The push to wear a mask for coronavirus prevention and protection seems to be much more in the USA than other countries, possibly due to the highest incidence rates of the virus, combined with a media industry which borders on propaganda more than facts, and vulnerable people who believe the media scare campaigns. Sadly, the mask-wearing people have taken that propaganda and turned against those who are not wearing a mask in public, with verbal abuse, beatings, and preventing people from shopping for groceries or travelling to work. The abusers seem to have lost their brains, that if you are wearing a mask and you believe it will protect you, then it is of no concern of yours what other people do, or not do such as not wearing a mask if they choose to! This is ironically similar to the vaccine issue, but that's a whoooole other topic for another day!
Being in Australia as I am, next to no-one is wearing a mask when going out in public to the shops etc. You would be lucky to see one person in a thousand wearing a mask!
Here are some facts regarding the use of masks for coronavirus protection or prevention:
- Look at the boxes of sterile medical masks and note what the box says. It will usually have statements such as "resistance to penetration by synthetic blood", "single use only", "Re-use or extended use, beyond ONE HOUR may lead to infection or cross-contamination", "store in a cool, dry place. Avoid excessive heat (40C or 104F) (but in hot weather or a fever and on your face, this is a problem!), "this mask should not be used in any surgical setting or where significant exposure to liquid, bodily or other hazardous fluids may be expected", "should not be used in a clinical setting where the infection risk levels through inhalation exposure is high" or "Wearing an ear loop mask (ie, a "surgical mask") does not reduce the risk of contracting any disease or infection" or "<company name> makes no warranties, either express or implied, that the mask prevents infection or the transmission of viruses or diseases", or more specifically for the coronavirus with one box of masks quoting "this product will not provide any protection against COVID-19 (coronavirus) or other viruses or contaminants". Seems like a pretty accurate assessment of their own product...
- The standard "ear loop" surgical masks are not meant to be worn for long, and appear to only offer minimal protection from larger splashes of body fluids like blood or mucus from coughing or sneezing (FDA, 2020), but are not designed to filter or stop tiny viruses! In addition, these masks are loose fitting and often have gaping holes in the sides, top, or bottom, hence only very minimal protection.
- The N95 respirator masks (also known as P2 masks in Australia) that sold out within days of the coronavirus outbreak, may offer more protection in that they are more fitting to the face and less gaps around the edges. These are for the protection from airborne particles and liquid contamination to the face (FDA, 2020). These are named as they filter out 95% of airborne particles (CDC, 2020a). These should be discarded after each patient encounter.
- The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) in the US does NOT recommend that the public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases including coronavirus (COVID-19). But these N95 respirators must be reserved for health care workers (FDA, 2020).
- But instead, the CDC recommends that the general public use simple cloth face coverings when in public to slow the spread of the virus! (FDA, 2020).
- People with chronic respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions that make breathing difficult should check with their doctor before using N95 masks, as they can make it more difficult to breathe! (FDA, 2020). N95 respirators are also labelled as "single-use" or disposable devices.
- N95 masks are not designed for children or those with facial hair, as a proper fit cannot be achieved (FDA, 2020).
- Some N95 masks come with a valve, to make breathing easier. But these valves permit droplet release from the mask, thus putting others at risk! As such, these masks may protect the wearer only, but not those around them who are more at risk of a viral infection (Healthline, 2020).
- If the medical-grade masks or respirators have the above warnings on them, do you think your wearing of these masks for more than an hour, or even wearing your fancy home--made masks made from spare fabric are going to give you any better protection?! Nope.
So what does the science say? Here goes:
- A very recent article published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (Klompas et al., 2020) quoted "wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection", and "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", no doubt from media scare campaigns and politicians who know nothing about health.
- The same NEJM article suggested that masks are symbols that "may help increase health care workers' perceived sense of safety" in their workplaces. And a similar symbolic benefit could also apply to the general public who might wear a mask, so if you wear one but someone around you doesn't, you are protected right?! No need to abuse that person for exercising their right to not wearing one. Perhaps they have a medical condition that precludes them from wearing one on advice from their doctor - it's none of your business!
- A recent study (MacIntyre & Chughtai, 2020) investigated the results of multiple trials on the use of masks and respirators in the community and healthcare settings. Trials in healthcare workers found that respirators (ie the N95/P2 type mentioned above) were effective if worn continually in a shift, but not effective if worn intermittently. Surgical masks were not effective, and cloth masks were even less effective and can even increase the risk of infection.
- An RCT study on using cloth masks in a hospital situation for 4 weeks found an increased risk of respiratory illnesses in people who wore them. The study also found that these masks allowed 97% penetration of infectious airborne particles compared to other medical masks at 44% (MacIntyre et al., 2015).
- The CDC recommends some people should NOT wear a mask - children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance (CDC, 2020b).
- The CDC also recognise that masks may not be possible in every situation or for some people. Wearing a mask may exacerbate a physical or mental health condition, lead to an emergency or cause other safety concerns (CDC, 2020b). Under privacy laws, someone does NOT have the right to ask why you are not wearing a mask! It's illegal to ask, so you don't have to tell them.
- The CDC recommends that masks not be worn while engaged in activities that may cause the mask to become wet such as swimming or if the mask causes difficulty breathing, such as when exercising, or in hot and humid weather (CDC, 2020b). There have been reports of runners, cyclists, and even drivers suffering heat-related illnesses or breathing difficulties, or fainting and having accidents from wearing masks. Use common sense if you must wear a mask!
One possible benefit for wearing masks, however, is that those people participating in the recent BLM riots in the US and elsewhere were not likely to be able to be identified on CCTV cameras and therefore get away with their crimes. Perhaps similarly, those wearing masks might be able to evade the increasing number of facial recognition cameras and tracking systems that are being rolled out at the moment.
Some final questions to ponder:
- If the 1.5m social distancing recommendation works, then why do we now need masks 4 months into the plandemic?
- If masks work, then why do we still need to social distance ourselves?
- If both social distancing and masks work, then why do we still need the lockdowns?
The use of masks to prevent contracting a respiratory infection like the coronavirus or others, appears questionable based on evidence from published studies. Since both social distancing and masks don't work, the government recommendations to follow these instructions are all about compliance, and not for your protection or health.
Centers of Disease Control (CDC). (2020a). Understanding the difference: surgical mask vs N95 respirator. Retrieved 1st July 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/pdfs/UnderstandDifferenceInfographic-508.pdf
Centers of Disease Control (CDC). (2020b). Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings. Retrieved 4th July 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2020). N95 Respirators, Surgical Masks, and Face Masks. Retrieved 1st July 2020 from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-and-face-masks
Healthline. (2020). A Certain Type of N95 Mask May Do More Harm Than Good. Retrieved 1st July 2020 from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/certain-type-n95-mask-harm-covid19-spread
Klompas, M., Morris, C.A., Sinclair, J., Pearson, M., & Shenoy, E.S. (2020). Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-19 Era. New England Journal of Medicine, 382: e63. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2006372
MacIntyre, C.R., Seale, H., Dung, T.C., Hien, N.T., Nga, P.T., Chughtai, A.A., Rahman, B., Dwyer, D.E., Wang. Q. (2015). A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers. BMJ Open, 5 (4): e006577. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006577
MacIntyre, C.R. & Chughtai, A.A. (2020). A rapid systematic review of the efficacy of face masks and respirators against coronaviruses and other respiratory transmissible viruses for the community, healthcare workers and sick patients. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 108: 103629. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2020.103629