Back in March and April, when the CDC, the WHO, Fauci, the Surgeon General, and many doctors all said that masks were not an effective defense against the spread of the coronavirus, it was true that we did not have practical experience with mass mask-wearing in response to this particular virus.

True enough, the evidence against masks back then was enough for every major health organization to oppose their use. And true enough, the scientific data has not changed since then, but at the very least, we now have lived experience for the efficacy of masks. And what does that experience show?

As Just The News puts it, “one month after statewide mask mandate, California’s daily COVID case average has increased by 162%”. From the article of the same name (links removed, emphasis mine):

Every state resident [of California] older than two years old is bound by the mandate; a small number of exceptions exempt individuals due to medical conditions and other limited circumstances. 

In spite of those strict directives, cases have continued to rise in the state, continuing an upward trend that was already in full swing when the mask mandate went into effect. 

The website of Johns Hopkins University, which offers pandemic tracking tools for every U.S. state, says average daily cases in California have increased from 3,385 on the day of Newsom’s order to 8,889 as of July 16, an increase of 162%.

Newsom, like many other public officials, has claimed masks are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, but his own directive from last month stops short at actually calling them effective, instead merely stating that they “could” help. 

One could argue that the spread would have been worse in the absence of masks, but the fact the rate has increased despite nearly universal use of masks is not what one would expect if masks were effective. On the contrary, widespread mask use should result in very stable rates of spread and certainly lower than the previous six months when masks were actively discouraged. Masks appear to be doing nothing to stop this.

It’s telling that even Newsom is not capable of saying that masks are effective and is reduced to merely suggesting they might work. So too might snake oil.

On the subject, Daniel Horowitz gives some excellent questions every American should be asking themselves regarding masks:

Why did the CDC, World Health Organization, and such luminaries as Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams so emphatically dismiss the effectiveness of masks, then flip 180 degrees to the point where they shame people who don’t wear them, without ever explaining what changed?

 If me not wearing a mask transmits the virus to others who are wearing a mask, then is that not an admission that masks do not work to stop a respiratory virus that is microscopic and gets through the mask?

Mask-wearing in all of the major cities – from Los Angeles to Miami – has been in place and followed by pressure and community shaming for months. Compliance in most of these places has been off the charts, according to the NYT. Yet the virus is still spreading more than before the mandate. The virus is now spreading in Japan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, which have near universal mask-wearing. At what point does the mask cult have to provide evidence of the effectiveness of these unconstitutional mandates, and at what point do benchmarks have to be met to maintain such a draconian and life-altering requirement?

The questions are all good, but these stood out to me. I would add another myself:

What is the ultimate end of wearing the masks? Supposing the are effective at slowing the spread, as we are told they might be, doesn’t that imply that the virus will continue to spread until enough of the population develops immunity to it? Short of protecting hospitals from being overwhelmed, what is the material benefit of slowing the spread? I can think of at least one significant benefit to speeding it up: we get out of this economic limbo and totalitarian smorgasbord quickly and move on with our lives.

Horowitz has a podcast on the subject as well. I plan to listen to it over the weekend.

For one final reference on the subject, here’s Oxford’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine. They haven’t exactly come out in favor of masks:

The increasing polarised and politicised views on whether to wear masks in public during the current COVID-19 crisis hides a bitter truth on the state of contemporary research and the value we pose on clinical evidence to guide our decisions.

Despite the clear requirement to carry out further large, pragmatic trials a decade later, only six had been published: five in healthcare workers and one in pilgrims. This recent crop of trials added 9,112 participants to the total randomised denominator of 13,259 and showed that masks alone have no significant effect in interrupting the spread of ILI or influenza in the general population, nor in healthcare workers. 

It would appear that despite two decades of pandemic preparedness, there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks.

The small number of trials and lateness in the pandemic cycle is unlikely to give us reasonably clear answers and guide decision-makers. This abandonment of the scientific modus operandi and lack of foresight has left the field wide open for the play of opinions, radical views and political influence.  

There are a number of trials going on now linked in the article, and it will be interesting to see if their results match the previous high quality studies that showed virtually no effect on the spread of upper respiratory infection.