This past 21 May, before they became “wear your mask” advocates, the New England Journal of Medicine published this on their site:

“We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”

The article, whose leading authors are medical doctors at Harvard Medical School, also states,

“What is clear, however, is that universal masking alone is not a panacea. A mask will not protect providers caring for a patient with active Covid-19 if it’s not accompanied by meticulous hand hygiene, eye protection, gloves, and a gown. A mask alone will not prevent health care workers with early Covid-19 from contaminating their hands and spreading the virus to patients and colleagues. Focusing on universal masking alone may, paradoxically, lead to more transmission of Covid-19 if it diverts attention from implementing more fundamental infection-control measures.”

On 26 September, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons published the article “Mask Facts” on its website. The introduction notes:

“COVID-19 is as politically-charged as it is infectious. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO, the CDC and NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci discouraged wearing masks as not useful for non-health care workers. Now they recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are hard to do (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). The recommendation was published without a single scientific paper or other information provided to support that cloth masks actually provide any respiratory protection.”

After reviewing dozens of peer-reviewed studies, the article concludes:

Wearing masks (other than N95) will not be effective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as PPE.

  • N95s protect health care workers, but are not recommended for source control transmission.
  • Surgical masks are better than cloth but not very efficient at preventing emissions from infected patients. Cloth masks must be three layers, plus adding static electricity by rubbing with rubber glove.
  • The cloth that serves as the filtration for the mask is meant to trap particles being breathed in and out. But it also serves as a barrier to air movement because it forces the air to take the path of least resistance, resulting in the aerosols going in and out at the sides of the mask.”

Cloth Mask Problems Known for Years
On 22 April 2015, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article titled, “A cluster randomized trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers.” The study, done by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Vietnam, showed conclusive evidence that cloth masks used by health care workers did not protect them from the existing influenza virus:

“The rates of all infection outcomes were highest in the cloth mask arm, with the rate of ILI (influenza-like illness) statistically significantly higher in the cloth mask arm… Penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97% and medical masks 44%.”

After presenting hard data, the authors concluded:

“This study is the first RCT (Randomized Control Trial) of cloth masks, and the results caution against the use of cloth masks. This is an important finding to inform occupational health and safety. Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection… as a precautionary measure, cloth masks should not be recommended for HCWs (health care workers).”

Ninety-seven percent of the virus penetrated the cloth masks used by health workers in 2015. So, has the quality and effectiveness of cloth masks improved since then?

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