way back in april of last year, many of us started to predict mask mandates would emerge as the low energy pathway for politicians. mandates would enable them to look like they had done something and to demand and enforce social virtue with highly visible in-group/out-group markers. they key plank in this claim was always “your mask protects me.”
this renders the wearing of a mask not a choice but a social obligation. it’s not about YOU or YOUR choices, it’s about how you affect others and thus you somehow owe this fealty in some absolutist sense to the society.
this is a great soundbite, but it’s lousy science. it was conjured wholesale from political need. it never had any actual backing and the contrived and falsified “studies” used to support it flew in the face of 50 years of science and data. this is, actually, quite a well studied issue especially in the worker safety space. so let’s dig in here and see what the evidence that “my mask protects you” really looks like, because if it doesn’t, well, then mask if you want to, but there is no basis to demand that others do so against their will even if you possessed the right to make such a demand (itself a deeply fraught premise.)
do masks work as source protection?
lots of mechanistic studies have been contrived to attempt that they show that they do. some person or mannequin is tightly masked and then air flow or droplet spread in front of the mask is measured. it’s a meaningless and misleading form of inquiry akin to taking a convertible with the top down through a car wash and saying “yup, no water through the windshield!”
it rests on a number of fallacies:
it ignores spread that is not straight ahead (deflection/diversion)
it assumes droplet not aerosol spread (a false claim)
it ignores the size of aerosol virions relative to mask weave
it does not measure virion exhalation or possible nebulization which would increase spread and virulence
it has zero basis in clinical outcomes
one of the first really jarring sets of data here came from surgical theaters and IS based in clinical outcomes. this is a large, well controlled study (n=3.088) that looked at the incidence of post operative wound infection in the patients of surgeons. half wore masks, half did not. the results were not supportive of masks as source protection:
masked: 4.7% post op infection rate
unmasked: 3.5% post op infection rate
masking by surgeon increased infection risk in patients by 34% from unmasked baseline.
this is a literal best case scenario with trained surgeons in an operating theater using fitted masks. it very nearly hit stat-sig at p <0.05 and would have had the study been a little bigger. (it was slightly underpowered) you can see the study HERE .
this study is not an outlier. many others find that there is “a lack of substantial evidence to support claims that facemasks protect either patient or surgeon from infections contamination.”
this was widely known before masks become so politicized in 2020. the royal society of medicine in the UK said so. so did the american association of physicians and surgeons. they are still saying so (at great length) HERE.
masks as source control was never science. it was a societal trope invented as a gambit to make politicians look proactive. nearly every doctor in the US, fauci and brix included, was anti-mask last march. this is because the science was crystal clear on the topic to the point that no one even really debated it. their stunning volte-faces were not based on “new science” they were based on social control and governmental need. they were then justified post facto with in a process that experts refer to as “making stuff up.”
how could we have known?
cries of “oh, but this was new, how could we have known?” and “precautionary principle” seem ill founded. this was not new. we’ve seen hundreds of respiratory diseases and coronaviruses before.
the precautionary principle does NOT say “hey, when you’re scared or lack data, assume nothing in the world works like it ever has in the past and do something staggeringly aggressive and costly.”
and yes, masks are extremely costly as discussed HERE so the idea that this was some low priced intervention simply does not hold water. it never did.
worse, we knew all this. we knew it because lots of people study masks and mask efficacy. they just are not, mostly, doctors. they are industrial hygienists and forensic engineers and they have been minutely studying mask efficacy, aerosols, and particles for a century at least. it’s a highly evolved discipline used every day in millions of workplaces and if anyone had bothered to ask, it could have told us that this was rubbish right from day one.
not only is the sub-micron sized covid virion so small that the weave of a mask is like trying to stop birdshot with a chain link fence, but it also means that even if a viral pathogen is in droplets, the pressure and plosive force that strains droplets or virion clusters though a weave (even in a perfectly fit mask) will act as a nebulizer.
this then puts virions into the air as finer aerosols and these aerosols do not behave the way people imagine. their range is not short. they do not fly in some 6 foot line. they hang. by the time you are down into the size of a covid virion (0.1-0.3 micron), hang time is on the order of 1-2 weeks. that’s not a typo. weeks.
and this matters greatly because the simple fact is this: your mask does not fit and it never will. it would be dangerous if it did. you’d risk asphyxiation or dangerously low O2. but that’s OK, because it doesn’t and even a TINY gap is the whole ballgame.
a 1% edge gap is 50% leakage. a 2% gap (which is far better than you will achieve) is 75%. (study HERE in “aerosol science and technology, 2021)
your mask is probably getting 90-95% leakage of aerosolized virions that hang in the air for a week when you breathe them out.
so, tell me again how this could possibly protect me or anyone else, even of we distance 6 feet from you? it’s ridiculous.
