The trope of “just shut up and wear a mask” is not science, ordered liberty, or constitutional governance. It’s what they do in North Korea. We need real debate on the effectiveness of masks, the type of masks, the situations in which they are worn, the duration of time, the benchmarks that need to be met to measure effectiveness, and the process for promulgating these rules. We are no longer 24 hours into an emergency. We are four months into this virus, and it’s time to function like the representative republic that we are.
There are numerous political and scientific questions any thinking person should be asking at this point:
To suggest that individuals be forced into something so personal as covering their own faces indefinitely under the guise of protecting other people is a huge, dramatic change in the relationship between the government and the citizen. We should at minimum get clarity on these questions before allowing any executive authority to unilaterally decree it. Doesn’t the near-universal opposition to widespread mask-wearing from these very same “experts” before the issue became political hold any weight? Doesn’t their reversal demand explanation?
To this day, there has never been a clinical study with randomized controlled trials in non-health-care settings that vouch for the effectiveness of universal mask-wearing in public. All we have so far are anecdotes and laboratory filtration studies, not real human-to-human studies. When asked about conducting one, Dr. Fauci said there is no intention to do so. In fact, he went from resolutely dismissing the idea of wearing masks in March to now telling a group of Georgetown University students that he couldn’t even conduct a study because he was so scared of having even a study group go without masks!
Thus, we are told we are not allowed to breathe free air without a mask – no studies allowed. Fauci’s view? No votes, no hearings, no debate, no studies, no time limits, no performance benchmarks. Shut up and cover your mouth indefinitely and don’t you dare express the view he used to espouse … or else.
Until now, the only time mask use has ever been a studied in a non-health-care setting showed the opposite of what the political class is saying. As Dr. Andrew Bostom of Brown University wrote earlier this month:
Moreover, a subsequent pooled (so-called “meta-”) analysis of ten controlled trials assessing extended, real-world, non-health-care-setting mask usage revealed that masking did not reduce the rate of laboratory-proven infections with the respiratory virus influenza. The findings from this unique report — published May 2020 by the CDC’s own “house journal” “Emerging Infectious Diseases” — are directly germane to the question of masking to prevent COVID-19 infection and merit some elaboration.
One study evaluated mask usage by Hajj pilgrims to Mecca, two university-setting studies assessed the efficacy of face masks for prevention of confirmed influenza among student campus residents over five months of surveillance, and seven household studies examined the impact of masking infected persons only (one), household contacts of infected persons only (one), or both groups (five). None of these studies, individually, or their aggregated, pooled analysis, which enhanced the overall “statistical power” to detect smaller effects, demonstrated a significant benefit of masking for the reduction of confirmed influenza infection (also see tabulation). The authors further concluded with a caution that using face masks improperly might “increase the risk for (viral) transmission.”
As doctors from the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, Australia, concluded in arguing against even health care workers wearing surgical masks when treating low‐risk patients, “There is no good evidence that facemasks protect the public against infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID‐19.”
They explain how the way most people use masks could actually become counterproductive:
One danger of doing this is the illusion of protection. Surgical facemasks are designed to be discarded after single use. As they become moist they become porous and no longer protect. Indeed, experiments have shown that surgical and cotton masks do not trap the SARS‐CoV‐2 (COVID‐19) virus, which can be detected on the outer surface of the masks for up to 7 days. Thus, a pre‐symptomatic or mildly infected person wearing a facemask for hours without changing it and without washing hands every time they touched the mask could paradoxically increase the risk of infecting others.
They cite a “desperate situation” in the U.S. as the impetus for the CDC’s reversal on masks and note that it is based on “scant” evidence. Which is why, “In contrast, the World Health Organization currently recommends against the public routinely wearing facemasks.”
Even N95s, which certainly cause people to get headaches by stifling fresh air, don’t necessarily show conclusively positive outcomes. A 2019 study of 2,862 randomized participants (Radonovich, L.J. et al. (2019)) published in JAMA found, “Among outpatient health care personnel, N95 respirators vs medical masks as worn by participants in this trial resulted in no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”
There’s a reason why as late as May, the CDC was citing the 10 randomized controlled trials that showed “no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks.” Containing the virions that are emitted from the aerosols in a mask, much less a cloth that so many wear, is like locking up a bee in a jail cell. As the CDC notes, masks were not designed to protect against microbiological particles 0.1 micron in size — or one hundred-thousandth of a centimeter — but from visible contamination.
Disposable medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are loose-fitting devices that were designed to be worn by medical personnel to protect accidental contamination of patient wounds, and to protect the wearer against splashes or sprays of bodily fluids (36). There is limited evidence for their effectiveness in preventing influenza virus transmission either when worn by the infected person for source control or when worn by uninfected persons to reduce exposure. Our systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.
How does such a grounded observation built on 10 unrefuted clinical studies change in just a matter of weeks if not for politics? If anything, COVID-19 is more of a dry cough than the flu, which would likely produce more atomized particles that are certainly not larger than the wetter flu emissions. Yet the CDC has gone from vehemently opposing masks to promoting even cloth coverings, which everyone agrees do not filter out most particles.
— Emma Woodhouse (@EWoodhouse7) July 23, 2020
And these people have the nerve to call conservatives anti-science?
The question we must ask ourselves is this: if our government can now mandate such a personal and disruptive lifestyle change to our bodies with assertions that contradict their own long-standing evidence from just weeks ago and with so many unanswered questions, what else can they do to us without presenting evidence or a transparent and democratic debate? It appears that “my body, my choice” only applies to murdering babies.
We deserve hearings and we deserve answers. We are citizens, not subjects. Just because this virus came from China doesn’t mean the politicians can use it as a pretext to turn us into China.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.