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Masks Work...

...according to the CDC's most recent cloth and surgical mask guidance interpreting sixty-five underlying studies. But what do the studies actually say?

While checking out last week during a grocery run, a gregarious employee was assisting me with bagging my groceries and loading heavy drink items onto the shelf beneath the grocery cart. We were on opposite sides of the cart, and this employee was laughing during our exchange with the checkout clerk. As I was reaching across the cart for an empty spot to load a bag of dairy items while the employee was bending down to load one of the 12 packs that I scored in a glorious buy 2 get 1, I experienced a faint puff of acrid breath. You see, this employee was wearing a cloth mask that was not securely fitted around the bridge of her nose. Granted, I was not wearing one of the surgical masks that I keep buried in the trunk of my car. Nonetheless, even if I was, I would have still inhaled the employee’s cloud of aerosolized laughing nanoparticles due to the 60% particle passthrough rate of my surgical mask further weakened by the mask's openings around my cheeks, chin, and bridge of my nose where it fails to create a seal on my bearded face. But masks work, right?

Increasingly we’re hearing the term “consensus” bandied about on issues related to the novel SARS-CoV-2 pandemic — a pandemic that shut down most of the world during the Spring of 2020. It is doing so again today in parts of the world due to the surge of the Delta variant. Indeed, the first COVID case for six months in New Zealand recently prompted its Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, to shut down the entire country for three days. Meanwhile, during regularly scheduled newscasts, Australian news agencies on behalf of Australian law enforcement agencies working in tandem with the Australian public health apparatus are putting out APBs on private citizens caught in the act of ... wait for it ... exiting their apartments.

Yet, one might question whether the term “consensus,” which means “a general agreement,” should be an appropriate guiding principle in the context of a novel viral outbreak, especially during the nascent months of the pandemic when little understanding of the virus had been extrapolated by the scientific community. However, the “consensus” of purported “experts” was and continues to be the driving force behind mask mandate campaigns, including forcing masks upon school aged children who have a collective risk of dying from COVID less than that presented by the annual flu and about 10x less than the risk of dying in a car on the way to school. Put another way, 53,193 children out of over 73,000,000 children in the United States have died from all causes during the course of the pandemic. Only 361 of those deaths (less than 1% of all child deaths) have been due to COVID. That’s right, COVID accounts for less than 1% of the 0.07% child death rate in the US during the course of the pandemic.

Telekinetic ability to read tea leaves is not required to understand how consensus on masking is being driven mostly by messaging coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (the “CDC”) -- particularly from the CDC's “Science Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2,” most recently updated on May 7, 2021. For brevity’s sake, we’ll refer to this document at the CDC white paper on cloth and surgical masks — the kinds of masks donned by nearly all of the folks wearing masks in public spaces. The CDC white paper draws from sixty-five (65) underlying studies to conclude that cloth and surgical masks are beneficial in reducing transmission of COVID-19 infections.

While the CDC white paper relies on studies primarily focused on cloth and surgical masks, some of the underlying studies also address the protective properties of N-95 masks, which, when properly fitted, can provide greater protection from virus laden nanoparticles (usually less than .3 microns) than cloth and surgical masks, although this distinction has not necessarily been observed to be the case among populations of healthcare workers. If you haven't gathered already, you will soon understand why “properly fitted” must be the operative phrase when evaluating the efficacy of any mask at reducing the spread of viral nanoparticles.

Sixty-five studies sounds like a lot, and it is if you take the time to read them (along with the many other mask studies that the CDC fails to mention in its white paper). What becomes apparent when diving into these studies, however, is that some fail to support their own masking recommendation conclusions either due to small sample sizes, failure to account for confounding variables, weak data per the timeframe during which research data was culled, or a combination of some or all of these factors. Meanwhile other studies cited by the CDC for the proposition that masks are useful tools for mitigating the transmission of aerosolized virus particles conclude the opposite of the enthusiastic pro-masking position for which the CDC referenced the study.