wanna see how well your mask fits? when doctors vape from behind a mask, it looks like this:
you can find 100 videos just like this if you look. this is water vapor. these are BIG particles, 10X or more the size of a coronovirus.
this obvious fail works far less well against such sub-micron virions that will, in invisible clouds, hang in the air everywhere you breathe for the week it takes them to fall 5 feet. (and this may well be venting them up and making them last longer.)
this makes the idea of masks as source protection look absurd. they do not even work on surgeons in a medical theater, the idea that they will “protect you from me” in the grocery store or on the sidewalk is simply unsupportable. it also demonstrates the idea of capacity limitations and distancing to be purely performative. we’re all going to the grocery store. everything we breathe out, masked or no, is in the air for days or weeks. taking turns a few at a time is just annoying, not effective.
on to the real world
this is why, using masks in a real life setting and measuring clinical outcomes has been shown, over and over, to do nothing to stop reparatory disease. the mechanistics sound plausible if you do not really understand them and it makes for great performative pseudoscience and social conditioning, but then danes run the DANMASK study and it shows you that masks do not work to protect the wearer. the mechanistics of the whole system as practiced by actual humans are simply not capable of making even a tiny difference. this was known and knowable. the WHO said so in 2019 in a metastudy that everyone used to believe and then suddenly ignored
and they were still out giving this advice in 2020. this is from late march:
so, this idea that “experts” thought that masks were “warranted” based on “the science” and that there was some longstanding guidance or expectation that masks were going to be be effective is just revisionist history.
you know why you never heard about this during some bad flu season in the past? because pretty much every expert in the world knew that it did not work. it was not even really argued. putting masks on people who are not exhibiting symptoms was always contra-indicated nor have they shown any material efficacy in self-protection. they may well make source protection worse.
so why were they seized upon as such doctrinaire moral imperative? because it was the low energy path for politicians to appear proactive and virtue signal. it cost less than full lockdowns which were both ineffective and far too obviously damaging to keep up as a charade. it was an effective in-group/out-group wedge to to be used to political advantage without making the victim too acutely aware of how they were being fleeced.
absolutist criteria are senseless when looking at risk. they are the tools of demagogues, not scientists. nothing is absolute, not even life. there are risks we take every day and many cases in which even deliberate homicide is deemed “justified” so this was never binary. the idea that we “owe” society some level of complete protection in some absolute sense is never true. it’s an absurdist moral pretext.
most of us drive. driving places those around you at risk. risk could be FAR lower if no one were allowed to exceed 20 mph, even on the highway. yet there is no even remotely representative group claiming we ought to do this despite the fact that the lifetime risk of not just injury, but death by automobile in the US is 1 in 107.
the annualized risk of a vaccinated human dying of covid is about 1 in 100,000 (and that’s among the high risk). for the low risk, it might be 1 in 10,000,000. (walk through in this HERE) so if you are really worried, get vaccinated. (ask your doctor. this is not medical advice.) at that point your risk is so low that it’s already 1/1000th the risk you take from allowing people to drive. it’s 94% lower than flu (1 in 6400 annually), another risk society long since voted it did not care enough about to mitigate beyond “stay home if you don’t feel well.” you probably have a better chance of dying by slipping and falling in the shower than from post-vax covid-19. these are negligible risks. if someone offered you a chance to reduce your likelihood of dying by flu this year by 5%, how much would you pay for it? (if your answer is “a lot” call me. i’m sure we can work out a deal.)
these risks are a level so outrageously below a risk level that humans have made it clear they do not care about as to render them moot.
so why are we granting them some sort of outlandish primacy here and elevating to moral absolutes that which, if put in context, is clearly beneath our notice in all other spheres?
even if my mask did protect you, and as we have seen, it does not, it would not afford enough protection to even be relevant because the risk post vaccine (or among the young and healthy) is so low as to make no functional difference or to demand such a price.
we’ve just been whipped into a frenzy by the distortions of demagogues who have been spamming us with overstated fear and histrionic pastiches of morality while justifying it with made up data to suit made up policy demands. (will post more on this shortly, particularly the CDC mask studies which are among the worst i have ever seen published) “data” was invented from whole cloth to suit politics.
this has been an inversion of epidemiology and of ethics. it has been their abrogation not their adherence. there is simply no case to be made here on either standard that the public must be made to wear masks. this is the conceit of popinjay “leaders” seeking to look like they “saved you” by galloping around on a white horse and issuing loud, shouty orders. it’s not public health, it’s performative politics.
fauci and the CDC did not pick this course because the data changed, they changed the data because this course was politically expedient and served their own ends.
it possesses no basis in fact and never has. it is long since time that it stopped and that all the stirred up sanctimony and outrage it has engendered stopped with it.