claims that cannot be substantiated. A long history of using unpersuasives statistical p-values of 5% to claim “statistical significance. A long history fo data trawling and a long history of all sorts of biases. Mix in politics...!
Add in the low baseline rate + false positive rate of PCR tests, and I wonder whether studies have any defensible mathematical rigor to them.
This article below is now 7 months old, but I am not aware of any credible evidence that would oppose the conclusions here, or allay my concerns about the extremely sloppy state of modern medical “science”.
The increasing polarised and politicised views on whether to wear masks in public during the current COVID-19 crisis hides a bitter truth on the state of contemporary research and the value we pose on clinical evidence to guide our decisions.
In 2010, at the end of the last influenza pandemic, there were six published randomised controlled trials with 4,147 participants focusing on the benefits of different types of masks. 2 Two were done in healthcare workers and four in family or student clusters. The face mask trials for influenza-like illness (ILI) reported poor compliance, rarely reported harms and revealed the pressing need for future trials.
Despite the clear requirement to carry out further large, pragmatic trials a decade later, only six had been published: five in healthcare workers and one in pilgrims. This recent crop of trials added 9,112 participants to the total randomised denominator of 13,259 and showed that masks alone have no significant effect in interrupting the spread of ILI or influenza in the general population, nor in healthcare workers.
...Many countries have gone onto mandate masks for the public in various settings. Several others – Denmark, and Norway – generally do not. Norway’s Institute for Public Health reported that if masks did work then any difference in infection rates would be small when infection rates are low: assuming 20% asymptomatics and a risk reduction of 40% for wearing masks, 200 000 people would need to wear one to prevent one new infection per week. 6
The small number of trials and lateness in the pandemic cycle is unlikely to give us reasonably clear answers and guide decision-makers. This abandonment of the scientific modus operandi and lack of foresight has left the field wide open for the play of opinions, radical views and political influence.
WIND: if masks had any meaningful benefit, there would be a mean influence showing up across every geographic location and across time (e.g., at the onset of mask mandates). But no such proofs exist.
Where are the ten double-blind studies in 10 countries proving that masks work? Where are the studies that use a p-value of 1% all agree?
OTOH, I stand by my hypothesis that a population supplied with N95 masks properly fitted could have stomped-out this pandemic early. But even that might be wishful thinking, as it is unrealistic even if enough N95 masks could be found. So it too might be false.