It’s important to consider the types of studies that the CDC relies upon within this set of sixty-five, and, for that matter, the studies and meta-analyses it leaves out. Randomized control trials (RCTs) are widely considered to be the gold standard for evaluating the causal relationship between prospective therapies (e.g., mask wearing) and outcomes achieved by those therapies (e.g., do masks reduce viral transmission?). Randomization of the study population and the presence of control groups by which researchers can contrast a population that employed a therapy against a control population that did not, greatly reduces the risk of self-reporting bias that often permeates retrospective survey studies.

However, the CDC’s cloth and surgical mask white paper relies on alarmingly few RCT studies — two to be exact. Both of these RCT studies - the 2020 Danish study and the 2015 Vietnamese study — demonstrate that cloth and surgical mask provide next to no benefit in protecting wearers from contracting respiratory illnesses. In fact, the Danish study, which evaluated the efficacy of three-layer surgical masks specifically with regard to the ability to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, found that 1.8% of the mask group contracted coronavirus compared to 2.1% of the non-masked control group during the April 3, 2020 to June 2, 2020 study period — a 0.3% statistically insignificant difference. This April 3, 2020 to June 2, 2020 timeframe is noteworthy because Denmark was facing a minor COVID surge. The Danish study is also noteworthy for its relatively large sample size that included nearly 5,000 participants.

Meanwhile, the 2015 Vietnamese RCT study cited by the CDC reached very similar (and somewhat alarming) findings with its 1,607 randomized sample group of health care workers. While there was no non-mask control group in the Vietnamese study, this study primarily compared the efficacy of simple cloth masks to traditional three-ply surgical masks during all-day wear in a healthcare environment. Despite concluding that surgical masks were 92% more effective than cloth masks at preventing respiratory illness transmission, the researchers concluded still that surgical masks provide no statistically significant virus isolation compared to wearing no mask at all. To reach this conclusion, researchers compared the virus filtration results of the surgical mask group in the 2015 study with two previous RCT studies performed in Beijing that studied the efficacy of surgical masks versus N-95 mask versus no-mask control groups during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. The H1N1 Beijing studies concluded based on the respiratory illness rate among the surgical mask group compared to the no mask group that surgical masks provide no statistically significant virus isolation compared to wearing no mask. The 2015 Vietnamese study found that the respiratory infection rate of its surgical mask group was similar to that of the older Beijing studies. Accordingly (and alarmingly), the 92% reduction in respiratory illness found in the Vietnamese study for surgical masks compared to cloth masks suggested to the researches that cloth masks may increase the transmission of respiratory infections because of their ability to retain viral particles from moisture, dirt, and other foreign matter that collect throughout the day via respiration and frequent manipulation of masks while donning and doffing. Likewise, 85% of the infections identified in the 2015 study were rhinovirus infections which spread — like COVID-19 — primarily via aerosolized nanoparticles as opposed to larger respiratory droplets.

“Further, we found no significant difference in rates of virus isolation in medical mask users between the three trials, suggesting that the results of this study could be interpreted as partly being explained by a detrimental effect of cloth masks. This is further supported by the fact that the rate of virus isolation in the no-mask control group in the first Chinese RCT was 3.1%, which was not significantly different to the rates of virus isolation in the medical mask arms in any of the three trials including this one.”

Again, both “gold standard” RCT studies cited by the CDC white paper conclude that cloth and surgical masks provide little to no benefit in limiting the transmission of aerosolized virus nanoparticles. These studies included comparatively large sample sizes of nearly 5,000 participants for the Danish study and over 1,500 participants for the Vietnamese study. Nonetheless, the CDC criticized both of these studies for their purported lack of sufficiently large sample sizes. In contrast, the CDC rely upon two self-report cohort studies that readers of the white paper are led to believe counter the findings of the RCTs, yet, both of these cohort studies had respondent sample sizes of 335 and 104, respectively. Yes, the CDC’s counter to “gold standard” RCT studies with multi-thousand strong sample sizes were low triple digit cohort studies. We will return to a discussion of the CDC's survey response non-randomized cohort studies with no control groups later, but it’s important to note at this point that cohort studies and other types of retrospective studies are useful typically when there is “an absence of evidence” and randomized control trials (RCTs) are not available. This is because post-hoc survey responses are prone to bias and, particularly, when retrospective studies are comparing ill-defined groups over separate time periods rather than defined groups drawn from a randomized pool over the same time period, many other confounding variables besides self-reporting bias can influence the outcome.

