As reported in the 6 October Trends Journal, close to 80 percent of Americans are in favor of mandatory mask edicts, according to a large poll conducted by the Washington Post and the data analysis company Qualtrics.
Amped up with fear by political leaders and hyperbolic media coverage, Americans are wearing masks out in public greater numbers than ever. According to the 27 August Pew Research Center survey on mask-wearing, the percentage of Americans saying they are regularly wearing masks jumped from 65 percent in June to over 80 percent in mid-August.
Yet, growing evidence is showing more clearly than ever that the prolonged wearing of masks is ineffective at controlling the spread of COVID. What could be more emphatic than the 21 May medical analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which stated:

“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.”

This article was co-authored by leading physicians and medical researchers from the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Infection Control Unit and Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital (all in the Boston area).
As for those who proclaim the main reason to enforce mask wearing is because it protects others from someone with the virus who may not know he/she has it, the doctors and researchers authoring this article point out,

“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.”

California Dreamin’
 On 18 June, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order that “Californians are now required to wear face coverings in public spaces.” The “order,” according to the governor’s office, was following up on guidance from the California Department of Public Health.
When examining the webpage of the State’s Department of Public Health, however, the evidence for mandatory mask-wearing is inconclusive. On 1 April, the agency’s official website stated the following:

“How well do cloth face coverings work to prevent spread of COVID-19?  There is limited evidence to suggest that use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission.”

Yet, on 18 June, after Governor Newsom issued the mask-wearing order, the statement, “There is limited evidence…” was removed from the Dept. of Public Health’s website and replaced with: “There is scientific evidence to suggest that use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission.”
The statement left in to make the case for the governor’s order are inconclusive: “Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.”
Note the phrase “may be helpful.” No scientific evidence is given or linked to.

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