The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


Wear a Mask, But Act as If It Doesn’t Work

Masks have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but instead of believing the evidence and following public health guidelines, many people have turned mask wearing into a political statement. They are refusing to wear masks for reasons that are laughable. Rejecting masks is selfish: it means they don’t care if other people get sick and die.

Update July 1, 2020: A paragraph about First Amendment Rights was updated to clarify a misunderstanding.

As I write this on June 29, 2020, we are in the midst of a global pandemic with a scary, rapidly spreading new virus that we don’t understand very well yet. Globally, 10,199,798 have become infected and 502,947 have died, for a 4.93% death rate. In the U.S., 125,928 people have died out of 2,564,163 infections, for a 4.91% death rate. The bad news is that the actual number of infected people is very likely much higher, inasmuch as testing has been hit and miss, so that means the death rate may not be so high. Nevertheless, the raw number of deaths is a staggering figure and everyone is, or ought to be, worried about getting COVID-19. What can you do to prevent catching the disease?

The rational response would be to listen to expert advice and follow the best public health precautions to minimize the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, which includes frequent handwashing, remaining isolated as much as you can, social distancing when out in public, and wearing a mask around others. But this relatively simple advice has morphed from a public health recommendation to a political hot-button issue. Medical experts recommend masks, for example, but the President sets a bad example by refusing to wear one. Medical authorities recommend social distancing, but people are still crowding together in many settings, and many of them are not wearing masks. Where this has happened in places that began to reopen in May, most notably Florida, Arizona, and California, COVID-19 has come roaring back. Here are some reasons why wearing masks is important.

Surgeons Wear Masks

Surgeons wear surgical masks for many hours a day, day after day. They don’t have any trouble breathing. They are well trained. They know they have to keep their meticulously scrubbed and gloved hands sterile. They know they can’t touch their eyes or their faces and must not touch the mask. If it needs adjusting, they get a nurse or technician to do if for them. If something itches, they know they mustn’t scratch; they ask someone who is not scrubbed in to scratch it for them. They tolerate these minor annoyances not for their own personal benefit, but for the benefit of others. They know the precautions are necessary to minimize the risk of infection in the patients they are operating on.

I wonder how mask refusers would react if their surgeon wanted to perform major surgery on them without wearing a mask. Can you imagine the reaction if a surgeon said, “This is America and I am free to not wear a mask in surgery if I don’t feel like it!” Hopefully mask deniers would realize that would not be a good idea, but I’m not so sure they would.

Surgeons themselves were slow to adapt. In the not so “good old days,” they operated in street clothes with no gowns or gloves, and with unwashed hands. Sometimes the street clothes were visibly filthy or even blood-stained. When Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865) discovered that doctors had been causing puerperal fever, they refused to believe they were at fault. They had been going directly from autopsies to the wards, where they touched obstetrical patients, transmitting the deadly bacteria. No wonder they resisted Semmelweis: they didn’t believe in germs (the germ theory of disease wasn’t established until long after his death). Handwashing was shown to reduce mortality to less than 1%, but they refused to believe the evidence. A frustrated Semmelweis had a nervous breakdown and died in a mental institution.

Surgeons didn’t start consistently wearing gowns until 1901, caps until 1930, gloves until 1937, and masks until 1937. Today, no one in medicine is a mask denier. Not only because they have pledged an oath to “first, do no harm,” but also because they understand the principle of freedom: that the freedom for me to swing my fist ends at your nose. People should be free from other people’s germs where possible, and that is why masks and social distancing are advised.

Advice from the WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) website has instructive videos showing how to wear a mask. They advise cleaning hands both before putting the mask on and after taking it off, not touching the mask, making sure it fits properly without gaps, and removing it by the ear loops while leaning forward and avoiding any contact with the front of the mask. They cover proper storage and cleaning of re-usable masks, and they remind viewers that the mask alone will not guarantee protection, and people must still follow social distancing and handwashing recommendations. They explain that prolonged use of masks does not cause CO2 intoxication or oxygen deficiency. This has been tested; despite the fears of some in the public, blood oxygen and CO2 levels are not affected by wearing masks. Masks should not be worn while exercising, because sweating can make the mask wet, which can interfere with breathing and promote the growth of microorganisms.

The WHO also dispels a number of myths: the virus is not spread by house flies, mosquitos, or 5G networks. It can’t be cured or prevented by alcohol, bleach, adding pepper to your soup, sun exposure, hot weather, hot baths, cold weather, snow, hand dryers, garlic, rinsing the nose with saline, antibiotics, vaccines for flu or pneumonia, or any specific medications. UV lamps should not be used to disinfect the hands or skin.