At any rate, a sample size of only 335 participants was used in a 2020 Beijing cohort study cited favorably by the CDC. This study examined 124 families comprised of 335 individuals and concluded, with caveats, that mask wearing provides a 79% reduction in COVID transmission among members of the same household — astronomically higher reduction than what the over 10x larger Danish RCT study and 5x larger Vietnamese RCT study found. However, the Beijing study did note that masks provided no benefit when family masking began after the start of an outbreak. Likewise, the 2020 Beijing study — published during a time when the Chinese communist dictatorship was bombarded with accusations of culpability for unleashing SARS-CoV-2 — concluded that family members in the same household should remain masked up and in separate rooms throughout the entire course of a pandemic. These recommendations coming out of a region under the absolute control of the Chinese Communist Party are strikingly similar to one of the primary end goals of communism, which is to weaken and crush the traditional family unit. In other words, a 335 sample-size cohort study coming out of Beijing in 2020 with findings drastically different than RCT mask studies from just a decade earlier in the same region is probably not a credible source upon which to base Western public health guidance.

But the CDC’s most prized cohort study was sponsored by the CDC and performed by a local health department in Greene County, Missouri. This study performed contact tracing of two — yes, 2 — hair stylists who self-reported symptomatic COVID-19 infections while performing hair services for 139 clients over several days in May 2020. According to the survey responses, all hundred or so participants in this study were masked, and 67 of the 139 clients who received hair services from the symptomatic hair stylists agreed to submit to COVID-19 PCR testing five days after their alleged exposures. None of the 67 participants who elected to receive testing tested positive for COVID-19 compared to all 4 of the close contacts in one stylist’s household and none of the close contacts in the other stylist’s household. Of course, the CDC concluded based on this miniature study that masks are useful in mitigating the spread of COVID. These findings were noted to have other major limitations besides its small sample pool. For instance, researchers could not rule out COVID-19 being contracted among the other half of clients who refused testing. Likewise, testing among the volunteers who consented to testing was performed 5 days into the exposure — very early considering that the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2 can last up to 14 days. Yet oddly enough, the CDC touts this study above the aforementioned RCT mask studies with much larger sample populations.

The largest proportion of the 65 studies cited by the CDC consist of controlled lab environment tests where various mask materials were evaluated for their viral filtration properties by way of bespoke machines built specifically for the studies. These studies mostly involve closed environments where droplets and aerosolized particles are artificially directed through only the mask material for relatively short periods of time via spray devices and nebulizers designed to replicate various types of human respiratory activity. Some of these studies also ask a typically small group of human participants to breath and speak through masks into sealed measurement devices for relatively brief periods of time. As such, nearly all of these controlled environment studies fail to evaluate the efficacy of masks in real world use case scenarios where cloth, surgical, and even N-95 masks are difficult, if not impossible, to seal around the spectrum of face geometries representative of the human population. Likewise, the brief tests performed in these controlled environments are not representative of mask wearing among the general population where masks are often donned for several hours at a time and are likewise subjected to reuse and soiling from frequent hand manipulation and human respiration that leads to moisture, bacterial, and viral build up. Many of these controlled environment studies acknowledge these problems as serious limitations that temper confident conclusions that cloth and surgical masks provide meaningful protection from viral transmission.

Over half of the 65 studies (33 of them) consist of these controlled lab apparatus studies. Out of these 33 studies, only three tested for mask leakage around and through unsealed mask material. Strangely enough, one study cited by the CDC for the proposition that cloth and surgical masks are useful concluded that mask leakage inherent to the impracticality of sealing cloth and surgical masks (and even N-95s more that matter) to a spectrum of face geometries almost entirely negates viral filtration efficiency due to the leakage jets that can project many meters of distance through the unsealed spaces in virtually 360 degree direction across all three dimensions. Indeed, one could think of the nanoparticles distributed when one breaths through an unsealed cloth or surgical mask as a microcosm of the explosion of the fictional planet Alderaan from Star Wars.

