Tired of the Mask Nonsense? I am

By August 31, 2020 Commentary

Okay, more research on masks, but nothing that is actual clinical trial type evidence.   This article references a recent study in England which found that wearing a mask likely made people become more careless about social distancing and other mitigation of spread tactics.  I haven’t found the full paper yet.  (Mask Story)   If masks were that effective, why would we need social distancing.  The answer is obvious; they aren’t that effective.

But this piece of research, based on more modeling, claims they are.  (Medrxiv Paper)   It attempts to ascertain the level of actual mask-wearing, as well as the effects of mask mandates and social distancing.  Unfortunately, it uses only a web survey to ascertain mask wearing behavior, which is probably not a very reliable source that can be extrapolated to population behavior.  They don’t give us sample sizes for the various areas they are purporting to analyze.  Their primary outcome was R, the transmission rate.  How they determine that in any accurate manner is also suspect.  Since everyone accepts that detected cases are likely a fraction of true cases and since testing level and strategy changes make also make determining a consistent case count difficult, I don’t think anyone has a clue what R is at any point in time, or even whether that is a useful statistic.  Based on their assumptions and how they build their model, of course they found that more mask wearing led to a lower R.  Although it is clear in their results, they fail in their discussion to note that they could not distinguish the effect of mask wearing from social distancing.  In fact, the relationship they say they found disappears.   Here is another little thing that tells you the usual poor quality of this kind of “research”.  They make the statement that “Real-world evidence on the effectiveness of face masks at preventing respiratory transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is limited but growing.”  They have a cite to two footnotes that supposedly support the “growing” evidence.  One is just an editorial promoting mask wearing.  The other is a Goldman Sachs (yeah, the investment bank, real experts on masks) paper that is just another, very poorly done, modeling study, not “real-world” evidence.  There is no real-world evidence of mask effectiveness.   But note this important finding–a mandate had no effect on mask wearing, in other words, people do the same thing without a mandate.

And South Carolina doubles down on misleading information about the supposed effectiveness of its mask mandate. (SC Release)  The state department of health issued a press release updating its claim that communities with a mask mandate have a slower rate of virus spread than do communities without a mask mandate.  So let’s stop right there, why are we talking about mandates instead of actual mask use.  The assumption is the mandate means more mask wearing, but is that true?  No data tables or charts are actually provided to support this updated analysis which supposedly shows a 44% greater decrease in areas with the mandates.  Since the original release was a completely bogus comparison which did not account for trends before and after the mandates and assumed an immediate impact, this one is equally worthless.  Give us real data and do a real analysis or shut up with the BS.

So here is an analysis similar to what I have done before, two sets of comparisons of level of mask wearing in a US country with the level of cases.  Note that this is actual mask wearing, not whether or not there is a mandate.  See the enormous comparison between more mask wearing and less cases?  No, you don’t, in fact there is a slight uptrend, which I think is probably due to people wearing masks more if they are aware there are more cases in their country.  Again, if masks made any real difference, you would see a correlation and a downward trending line in these charts.

 

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