Masks are Effective

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 24 that in the 16 states that recommend but do not require wearing masks in public, new cases of COVID-19 had risen by 84% in the previous two weeks, while in the 11 states that mandated wearing masks in public, new cases had fallen by 25%. That’s only one data point, but it is consistent with information from other sources. It is inescapably true that masks do work to reduce the rate of transmission. The evidence is clear, no matter how much some people want to deny it.

It is difficult to get reliable data because of the variety of masks in use and the variations in the way they are used. Perhaps the greatest problem is that so many people wear them wrong. We see people with the mask pulled down to expose the nose, essentially wearing a “chin mask.” Since COVID-19 is not transmitted by chins, how could they expect that to do any good? There are even people who must think the virus is transmitted via the Adam’s apple, since their masks only cover that area. We see people touching the outside of their masks, removing them to talk to others, touching their face and eyes, and entering close-packed crowds without wearing their masks. If people don’t use masks consistently and properly, the protection vanishes. Studies have counterintuitively found more virus on the outside of the mask, so it is particularly important to avoid touching that area.

A systematic review of 19 trials supported the benefits of community mask wearing by well individuals. Another systematic review and meta-analysis was published in The Lancet. It reviewed 172 studies and found good evidence to support social distancing, wearing masks in public, contact tracing, and eye protection. They commented, “Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.”

Countries that required masks early on had fewer cases. A new study, not yet peer-reviewed, looked at coronavirus mortality and death rates in 194 countries and found that in countries where masks were mandated and culturally accepted, the per capita coronavirus mortality increased by 8% per week, compared to 54% per week in other countries where mask wearing was less prevalent.

In an encouraging report, two Great Clips hairstylists who tested positive for COVID-19 and wore masks did not pass it on to any of their 140 customers.

Wearing masks in public is twice as effective if masks are worn by everyone rather than only after symptoms appear. And “even homemade masks made from cotton t-shirts or dishcloths can prove 90% effective at preventing transmission.”

A model developed by the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that 33,000 fewer people will die by October 1 if 95% of the U.S. population wears masks in public spaces.

Hierarchy of Masks

A comparison of masks found that the N95 equivalent mask blocked more than 95% of all particles, as expected. The surgical mask was around 40% effective, with the dental masks coming in at around 60%. Cotton masks were around 30% effective and cotton handkerchiefs ranged from 2% (one layer) to 13% (four layers).

Early mixed messages confused the public. Advice to only use N95 masks when treating sick patients was based on the fact that personal protective devices were in short supply and should be reserved for those who needed them most. That is no longer an issue. When we learned that asymptomatic people could carry the virus and infect others, everyone was encouraged to wear masks not for their own benefit, but to protect others. And they do also provide some protection for the wearer.

How is the Virus Transmitted?

The coronavirus can last on metal surfaces for 5 days, on wood for 4 days, on plastics for 2–3 days, on stainless steel for 2–3 days, on cardboard for 24 hours, on copper for 4 hours, on aluminum for 2–8 hours, on glass and ceramics for up to 5 days, and on paper from minutes to days. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will cause an infection, but it’s a good idea to regularly clean and disinfect common surfaces. Wearing a mask will not protect you from virus on surfaces, and it is not an excuse to slack off on hand washing.

As far as we know, no-one has gotten COVID-19 from food or drinking water. In restaurants and crowds, the risk is from other people, and it increases with the length of exposure. The risk is greatest for droplet transmission through the air, which can happen even when asymptomatic people don’t know they are infected.

Conspiracies and Fallacies

Some of the arguments people make to justify mask refusal are almost comical.

A sheriff in Washington State pushed back against the governor’s mandate to wear masks, saying, “Don’t be a sheep. Why are people going and trying to take away our First Amendment rights?” You might be a sheep if you only wore a mask because you wanted to mimic what everyone else was doing; you are not a sheep if you wear a mask because you know it reduces transmission and you want to protect yourself and others.

The argument about taking away our First Amendment rights is common, but it is based on faulty reasoning. Here’s what the First Amendment actually says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In the coronavirus pandemic, no laws have been passed and no Constitutional rights have been infringed.

The need for quarantine in a disease outbreak emergency outweighs everything else. Typhoid Mary was forcibly quarantined, violating her right to freedom in order to keep her from transmitting typhoid to the people she cooked for. Citizens have rights, but they also have responsibilities. The right to drive doesn’t mean the right to disregard rules, drive recklessly, and endanger the lives of others. In a pandemic, citizens have a responsibility to follow public health guidelines designed to help prevent the spread of disease and unnecessary deaths.