Another study testing mask leakage by drilling a small hole representative of only 1% of the surgical mask coverage area found that filtration efficiency was reduced by 60% with just a 1% opening. This same study found filtration efficiency of surgical masks to be only 60% for particles smaller than .3 microns even when completely sealed. Despite these observations, the study concluded that surgical masks provide significant protection against aerosolized particles.

SARS-CoV-2 is small -- 0.05 to .14 micron small.

To understand why masks are never 100% effective at preventing the inhalation and exhalation of viral particles, we need to consider the size of the SARS-CoV-2 particle. Early on during the pandemic, the “consensus” among experts and virologists was that coronavirus was primarily spreading through large droplets projected from airways when we cough, sneeze, laugh, breath, talk (particularly when using “plosives” while speaking words with “P,” “T,” and “K,” sounds), sing, and/or yell. Many of the studies performed in early 2020 mention this "consensus" opinion in their abstract sections. Large respiratory droplets are typically those measured over 5 microns in size. However, as time has progressed, scientists have able to isolate the size of COVID-19 virus particles and determined that COVID-19 spreads overwhelmingly by way of aerosolized nanoparticles many times smaller than large respiratory droplets. COVID-19 nanoparticles can remain in the air suspended in Brownian motion for hours at a time. Furthermore, these floating aerosolized viral nanoparticles can have an infection half-life that can last up to one hour. Accordingly, not only can these nanoparticles slip through pores in mask material, they can also maneuver around unsealed portions of masks due to their randomized fluid dynamic motion while suspended in air.

Indeed, researchers have determined that SARS-CoV-2 particles range anywhere from .05 to .14 microns in size. These are extremely small particles — 100 times smaller than a typical 5 micron respiratory droplet. Influenza particles are also very small ranging from .08 to .12 microns. However, the smallest COVID-19 particles are 38% smaller than the smallest influenza particle. To put this in perspective, the smallest Staphylococcus bacteria particles are observed to be around .4 microns. Staph infections are quite common in healthcare settings despite the fact that medical providers wear masks and gloves to ensure the sterile provision of medical care. COVID-19 virus particles are capable of being 8x smaller than staph bacteria.

To further put this in perspective, most N-95 masks are certified based upon their ability to filter particles no smaller than .3 microns. N-95 masks are therefore not typically measured for their ability to filter particles smaller than .3 microns, and the diameter of particles evaluated in these certification tests typically ranges from .3 to 1 micron. Coronavirus particles are up to 6x smaller than the smallest particles N-95 masks are certified to filter at 95% efficiency. Accordingly, it requires no stretch of human understanding to realize why the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus is so highly transmissible.

Understanding the infinitesimally small size of SARS-CoV-2 requires a brief return to the CDC’s aforementioned controlled environment apparatus studies. The majority of these studies do not provide useful information as to whether mask material filtration findings were applicable to nanoparticles comparable to the size of SARS-CoV-2. Many of the aforementioned studies evaluate only aerosols larger than the largest COVID-19 particle. Others evaluate particles theoretically as small as viral COVID-19 nanoparticles, but characterize these as broad thresholds such as “under .3 microns.” For instance if surgical masks provide only 60% filtration efficiency for particles under .3 microns in size when perfectly fitted, one cannot assume that nanoparticles ranging from .05 to .14 microns in diameter are also filtered at 60% efficiency. Indeed, studies show that the filtration rate is much lower once accounting for commensurate particle size and the difficulty of properly fitting and sealing masks to a wide array of human face geometries.

One laboratory study cited by the CDC using only one adult male participant donning various consumer grade and medical masks did actually set out to study particle filtration efficiency with nanoparticle diameters comparable to COVID-19. It found that elastic ear-loop surgical masks provided approximately 38% filtration efficiency against SARS-CoV-2 sized particles, which could be increased to 60% efficiency when the ear loops are tied and tightened around the head and the sides of the mask are folded inward towards the face to create better sides-of-mouth seals. This study did, however, acknowledge that its findings were limited by the fact that all testing was performed in a lab with one cleanly shaved adult male subject where optimal fitting was possible. The study further noted the impracticality and discomfort associated with jury rigging masks to ensure optimal fit. Again, obtaining optimal fit upon a vast range of facial geometries is practically impossible, and especially so when it comes to the masking of children. Likewise, temporary modifications like folding the sides of surgical masks can be summarily undone by forceful respiration generated when humans talk, laugh, sneeze, or engage in physical exertion.

