Last month, I reviewed the many reasons why mask mandates won’t work. In a nutshell, it is because those mandates’ success relies on humans to use and maintain those masks at all times…which, of course, dooms it to failure.

However, data on masks’ actual effectiveness has not really been persuasive for or against them. A Danish study has found face masks provide the wearer with only limited protection against COVID-19 infection.

In the study, which was carried out in April and May when Danish authorities did not recommend wearing face masks, 6,024 adults were divided into two groups, one wearing face masks and one control group.

After one month, 1.8% of the people wearing masks had been infected, while 2.1% of the people in the control group had tested positive, Copenhagen University Hospital said in a press release.

“The study does not confirm the expected halving of the risk of infection for people wearing face masks,” it said. “The results could indicate a more moderate degree of protection of 15-20%, however, the study could not rule out that face masks do not provide any protection.”

The media rushes to insists that masks must be worn anyway. The study’s authors were less than impressed by a mask’s effectiveness.

“Our study gives an indication of how much you gain from wearing a mask,” said Dr. Henning Bundgaard, lead author of the study and a cardiologist at the University of Copenhagen. “Not a lot.”

Dr. Mette Kalager, a professor of medical decision making at the University of Oslo, found the research compelling. The study showed that “although there might be a symbolic effect,” she wrote in an email, “the effect of wearing a mask does not substantially reduce risk” for wearers.

The Danish finding is also consistent with evidence from a study conducted by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in cooperation with the Naval Medical Research Center. This research sought to test lockdowns, testing, and rigid isolation with 3,143 new recruits to the Marines.

The program was titled CHARM – COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines. The testing conditions were rigorous and noted in the New England Journal of Medicine article.

All recruits wore double-layered cloth masks at all times indoors and outdoors, except when sleeping or eating; practiced social distancing of at least 6 feet; were not allowed to leave campus; did not have access to personal electronics and other items that might contribute to surface transmission; and routinely washed their hands. They slept in double-occupancy rooms with sinks, ate in shared dining facilities, and used shared bathrooms.

All recruits cleaned their rooms daily, sanitized bathrooms after each use with bleach wipes, and ate preplated meals in a dining hall that was cleaned with bleach after each platoon had eaten. Most instruction and exercises were conducted outdoors. All movement of recruits was supervised, and unidirectional flow was implemented, with designated building entry and exit points to minimize contact among persons. All recruits, regardless of participation in the study, underwent daily temperature and symptom screening.

The virus still spread despite all of these precautions:

The virus still spread, though 90% of those who tested positive were without symptoms. Incredibly, 2% of the CHARM recruits still contracted the virus, even if all but one remained asymptomatic. “Our study showed that in a group of predominantly young male military recruits, approximately 2% became positive for SARS-CoV-2, as determined by qPCR assay, during a 2-week, strictly enforced quarantine.”

In fact, when comparing the infection rate to Marines who did not undergo the COVID-Prevention regimen, nonparticipants actually contracted the virus at a slightly lower rate.

Clearly, masks and social distancing don’t work. However, early detection paired with the new and effective treatments will help. It turns out that the Food and Drug Administration just authorized the first at-home COVID test, which will help people make sensible isolation and social distancing choices.

The agency announced the authorization for the all-in-one test kit late Tuesday in response to a request by Kelly Lewis Brezoczky of Lucira Health, the California-based company that developed the test.

In a letter to Brezoczky, the FDA said the test meets the criteria for an emergency use authorization as there are no available alternatives and the product’s benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.

 

 
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