Some have argued that the rules interfere with their right to worship; but they don’t. They only make it safer for people to attend religious services, and of course you can worship at home, with others via Zoom or Skype, or in churches practicing proper social distancing. Others say the rules will interfere with their right to vote, but that’s not true either. Most states have vote-by-mail options, and there’s no reason that practice couldn’t be extended to all states as a rational response to the pandemic.

One woman said she wouldn’t wear a mask for the same reason she doesn’t wear underwear: “things need to breathe.” No, your lungs need to breathe; your skin doesn’t. If she really believed what she says, why would she wear clothes at all?

Palm Beach County voted unanimously to require the use of face masks in public spaces, sparking an eruption of angry residents. 52 people testified, almost all against masks; and the video went viral. One woman said, “You literally cannot mandate somebody to wear a mask knowing that mask is killing people.” Masks don’t kill people. One can only wonder where that misinformation came from. If masks kill people, wouldn’t surgeons be dying like flies?

Some protestors called it “the devil’s law” and said people who follow it are going to be arrested. “They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.” But of course, masks don’t do anything to interfere with the breathing system. The mask wearer breathes normally; all the mask does is filter out some of the infective droplets to protect other people. “Every single one of you is going to be punished by God. You can not escape God.”

Another woman compared the law to Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews: “we were forced to wear a gold star, told to get on a box car to be taken to a safe place…This is not about health, this is about submission.” They shared conspiracy theories about a “communist dictatorship” that is “brainwashing people.” The distancing requirement is “military protocol.” “You’re trying to get people trained so when the cameras, the 5G comes out, we gotta get scanned, we gotta get temperatured. Are you insane? All of you should be in a psych ward.” And, predictably, since he supposedly engineered the pandemic so that he can implant a chip into people’s bodies when they are eventually vaccinated, “Why is Bill Gates not in jail?”

“Keep listening to the TV brainwashing you from birth.” There was talk of the Deep State and pedophiles. There was denial: “There’s not enough [COVID-19] to make it a pandemic.” They want to “put masks on your face to keep us from breathing oxygen, to get us to become sickly.” “I want to know who is getting paid off and where is the mandate coming from.” The comments were rife with vitriol but lacking in evidence. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases in Florida increased to record levels.

History Repeats

Mask resistance is nothing new. In the 1918 flu epidemic, masks were mandated. Most people complied, but many complained that masks were uncomfortable, and some even poked holes in them so they could smoke! Mayors and other prominent people were photographed not wearing masks. Communities that implemented stronger health measures overall fared better than those that didn’t.

Mask refusers sound like petulant children: “I don’t wanna wear a mask. You can’t make me. You’re not the boss of me.” When I see someone not wearing a mask, it says to me “I don’t care about other people. If you get sick and die, that’s not my problem.”

The Bottom Line

Dr. Steven Novella says we should all wear masks in public; but we should learn to wear them properly, and we should act as if the mask does not work. I couldn’t agree more! END

About the Author

Dr. Harriet Hall, MD, the SkepDoc, is a retired family physician and Air Force Colonel living in Puyallup, WA. She writes about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, quackery, and critical thinking. She is a contributing editor to both Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, an advisor to the Quackwatch website, and an editor of sciencebasedmedicine.org, where she writes an article every Tuesday. She is author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon. Her website is SkepDoc.info.

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dav
July 5, 2020 9:39 pm

What’s your doctorate in, sweetheart?

You talk about psychological motivations and epidemiology.

Pick one and stick to it.

And considering that actual doctors have changed their minds at least three times, tells me you quacks don’t have any better ideas than the rest of us.

James Burian
July 3, 2020 8:55 am

Wow! Just reading through the comments and am amazed at the differing opinions within the skeptical community on this subject. It doesn’t seem to even be a clear left/right divide within my circle of acquaintances. Sorry if I sound selfish and cruel to some and bending to New World Order sheep herding to others. I am going to live my life. I will social distance without a mask. I will greatly reduce my exposure in Walmart and other crowded venues, but will wear a mask when can’t distance. I will stay away from those who are at greatest risk of complications or death (my parents). My goal is not to prevent exposure to covid, but to reduce my exposure, so that hospital ERs do not get overwhelmed. I am not a scientist or a doctor. Just an individual with an opinion.

Richard Morris
July 3, 2020 7:44 am

A couple of significant points not covered here are (1) the statistics come from the government, making them suspect in the first place, and (2) they are easily misconstrued, either intentionally or unknowingly. After all, we do know figures don’t lie (unless the numbers are not accurate), but liars can figure. 

I think the good doctor makes some good points here, but her acceptance of whatever is fed to her by WHO or other government authorities shows to me she has not shaken off her career in the military.

To be clear, I am not saying she is lying. I am saying I think she makes mistakes in this article.