Indeed, in a study published out of the University of Waterloo on July 22, 2021, mechanical engineers determined that when accounting for typical mask fit against nanoparticles with a mean size of 1 micron (much larger than the study discussed above), that the practical viral filtration efficiency of surgical and three-ply cloth masks is 12.4% and 9.8% respectively. The engineers further determined that the practical filtration efficiency of masks like KN-95s which are nearly impossible to ensure a sealed fit around the bridge of the human nose to be around 60% rather than 95%. Furthermore, the viral filtration efficiency of KN-95 masks can drop even further to 20% when they are loosely or poorly fitted. Even more alarming in the University of Waterloo study was the finding that dense clouds of aerosolized particles tend to collect around and above the face, even when breathing through the nose, when remaining stationary for one hour, particularly in poorly ventilated areas. Because COVID-19 particles can have an infection half life up to one hour, these densely packed aerosol clouds can be hazardous. This study also highlighted the importance of air filtration, which, incidentally, recent studies of classrooms utilizing plastic barriers to surround desks determined that widespread use of such barriers drastically decreases air ventilation and increases the risk of COVID-19 infection among children.

Most of the remaining studies cited by the CDC white paper that pertain to the efficacy of mask wearing with respect to virus protection are of the aforementioned retrospective cohort and self-report survey types that mostly compare regional infection rates before and after mask mandates have been issued by governing authorities. Again, these types of retrospective observational and survey studies are not as reliable as randomized control trial (RCT) studies where RCT studies are designed to prospectively study the impact of therapies upon pre-selected randomized groups against control groups that did not employ the therapy.

Indeed, a few of the observational studies cited by the CDC explicitly state that their conclusions are not authoritative in the absence of RCTs performing similar analysis:

“The meta-analysis and detailed review of the primary studies advance our understanding from “absence of evidence” to the point where we have somewhat consistent observational evidence of a protective effect from mask wearing in the community, with a large effect size. It is plausible that masks protect people, and there is coherence between the data on community mask wearing and mask wearing in health care settings.58 However, the evidence is somewhat indirect: SARS-CoV-1 transmission may differ from SARS-CoV-2. Randomized controlled trials have not been conducted.”

It therefore seems strange that the CDC would cite fifteen cohort and retrospective studies, only one of which collected partial data during the timeframe of the Winter 2020 surge, and only two RCT studies, because there were several more RCT mask studies in existence that the CDC could have referenced. According to this November 20, 2020 meta-analysis mentioned nowhere in the CDC’s white paper, eight RCT studies had previously been performed comparing surgical mask groups to no mask control groups in evaluating the efficacy of surgical masks in limiting the transmission of influenza like illnesses. Each RCT found that surgical/medical masks made no meaningfully statistical difference in preventing influenza like illnesses compared to wearing no mask. This meta-analysis also referenced two upcoming RCT studies covering a sample size of 72,000 participants, both of which were apparently conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic that have yet to be released. Hopefully the CDC will reference these in future versions of its cloth and surgical mask guidance.

All 15 cohort and retrospective studies relied upon by the CDC take data generated after the initial COVID-19 surge in Spring 2020, but little to no data generated during the winter 2020 spike. Likewise, all 15 studies employ self-reporting and/or model simulations in concluding that masks provide a meaningful benefit in reducing the transmission of COVID-19. One glaring weakness, particularly among the studies that compare pre-mandate and post-mandate timeframes is that COVID cases had already spiked and were on the decline when many of the first set of regional mask mandates were initiated. Likewise, many of these self-report survey studies fail to account for other mitigating interventions employed by mask wearers that may have been equally, if not more, effective, in reducing transmission, such as the practice of hand hygiene, social distancing, and following stay-at-home orders.

