It would wrong to say that the subject of face masks has been properly researched in regard to Covid-19. This virus hasn't been around long enough for thorough studies and despite masks being mandated, the rise in cases has not stopped. Many people wear them out of fear of being harassed or punished.
As this epidemic evolves, the wearing of face masks cannot be seen as one of the major factors of success and thus validated. There may be data indicating that face masks have some effect, however, awareness and physical distancing are admitted as probably better precautions (see Studies found on the Internet).
(Interestingly, in researching this I found that Google and YouTube actually censor information if it questions official doctrine. Using other search engines, the best advice on masks is that masks might work in conjunction with physical distancing, hand washing etc. and providing they're fitted properly and not touched. It's easy to understand how a facemask could reduce spray from a mouth but evidence of efficacy in this pandemic is sorely lacking - indeed the rise in cases since masks were mandated must raise questions.)
If you thought politics doesn't influence information just take a look at this: an article no longer available because it doesn't follow the doctrine. Published long before Covid-19 struck and not intended to counter the current policy, however, it's now deemed to be inappropriate and has been taken down. However, you can decide for yourself whether the article is informative or not by
reading the original here.
As an example of how aerosols escape from mask and drift around you can watch this video. It's presented by Dr Ted Noel and demonstrates how various masks have negligible effect on passage of aerosols, which are now believed to be the major vector in the transmission of Covid-19. I would have thought it highly relevant to today's problems. Take heed, others wearing masks are unlikely to be protecting you.
To be fair, there are a lot of articles on YouTube and the Internet that insist masks are effective — many these are based on anecdote and reference to other diseases and the more honest articles suggest that masks MIGHT help. The video on the right is from a guy who is definitely pro-mask, but even his demo falters when his "best" mask needs a second attempt. If you're relying on "MIGHT help" you're a long way from proof or a guarantee.
If you have the virus and you think you're protecting others when you're in a shop wearing a mask, it's unlikely. Weigh these facts:
The simple truth is that most articles on the Internet eventually come down on the side that wearing a mask reduces the spread of coronavirus. However, there are lots of findings that show only a marginal efficacy for masks in other diseases and infer therefore masks work for Covid-19. There is a ton of evidence that political pressure affects announcements from august institutions like the WHO, the CDC and the British Government, and that true science has no part to play in this. Here's a Canadian article on the subject explaining just how mask mandates are excused.
In many countries mandating the wearing of masks in public coincided with a significant rise in infections. Although this mandate cannot be proven to have caused the rise, and such a notion is firmly dismissed officially, nonetheless, the mandate did not not cause a reduction in infections — which was presumably the intention, so had no proven benefit but a suspicion of dis-allowed consequences.
All the studies published early in this pandemic "proving" masks were effective came with a caveat that keeping a distance from other people should be used in conjunction; which is to say that keeping a safe distance is essential if the mask is to work. A nice bit of psychology - if you wear a mask and don't go near anyone the mask is saving you, so wear a mask. Worth a study - (see We need proof).
My personal experience, as a male 73 years old, in a fairly high risk age group, is to make my own risk assessment — as I have throughout my life. The only times I have worn a mask is when putting fibreglass in the the loft or mowing the lawn when it's dusty because of drought. I go shopping as infrequently as possible but keep clear of others (as limited by practicality). Until the latest restrictions I would go to the pub and enjoy beer and conversation in the garden. I go for walks alone or occasionally with an old friend. I hugged my grandchildren at Christmas (well worth the risk and self-imposed isolation after).
Strange as this may seem, when I visit churches and cemeteries I feel envious of those people who were fortunate to have lived and died before either of the world wars, before 911 and before this current world — where totalitarianism is the new norm and erstwhile friends have become zombies.
Their guidance is here. For convenience I've snipped out the relevant section to see below.