BillG
July 2, 2020 3:51 am

Too many unknowns concerning this virus and too many to claim certainly. Lest we forget what science is? It changes with best available information in which mask wearing is advised.
More important is to not only keep some social distance but to be extremely vigilant about not touching your face when out in public and wash your hands when returning home. Isn’t that how we get sick from most common colds and flu?
The germaphobes must feel some vindication as their precautions are not delusional.

Bob
July 1, 2020 4:00 pm

The fact that society is arguing at all anymore about anything covid related at this point is showing how much we have devolved as a species.

Anyone that is alive today in 2020, with all of the information available at their fingertips to look through and still buys into ANY of the official narratives of this pandemic (including the moronic mask wearing narrative that opinions keep going back and forth on by the “experts”) is completely hopeless.

It’s almost to the point to where the actors on tv (who many refer to as “experts”) will be telling the masses to commit suicide in order to escape the “virus” and a lot of people would probably do it, sadly.

All of the recommendations the “experts” are giving now are all slow suicide recommendations and the masses keep following them all and voluntarily comply. Hope this ends soon before its to late for many.

Tom
July 1, 2020 12:24 pm

Of those in who caught Covid in NYC, 66% were in lockdown and 18% were in nursing homes. That’s 84%. Fine, don’t count the 18% that Cuomo poisoned by sending the sick into their facility. That’s still two thirds in lockdown were the ones who caught it.

I have no doubt that masks help. I also know that those with asthma, respiratory issues, allergies and especially the elderly with those issues will suffer a higher rate of stroke in the summer wearing a mask. Masks help, sure. To the degree that duck and cover worked against nuclear weapons. It’s value is probably far greater as a reminder to wash, and maintain a distance than mask itself.

Dale Schroader
July 1, 2020 11:18 pm
Reply to  Tom

This is a Skeptic site. Critical thinking is highly recommended. Your claim of the people infected in lockdown is correct, but why did your logic train stop there? I am quite confident that the vast majority of those residents do NOT have a biological laboratory capable of designing and manufacturing COVID-19 at their homes. The infections obviously came from somewhere outside and the fact people still got infected actually reinforces the need for the lockdown, as without it, those numbers would have been MUCH worse. This is indeed evident by all the states that opened early with very loose restrictions and their corresponding explosion of COVID-19 spread.

Also, your assessment of the value of the masks ignores the actual science that supports their use.

https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.13553.pdf

This as a good scientific breakdown by a British study, but for the casual reader, the main point to be taken is found here as part of their conclusion (end of May would have been 6 weeks from the date of the study):
“Social distancing and masking at both 50% and 80-90% of the population but no lockdown beyond the end of May result in substantial reduction of infection, with 80-90% masking eventually eliminating the disease.

pathcoin1
July 1, 2020 3:43 am

There is a confusion about masks. There are two types: A simple cloth mask and a more complicated filter mask. The function overlaps but the purposes are different.

The simple cloth mask (or similar device) blocks respiratory droplets. It does not block the virus per se, but the virus rides the respiratory droplets like a rider on a horse. Block the droplets or at least impair their spread and impair the spread of the virus. The cloth mask protects YOU from ME. These masks are quite effective as proven by the East Asian Experience (Hong Kong and Taiwan).

The filter type mask (known as N95, N100, and similar devices) is llke the cloth mask, the filter mask blocks the spread of the respiratory droplet. But it has an enhanced function: it also blocks the spread of the virus. It is slightly more complicated and must be fitted to the user. It is used in situations where I must be protected from YOU. This is why it is used by healthcare workers. They are exposed to high viral loads continually.

it is clear that when the WHO came up the post hoc explanation of a shortage of masks, it was practicing a “CYOA” moment.

Barry
July 1, 2020 3:21 am

For a so-called prominent skeptic this article is downright embarrassing.

Appeals to emotion, data points based on correlations, and outright white-washing. Not to mention the condescending talking-down attitude of the article itself.

This is not science this is borderline religion.

I wear a mask in public. My entire family does as well but to imply that there are no justified reasons to be against them is plain wrong. Even ignorant.

I love an open honest discussion. The article above was not that.

Let’s go step-by-step through some of your points:

1. You immediately try and scare the reader by dropping a 4.93% death rate. That is absolutely not the death rate. Not even close. And we all know it. You try and tiptoe around that misleading statistic by then saying:
“The bad news is that the actual number of infected people is very likely much higher, inasmuch as testing has been hit and miss, so that means the death rate may not be so high”.
“bad news”…”may not be so high.”