One of the only retrospective studies to collect data before and after a COVID surge was conducted in Arizona by the CDC using data collected from January 2020 through August 2020. Researchers concluded that statewide county level mask mandates issued on June 17, 2020 contributed to a decline in cases. However, case numbers continued to spike drastically across Arizona for nearly one month after the mandates were implemented according to data from the CDC and Worldometer. During that same timeframe, Arizona also reinstitute lockdowns that were first instituted in March 2020, lifted, then re-instituted on June 17, 2020. So, despite the peak and eventual decline of cases occurring nearly one month after the June 17, 2020 re-instituted mask mandates, and despite the confounding factor of lockdowns also being re-instituted, the CDC, against all evidence, concluded that masks played a significant role in reducing virus transmission in Arizona.

Aside from the obvious limitation that there is typically not a sufficient control group for comparison in these kinds of single-region time-divided retrospective studies, when we fast forward to Winter 2020 when the entire United States experienced a drastic COVID surge, we finally had de facto control groups as many states were simultaneously taking different public health approaches. For example, states like California had statewide mask mandates issued as early as June 18, 2020 that were never lifted before the Winter 2020 spike. Furthermore, California ramped up its lockdown measures in rolling fashion throughout the Winter surge, yet still had drastically more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths than Florida, which maintained a completely open economy and suspended penalties for mandatory masking on September 25, 2020.

Similar Winter 2020 findings are visible in next door neighbor states like Mississippi and Alabama where, despite Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate expiring in October 2020, Mississippi saw drastically fewer cases and deaths than Alabama, which had a mask mandate in place during the entire length of the Winter surge. This comparison also holds true in North Dakota and South Dakota, where North Dakota saw slightly more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths during the winter spike, despite having statewide mask mandates in place, compared to South Dakota with no mandates in place.

Indeed, nearly all of the cohort, retrospective, and model studies relied upon by the CDC for its mask guidance, in turn, rely upon data that overwhelmingly fails to account for the Winter 2020 surge: May 2020 Missouri hair salon study; March 2020 self-report masking of Navy service members aboard USS Teddy Roosevelt; February to March 2020 Beijing household cohort study; April to May 2020 Thailand retrospective self-report study; June to July 2020 world population retrospective model study, March to April 2020 universal masking among healthcare workers with confounding variables study; April 2020 German retrospective synthetic control mask mandate study; June to August 2020 Kansas mask mandate with confounding variable observational study; April to May 2020 15 state mask mandate with confounding variables retrospective study; March to October 2020 ten state mask mandate with confounding variables observational study; March to December 2020 38 state mask mandate with confounding variables retrospective study; March to August 2020 Canada mask mandate with confounding variables theoretical model study; March to May 2020 US mask mandate with confounding variables theoretical model study; and the January to May 2020 two hundred country mask mandate with confounding variables observational study.

Many other circumstances (such as case numbers naturally declining after surges) and policies (such as lockdowns and social distancing) can account for the decrease in cases purportedly in the studies performed before Winter 2020 independent of mask mandates. Likewise, while some of these observational studies predict massive decreases in COVID transmission attributable to mask mandates (two predict as high as 77% and 79% reductions in infections according to the Thailand and Beijing studies, respectively), studies performed in the West show dramatically less optimistic changes in COVID-19 transmission rates once mask mandates are instituted (0.9 to 2.1% reduction and 0.5% to 1.8% reduction in cases according to the 15 state and 38 state studies, respectively). Putting aside the fact that these studies were performed in between spikes, the Western studies tending to show that mask mandates result in meager reductions of cases is more consistent with the many RCT mask studies demonstrating, at best, only marginal protection against the transmission of respiratory infections.

This writer has firsthand experience with the emotionally charged clapping hand emoji types and self-described"mama bears" who could not care less what studies and data relied upon by the CDC actually demonstrate. They would rather have their priors confirmed by the lips of their favorite politicized and credentialed experts or their personal doctor who has likely never read a single study, let alone reconciled all of the studies, while busily managing a thriving medical practice. However, even former and current Biden COVID advisors are noticing that cloth and surgical masks are providing no discernible benefit in reducing COVID-19 transmission, particularly with regard to the highly transmissible Delta variant. In early August 2021, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a former COVID advisor to the Biden Administration said during a CNN interview that “[w]e know today that many of the face cloth coverings that people wear are not effective in reducing any of the virus movement in or out…” A few days later these sentiments were echoed by current Biden COVID advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel when he said during an August 10 interview on MSNBC that “simple cloth masks are not good enough.”