If that doesn't demonstrate the level of their naivety then I'll be a monkey's uncle. Who TF is going to go through that rigmarole on entering and leaving a shop? If people aren't adhering to that guidance then what's the use? It's quite believable that disposable, surgical quality masks worn properly work in a laboratory but the field test so far shows that mandatory wearing of masks by the public has not stopped a rise in cases. No surprise really.
If you disagree here's your challenge: find four graphs showing countries where the mandating of masks coincides with a reduction in cases. Of course, you might find the opposite.
Whatever else can be said about masks the fact is that wearing them in public is dehumanising. People relate to other people through their faces — their smiles and expressions. Compelling everyone to wear a mask, knowing there is no actual evidence of efficacy and that most people will wear them wrongly, is against our human rights.
Keeping a sensible distance from people is probably more effective than wearing a mask (see Studies found on the Internet, below). Generally it's acknowledged that close proximity needs to be for minutes rather than seconds, so briefly passing close to someone in a shop is unlikely to be a risk. Similarly walking with someone or passing someone outdoors is a negligible risk. Elevating a negligible risk to irrational behaviour indicates a phobia.
In this case wearing a mask is a demonstration of fear.
World Health Organisation reverses course
On 4th April: "'There may be situations where the wearing of masks may reduce the rate at which infected individuals may infect others,' Ryan said."
A reversal of course based on what? "may" leaves open the possibility of "may not". Hardly conclusive. And how long had the situation with Covid been researched, as by 4th April 2020 Covid had only been with us a few weeks.
Cambridge Research on face coverings suggests
On 27th July: "While it is not clear how much of an effect face coverings have, scientists have urged policymakers to encourage the wearing of face coverings because the risks are minimal while the potential impact is important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Note that political pressure is being applied.
World Health Organisation says masks are a sign of solidarity
On 3rd August: "This week, we’re also launching a mask challenge with partners from around the world and we’re encouraging people to send in photos of themselves wearing a mask. As well as being one of the key tools to stop the virus, the mask has come to represent solidarity."
That a mask is key tool is unproven. Encouraging the wearing of masks to show solidarity is political - like waving a flag - proving your allegiance.
In this case a mask represents a belief that they're part of a larger body.
For some people it's not a matter of fear or solidarity, it's showing that they care about the possibility of transmitting the virus, even when they know they have no chance of having it.
In this case a mask represents their virtue.
The law now requires wearing "face coverings" in most public places - a whole list of places and dependent on whether you're standing up or sitting down! [ Who makes up this stuff? ]
In this case wearing a mask indicates you're concerned that someone will challenge you. You don't want to argue. You have no opinion in the matter. This what most people all over the world have felt when invaded by a new power - just get on with it and keep your head down. Never mind the atrocities being committed.
This is probably the majority.
A pro-mask news feature published 6th October 2020: Face masks: what the data say
"For now, Osterholm, in Minnesota, wears a mask. Yet he laments the 'lack of scientific rigour' that has so far been brought to the topic. 'We criticize people all the time in the science world for making statements without any data,' he says. 'We're doing a lot of the same thing here.'
Nevertheless, most scientists are confident that they can say something prescriptive about wearing masks. It's not the only solution, says Gandhi, 'but I think it is a profoundly important pillar of pandemic control'. As Digard puts it: 'Masks work, but they are not infallible. And, therefore, keep your distance.'"
An update on 25 October 2020 found at Swiss Policy Research concludes: Cloth face masks in the general population might be effective, at least in some circumstances, but there is currently little to no evidence supporting this proposition. If the SARS-2 virus is indeed transmitted via indoor aerosols, cloth masks are unlikely to be protective. Health authorities should therefore not assume or suggest that cloth face masks will reduce the rate or risk of infection.
However, in the body of the report it lists many studies that found masks to be ineffective and many studies that claimed masks were effective but these studies were flawed.
Within the article it notes The WHO admitted to the BBC that its June 2020 mask policy update was due not to new evidence but "political lobbying": "We had been told by various sources WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying. This point was put to WHO who did not deny." (D. Cohen, BBC Medical Correspondent).