This is so misleading and such an appeal to emotion that anything that comes after it is suspect.
We absolutely know the death rate is lower then 4.93% so “death rate may not be so high” is just misleading. The death rate is magnitudes lower because we absolutely do know that the number of infected is much higher then those tested.
You then call this bad news. A higerh number of infected beyond what we know is actually GOOD news. It means that the vast vast majority are either asymptomatic or not severe.

You double-down with: “Nevertheless, the raw number of deaths is a staggering figure and everyone is, or ought to be, worried about getting COVID-19”
Again, an appeal to emotion over facts. Raw deaths is not “staggering” and no, not everyone needs to be worried. Shame on you.

2. “The rational response would be to listen to expert advice…”
Really? Which experts? The experts who have been giving us non-stop conflicting, often wrong, advice? The experts who originally claimed it was not transferable human to human (See W.H.O. statement in January)? The experts(CDC, Fauci) who told us masks don’t help and we should not run out and buy them – only to backtrack later and admit they were pretty much lying to us to prevent a rush on supplies? The experts who told us based on their models and simulations that millions would be dead by now in the USA alone? How about the experts at JAMA – the worlds most prestigious medical journal – retracting 2 articles about related to Covid treatment due to falsified data?

And of course the experts telling us that we are going to kill our grandmothers if we go out – unless we are protesting a political cause in which case it is fine.

I could go on of course but the point is made….

So yeah, you have got to be kidding about experts.Shouldn’t a so-called Skeptic have the exact opposite reaction? Blindly following “experts” is just appaling. Especially given the novel situation about which so little is known. The only thing the so-called experts have shown us is that they are just as clueless as we all are.

3. You then go on a long-winded side note about surgeons wearing masks. This is a complete straw-man. This is basic logical fallacy 101. The issue here is not about surgeons wearing masks. No one is disagreeing with this. There is a cavernous difference between a trained surgeon in a controlled sterile environment wearing a certified mask while performing surgery and the general public wearing cheap or even homemade masks out in a public street.
C’mon, you are better than this.

4. “Advice from the W.H.O.” I already mentioned some of the issues with the WHO above but suffice it to say their advice has been conflicting, often wrong, and often bordering on political.

5. “Masks are Effective”. Ah, the heart of matter. Much of your “evidence” here is either anecdotal or largely correlational. Not only that but there are many places and countries that did not institute mask wearing and their numbers are similar to those who are mandating masks. So I’ll see your correlational points and match them with mine. 
You did mention a couple of studies showing the effectiveness of masks. Of course, you conveniently left out, the other studies that, indeed, show the opposite. We are still way short of knowing if masks indeed help or not. And there is some evidence that masks are actually harmful.  It gives people a false sense of security thus skipping other diligence, people touch their masks and then their faces, re-use masks, don’t put them on correctly, take them off incorrectly, etc….all having potentially harmful effects. 
This article seems a particularly unbiased and comprehensive summary of the studies to date on masks:
https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/04/should-you-wear-a-face-mask-heres-all-the-data-we-have

** Spoiler-alert: There are just as many studies show no benefit or even harmful benefit as there are showing positive benefits.

All that said, I personally wear masks whenever I go out ion public. It just seems to make logical sense they will help. Of course, that’s what was thought about blood letting and Astrology.
That said, let’s have a reasonable discussion with all the facts AND the unknowns. While it may not matter much to you, mandating peoples behavior should never be taken lightly. Laws about what we should do must only be instituted in the most dire circumstances under conditions as factually as possible. While forcing people to wear masks may not be authoritarian, push back is often beneficial so that governments understand the limits of their power.

Leo Foss
July 1, 2020 11:31 am
Reply to  Barry

Barry, of all the responses here I think yours is by far the best. I would only add one item about non-surgical masks.:
Surgeons wear N95 masks primarily to protect the person they are working on from infection from the bacteria and viruses that normally populate the surgeon, and perhaps from other viruses that the surgeon picked up from patients he/she recently worked on. When the surgeon washes he/her hands, it is not to protect him/herself because the washing takes place before the operation starts. The washing is to protect the patient from any germs that the surgeon might have on his/her hands. Wearing a mask is part of the totality of measures the surgeon employs to protect the patient from infection.
And surgeons do not wear a face mask solely to protect them from infection; they also wear plastic eye protection. This is because the eyes provide another vector for the virus to enter the body..
If you are in close proximity to a symptomatic person who is coughing vigorously, wearing a non-surgical mask will protect you only in a very minor way. The water dropletss will adhere to the outside of the mask, and when the water evaporates the viral particle can be inhaled through the pores of the non-surgical mask and voila: you are infected.
Surgeons obviously do not wear non-surgical masks as they do not protect them significantly.
If I do not harbor the COVID-19 virus, wearing the mask is not going to protect me very well from your COVID-19 virus. I wear the mask to protect you from me, but if I am certain I don’t have the virus then where is the rationale to wear a mask?
Dr. Hall’s article appears in the Skeptic magazine, and that magazine should be ashamed of publishing such a non-scientific article from a non-scientist. Dr. Hall is a retired general practitioner, not an expert on transmission of viral diseases. Where is the skepticism?