As I have attempted to show you, peer-reviewed studies relied upon by the CDC, peer-reviewed studies more recent than CDC’s May 7, 2021 mask guidance, and copious case, hospitalization, and death data now available for anyone to reference online thanks to the CDC and outlets like, demonstrate that masks, despite having, at best, marginal capability to filter viral nanoparticles according to closed lab environment studies, are having no discernible impact in mitigating SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the real world. This reality is consistent with the findings highlighted in nearly all of the gold standard RCT studies in existence that evaluate viral filtration efficiency of cloth and surgical masks when donned by real world test subjects. Indeed, as the CDC’s own sources demonstrate, masks can redirect viral nanoparticles further into the air where potentially infectious particles can be remain suspended for hours at a time. Likewise, viruses like COVID-19 are not limited to transmission through human respiration. Aerosolized SARS-CoV-2 can latch on to ocular tissue and infect individuals through the eyes as well. Based on what we know about masks effectively distributing aerosols further up into the air than if no mask is being worn, it is not farfetched to surmise that universal mask wearing without eye protection is increasing COVID transmission through the eyes. Certainly human society would not tolerated wearing the kind of hermetically sealed space helmets required to completely mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Placebos function to reduce human anxiety, and to the extent that cloth and surgical masks function as safety blankets, perhaps this psychological process provides a net benefit to human society. And make no mistake, masking, according to the thrust of the credible data available at this time, is little more than a placebo — for many, a highly uncomfortable and intrusive placebo implemented primarily as a practice to assuage the fears of frightened adults. The cruel part about this is that the loudest voices in the public health square are not satisfied with forcing only adults to wear masks, they find this practice necessary to force upon school children, who, as previously demonstrated, face less than de minimis risk of severe and/or deadly COVID infections, regardless of vaccines and masking.

Yet masking does harm children. Increasingly surveys and pediatric experts are emerging to warn of the deleterious impact upon child development that school day masking poses. Likewise, just as masks are providing no meaningful protection against viral nanoparticles to adults, a recent cohort study conducted by the CDC (and quickly buried by the CDC) among 90,000 students in Georgia schools (during a meaningful timeframe amid the Winter 2020 surge) likewise found that masks are providing no real life benefit to children in reducing the transmission of COVID-19. Yet, completely ignoring this study and the simple fact that the risk of death in children from COVID-19 is infinitesimal, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend mandatory masking of children over the age of 2 in indoor school settings. Even now the World Health Organization and most European public health authorities are not recommending this draconian degree of masking upon young children.

Masking throughout the school day harms children, especially young children. According to pediatric experts, observing facial expressions is critical to learning language and developing socially and emotionally during the first five years of life. Masking severely impedes the ability for adults, let alone children, to read facial expressions. As this writer can attest, masking for extended periods, especially when the wearer is required to speak, frequently triggers headaches and migraines. Headaches along with malaise and decreased concentration have been reported in a survey of 18,000 parents based on the complaints coming from their forcibly masked school-aged children. Masks can likewise be a breading ground for bacteria and viral particles after several hours when masks are saturated by human respiration and dirtied by frequent hand manipulation. Most glaringly, masks cannot be worn by children in lunchroom settings when groups of children congregate to eat.

Mask mandate hysteria coming from purported public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walensky does not comport with the credible data underlying CDC recommendations, nor, as I have demonstrated, does this hysteria comport with emerging data. However, I sincerely celebrate your freedom to voluntarily wear a mask. Your facial covering of choice provides practically no protection to you or others from inhaling and exhaling .05 to .14 micron sized potentially virus laden nanoparticles. In fact, your facial covering may actually facilitate human to human transmission of infectious nanoparticles. To the extent that you continue to wear your facial covering as an indicator to the public of your purported good virtue, again, I celebrate your freedom to do so. Just know that there is no rational basis for you to force your safety blanket dogma upon me or others. America’s freedom principles far outweigh your irrational dictatorial tendencies.

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