Importantly, some Internet articles on the study of efficacy of masks have been removed or retracted because they do not follow official guidance. Whilst this does not prove an attempt to limit freedom of information it does raise questions about censorship.
Take for instance this link to the Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of Minnesota. As of 30 September 2020 it still works. But see in there:
Editor's Note: The authors added the following statement on Jul 16 .
The authors and CIDRAP have received requests in recent weeks to remove this article from the CIDRAP website. Reasons have included:
(1) we don’t truly know that cloth masks (face coverings) are not effective, since the data are so limited,
(2) wearing a cloth mask or face covering is better than doing nothing,
(3) the article is being used by individuals and groups to support non-mask wearing where mandated and
(4) there are now many modeling studies suggesting that cloth masks or face coverings could be effective at flattening the curve and preventing many cases of infection.
Where are the modeling studies referred to in (4), and the word "could" is hardly convincing. This is political pressure and not science.
Here's another interesting take on it at do face masks work - 8 peer reviewed studies.
And this one the plain truth about masks
Some more interesting studies on masks here:
Masks Are Neither Effective Nor Safe: A Summary Of The Science
Masks, false safety and real dangers, Part 1: Friable mask particulate and lung vulnerability
Even the BBC can report that politicians over-rule medics.
Another post highlighting the dubious benefit of masks and the politics involved.
And here's the British Medical Journal (BMJ) telling how the government is "following the science".
It now seems most likely that coronavirus is transmitted by airborne aerosols and not much by any other vector. It makes sense; totally believable. And thinking about it, a mask stops the wearer from emitting bits of spray but it doesn't stop the wearer from breathing out those microscopic viruses that pass through and around the mask and it doesn't stop microscopic viruses from being breathed in. That's probably why reports tell you the mask works in conjunction with keeping away from people. Sadly though, it seems that increased adoption of masks has led to a more careless attitude to proximity.
The next question is: how many viral particles do you need to become ill and could it be that a very small exposure could provide your body with a chance to develop an immune response?
I am no expert in this field but I do know that many discoveries are made by observation and analysis of curiosities. The story of cholera is a good example. And how Edward Jenner discovered a vaccine for smallpox is another.
Established authority never wants to admit new ideas, viz: leeches (medicine); bloodletting (medicine); vaccination (medicine); evolution (religion); gravity (religion); earth going around the sun (religion).
I have spent over 50 years debugging software to find why things cause surprises. I know that the answers are not always obvious. Not that this has any bearing on our current epidemic except the need to keep enquiring, and even when you've found an answer expect to keep enquiring.
Viral particles do not exist for ever as aerosols and as a source of infection. Viruses are weird things and not easily categorised as living. There are thousands of different types and many are essential to our wellbeing. Outside its host, a virus can be divided into two categories — either it can be intact and remain infectious or it is simply identifiable, which means it has enough genetic material to be identified but is no longer capable of attaching to host cells.
An interesting article here suggests that the amount of viral load is a significant factor in the severity and outcome of this disease. So is it a possibility that a single viral particle (infectious / not infectious) could be a trigger for an immune reaction? It might explain why some people only get mildly ill whilst for others it's potentially life-threatening. [Here I expect to be challenged by those who know about these things — just like the medics and clerics of yore. However, I do not claim any expertise like Jenner, Darwin or Galileo.]
It would be wonderful if anyone could really prove that compliant/reluctant wearing of masks in public places has had a beneficial effect, but all the evidence so far seen in the UK doesn't support that thesis. An interesting alternative study might be to question people if they thought that wearing a mask made it safe to ignore other prudent measures like keeping a distance from others. I can only speculate on the outcome of such a study but it would have a measurable result:
e.g. of 10,000 surveyed (who were actually ill with symptoms):
That's my first draft of an idea, but at least it could have an interesting outcome and maybe reveal something about how masks are useful or not. But sadly, it is quite evident, the results would only be published by respectable sources if they confirmed the political requirement.