Dale Schroader
July 1, 2020 10:53 pm
Reply to  Leo Foss

I disagree with your assessment of Barry’s misinformed rant. The article he cites is dated April 3rd, and is full of speculative and incorrect statements. You correctly pointed out that you, and surgeons wear masks to protect others from infections, but failed to acknowledge the Skeptic’s article’s point – “When we learned that asymptomatic people could carry the virus and infect others, everyone was encouraged to wear masks not for their own benefit, but to protect others.” I point this out, because this is the killer flaw (pun INTENDED) in Barry’s “logic”. He does not acknowledge this FACT, and the study he cited only talks about self-protection, as I am sure are all the “other studies” he seems to have at the ready. And YOUR major flop is when you wrote, ” if I am certain I don’t have the virus then where is the rationale to wear a mask?”. I say that because there is NO WAY you can be certain that you do not have the virus. Even after getting an accurate negative test for it, there is NOTHING that ascertains you did not become infected immediately, or anytime thereafter. Please try to perform better analysis of logical pitfalls in future.

Last edited 4 days ago by Dale Schroader
Dale Schroader
July 1, 2020 11:02 pm
Reply to  Barry

My reply to Leo Foss took down your biggest misinformation regarding masks – you focus on the self-preventative aspects, rather than the true reason for the masks – protection of others. This invalidates the bulk of your rant. You did throw out this chestnut, “Not only that but there are many places and countries that did not institute mask wearing and their numbers are similar to those who are mandating masks”, but provided no references. Please provide them, as I can easily show how such a claim is just more misinformation as it pertains to the effectiveness of wearing masks to prevent infecting others.

Paul
June 30, 2020 8:25 pm

I agree with the article and the science shows that mask wearing saves lives. For those that are saying “correlation not causation”, so what? If masks only have a maybe potential to save lives, why not do it? They’re not that hard to wear and breathe. Why would anyone try to make mask-wearing a political or freedom issue? I assume these are also the people who are offended if we tell children not to smoke or drink.
Also, a minor nitpick. You said “No, your lungs need to breathe; your skin doesn’t.” Actually, your skin does breathe. If you coat all of your skin with impermeable paint except your nose and mouth, you will die (not quickly, but over several hours). But that has no bearing on putting a permeable mask on your face–which has never harmed thousands of people, including cowboys wearing bandanas against dust. (Hey! Proud Americans wearing masks! Why not get some cowboy ads as PSAs? And PSA could stand for Proud Smart Americans.)

Alejandro Ray
June 30, 2020 6:28 pm

Life is all about disease and death. Humanity likes to blind itself to that fact. We can all die at any minute. Now, all of a sudden, everyone is worried about it. When, very few had the backbone to consider it before all this began. Coronavirus is nature retaliating against the virus of the human race, because all humanity has ever done is screw it up. I’ve been “social distancing” my whole life, and being ridiculed for this the entire time. Now, again all of a sudden, it’s okay to keep to oneself. And, NO ONE is even trying to understand those of us out here who’ve never needed cliques or groups or anything of that nature. So thank you for reminding me how easy it is to forget their are millions of different points of view. Just because the majority follows ONE doesn’t necessarily mean it’s correct.

Doug
June 30, 2020 3:38 pm

Michael Shermer, please listen to Michael Osterholm on this subject.
https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/covid-19/podcasts-webinars/special-ep-masks

Stephen
June 30, 2020 1:56 pm

Not wearing masks means people don’t care about others getting sick and dying?

A sick and disgusting summation just as mellow dramatic as those who compare this to Nazi Germany. Hopefully society will never fall clutches to such a depraved mentality that’ll lead nowhere but to struggle sessions and public mob bullying. You’re not that many bad articles away from saying they’re murderers.

If someone doesn’t have electrical socket covers does that mean they want their kids to die?

At least the Nazi comparisons have weight as you’ve cited states where politicians enforce coercive policies and calls by Biden and Pelosi to make mask wearing a federal law.

Leave masks to the geezers.

Paul
June 30, 2020 8:01 pm
Reply to  Stephen

Yes, if you’re breathing your germs on me, they infect me and I die, you are a murderer. How did you think it worked? People with AIDS who knew it and has unprotected sex were murderers. And read the Constitution (I have, you should). Tell me where the “freedom not to wear a mask” amendment is. Or is this one of those made up amendments that drunk people sometimes tell me about?

John, PhD in public health
July 1, 2020 8:26 am
Reply to  Paul

“Tell me where the “freedom not to wear a mask” amendment is.”

It’s in the same section where the Constitution grants the government the power to require a person to wear one.


Dale Schroader
July 1, 2020 10:19 pm

You are confusing “freedom” with “reckless endangerment”, which IS a crime, but as you seem to not care about basic humanitarian concepts, I doubt it will register, anyway. As someone else once said (cannot remember who, right now), “Your freedom to swing your fists ends at the tip of my nose.”

Clint R
July 5, 2020 10:17 pm
Reply to  Paul

14th amendment. Read it carefully. Were you compelled to retire? Presuming you’re of the age to retire. Also, look up liberty in the dictionary while you’re at it. And, if I have a legitimate claim that I can’t wear a mask HIPPA and the 4th amendment have my back on that.

Janice Muir
June 30, 2020 1:34 pm

Thank you, Dr. Hall. I will share the link to this article with my Workplace Health & Safety Committee.

Rosemary
June 30, 2020 1:26 pm

I believe that New Zealand, Australia and all the Scandinavian countries besides Finland did not require or recommend that the general public wear masks. I know that at least two advised against it. All did very well compared to the US.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/04/coronavirus-the-ministry-of-health-s-current-verdict-on-face-masks-during-covid-19-pandemic.html

https://www.thelocal.dk/20200511/why-is-denmark-not-recommending-face-masks-to-the-public

Dale Schroader
July 2, 2020 9:47 am
Reply to  Rosemary

A little research indicates that is not always true, as well as why a small few had less problems.

https://www.foxnews.com/world/new-zealand-health-minister-resigns-after-coronavirus-lockdown-missteps

Sweden relied on its citizenry’s civic compliance to recommendations, rather than enforcements, for the most part, yet –
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-25/swedish-scientist-who-doubted-face-masks-reconsiders-their-use?srnd=storythread

As for Denmark, it was the second country in Europe to enter lockdown and did so before it even reported its first death. It’s small population and strict social distancing and hygiene measures, combined with a tiny initial caseload, were also instrumental in preventing the disease from gaining a significant foothold. These are combined factors that most countries do not have in their favor. When there is so little of the disease available to spread, the effectiveness of face masks is not necessary to aid in its containment (even though an early use of them would still have likely resulted in significantly less cases, but that is hindsight).

Last edited 3 days ago by Dale Schroader
Renee
June 30, 2020 12:50 pm

16 states that recommend but do not require wearing masks in public, new cases of COVID-19 had risen by 84% in the previous two weeks, while in the 11 states that mandated wearing masks in public, new cases had fallen by 25%.
CORRELATION NOT CAUSATION! This is not science. I am sure that the states mandating people to wear masks also have many other restrictive mandates.

Gene Cotton
June 30, 2020 6:36 pm
Reply to  Renee

I’ll add the line you left out…

“That’s only one data point, but it is consistent with information from other sources.”

Dale Schroader
July 1, 2020 10:35 pm
Reply to  Renee

No, the science is in the way face masks can demonstrably be shown to limit the spread of infection via testing in the laboratories, when worn and maintained correctly. The data provided in the article is indicative of how effective that applied science is in the real world. Still, don’t let the fact that other countries have overwhelmingly experienced parallel results interfere with your prejudiced conclusions, either. Also, the ignorant misinformation Barry is trying to spread about some countries, that did not enforce mask wearing are not having problems, is irrelevant cherry-picking, as those countries either eventually ended up having the same problems, or had a populace that was compliant with recommendations enough to not force a mandate.

David Barrett
June 30, 2020 11:06 am

Anyone can be forgiven for reading the text of the First Amendment literally and thinking it applies only when “Congress … make[s] [a] law….” But the commenters are correct that the Supreme Court long ago incorporated First Amendment rights into the Fourteenth Amendment, which expressly applies against the States, which, in turn, the Court has interpreted broadly to include any state or local government actor. The so-called “state action” requirement does not operate only when a state or local government formally passes a law. Thus, the recent orders issued by governors, mayors, county public health officers, etc. mandating the wearing of face masks in public are “state action” and, therefore, susceptible to challenge in the courts. I agree that any such challenge on First Amendment grounds should fail on the merits, i.e., a citizen’s minimal expressive interests in not wearing a mask are substantially outweighed by the government’s compelling public health interests in requiring everyone to wear a mask. That said, one cannot dismiss the First Amendment argument as “laughable” merely because Congress or a state or local legislature did not pass a law on the subject. I hope, Dr. Hall, that you will now revise your otherwise excellent article to correct your mistake on this legal issue. I fear that, if you fail to do so, your critics will continue to claim that everything else you wrote lacks credibility. That’s unfair, of course. But why give them the ammunition?

Michael
June 30, 2020 10:35 am

See OSHA standards and know the facts instead of repeating what is wrong. Excerpts from OSHA Page: Cloth masks – Will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.
Surgical Masks – Will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.

Michael
June 30, 2020 10:30 am

Based on OSHA standards people are likely carrying around a virus dish on their face at worst and at best given a false sense of protection. What a surgeon or health professional wears and their mask training are quite different than the average person. Excerpts from OSHA Page: Cloth masks – Will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.
Surgical Masks – Will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.

Michael
June 30, 2020 10:13 am

To the extent the restrictions were established by states or state agencies issuing regulations, or to the extent the restrictions were established by state executive orders, the First Amendment nevertheless applies. The First Amendment, as incorporated against states, does not only apply to federal or state laws. It also extends to other governmental action.

You wrote:
In the coronavirus pandemic, Congress has not made any laws; the restrictions about assembly, social distancing, mask wearing, and religious services were mandated by state and local governments, not by Congress. So there has been no violation of the First Amendment.

I understood your point to be that because these restrictions were made by state governments and not by Congress, it is not possible for them to violate the First Amendment.
That’s wrong. The actions of state governments, whether by law or regulation or executive can violate the First Amendment.

But as I said above, I think that these particular state actions do not unconstitutionally infringe on First Amendment rights.

ACW
June 30, 2020 9:29 am

The one criticism I would make is that Dr Hall accurately quotes the First Amendment, ‘Congress shall make no law …’, but then adds that it doesn’t apply because the mask requirements are made by state and local governments. However, there is ample case law establishing that ‘Congress’ extends to lower levels of government.
This is a minor point, since the First Amendment isn’t applicable to mask-wearing, period. Requiring a mask is a public health issue, not a free speech or religious issue. You can print any message you like on your mask (and many do). You can speak audibly with the mask on. You can hold protests, wave signs, etc. with the mask on.
In addition, private property, such as a store or your workplace, are not (with some exceptions) bound by the First Amendment. Walmart or your boss can require you to wear a mask on the premises. They can eject you or fire you, as applicable, if you don’t adhere to their dress codes.
I don’t like wearing a mask. But ten years ago, I was one of the handful of people who got the H1N1 flu. I was a healthy woman in my early 50s, worked out daily, ate a healthful diet, no junk food, no drinking, no smoking. No risk factors. Hadn’t been sick literally for decades. I was in a medical coma for two months and spent another month in the hospital. (I was able to skip rehab.) Trust me, you do not want the joy of coming down with something like this, and yes, it could happen to you.
I’m conflicted on whether to bother reading the other comments, as there are already eight, which suggests to me that the nut cases are out in force ….

Jon Holmes
July 1, 2020 8:53 pm
Reply to  ACW

A typical response by a liberal. When presented with facts (based on peer reviewed studies) that go against your belief you call us “nut cases.” Wear your mask if it makes you feel better but they don’t help much at all. In the future stop your name calling and accept the fact that the majority of people don’t believe masks help much at all…

Bob Burger
June 30, 2020 9:26 am

She starts off with apples and oranges to push her agenda.

Stop her hysteria. Push back.

Bob
June 30, 2020 9:14 am
Gene Cotton
June 30, 2020 6:33 pm
Reply to  Bob

Thank you for posting this.

joe
June 30, 2020 9:10 am

You leftists made this thing political. You would make a great Nazi.

Paul
June 30, 2020 8:11 pm
Reply to  joe

I request removal of all posts that try to suppress discussion and call others “Nazi”. It’s infantile, hate speech, and just plain weak writing. And I am a proud Republican, who stands with the Bushes and Reagan (but not with Trump, because I believe in science, am not misogynist, not a racist, and not an idiot–and yes, the last was a bit infantile, so I take it back. No, wait, who claimed a disproved antimalarial treatment would prevent COVID-19? And wasn’t there something about bleach? Hmmm, guess idiot’s not too strong a word).

Don
June 30, 2020 9:07 am
Joey Wong
June 30, 2020 8:53 am

“In the coronavirus pandemic, Congress has not made any laws; the restrictions about assembly, social distancing, mask wearing, and religious services were mandated by state and local governments, not by Congress. So there has been no violation of the First Amendment.”

Comment #2 from Michael is exactly right. I was more or less tolerating the condescending schoolmarm scolding tone until the “laughable” 1st amendment paragraph. Good lord. Yes please, lets wear masks, but the lack of credibility about basic civics makes me wonder about the validity of the rest of the piece.

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