Once upon a time in Realville, there were people who rationally evaluated evidence, avoided using confusing language, and reached conclusions that made sense.
Sorry. Never happened. Realville is as fictional as Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." This leaves us with a problem because many people won’t look at the evidence. They react emotionally, and never seem to be concerned about confusing language. They’ve forgotten that “for every complex problem, there’s an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” (H.L. Mencken)
Today we are inundated by “authorities” who insist that we must wear masks everywhere, seemingly even in the shower. They flood us with panic porn about a “spike in cases,” and how we must consider a new lockdown to avoid having the virus overwhelm us. But they (intentionally?) ignore the fact that deaths continue to decline. New hospitalizations are younger people with less severe disease who have shorter stays, using fewer resources. In other words, things are getting better. In a hurry.
But let us suppose that there remains some sort of need to defend us from SARS-CoV-2. Are masks a good answer? If I listen to Dr. Carl Heneghan, the Director of the Institute for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, “aside from people who are exposed on the frontlines, there is no evidence that masks make any difference.” This is in keeping with previous posts from Nobel-winning biophysicist Michael Levitt Ph.D., former Stanford Chief of Neuroradiology Scott Atlas MD, John Iaonnidis MD, Lisa Brousseau ScD, and a host of others.
It seems that the Quixotic Quislings of Quarantine have no clothes. Their recommendation is a “Class D” recommendation (“expert” opinion, with no supporting data) rather than an “evidence-based” valuable action. So they resort to fuzzy language. Lacking any data, they point to observations that some states and countries saw drops in COVID-19 deaths after masks were mandated. This must be “proof” that they work. But we also know that by the end of April, deaths were dropping almost everywhere. Even in New York City, the ICUs were starting to empty out. Could it be that the mask mandates had absolutely nothing to do with it?
In scientific inquiry, this is called a “confounder.” It “confounds” the hypothesis, providing a different possible explanation for the observation. That’s why real science never proves a case from simply observing events. Observations can’t prove causation that way. They can only serve as a springboard to real tests. The scientist can set up a comparison where the only difference between groups is the detail being tested. All “confounding factors” are controlled so that they are the same in all groups. Then, and only then, if there are significant differences in outcomes, can they be scientifically be attributed to that one factor.
But all that is waaaaay too complicated for a press conference. So Anthony Fauci can simply say, “Countries that imposed mask mandates saw reduced numbers of cases.” This sounds scientific and has the benefit of being true. It also has the bureaucrat’s favorite advantage of creating a false inference for the audience. So if I’m watching him on TV, I’m likely to hear, “Mask wearing reduces COVID-19 cases.” It’s not true, but it serves Fauci’s purposes. It makes him look like the smartest person in the room, justifies his prescription, and shows that this otherwise worthless bureaucrat is actually looking out for us instead of trying to extend his fifteen minutes of fame.
Let me say that a bit differently. Fauci doesn’t treat patients and hasn’t for multiple decades. But he’s a “virologist,” and this is a virus. This gives him the patina of expertise and makes him the person that the President will lean on for answers. That makes him the smartest person in the room, the only one who can solve this horrible problem. What’s for him not to like?
There’s only one problem here. The CDC recommendation on mask-wearing, which Fauci parrots, is also a case of fuzzy words. “Your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you.” Right.
Notice that little word “may.” It’s possible that cloth face coverings “may” be protective. But there’s no data – notice that troublesome word – to support a statement that they “will” protect you. Yet everyone seems to treat the two words as interchangeable because some government bureaucrat carefully crafted a true statement that is also meaningless.
It is very likely that COVID-19 is spread through aerosols. These microscopic water particles with virus riders are to droplets as clouds are to rain. Droplets, which come from loud voices, coughs, and sneezes, rain out to the ground rapidly and don’t participate in life after that. Aerosols escape around paper masks, through the valve on N-95 masks, and through the fabric of cloth masks to continue on as clouds for extended periods. If you imagine them as smoke, one breath is like a puff of cigarette smoke. Keep going for an hour or two (dinner, anyone?) and you have the smoke-filled room. The California Air Resources Board notes that that smoke is not blocked by anything less than an N-95, and smoke particles are a lot bigger than aerosols.
Masks will stop droplets, just like an umbrella will stop the rain. But expecting a mask to stop an aerosol is like asking a chain-link fence to stop mosquitoes. Not happening.
If we want to get over this panic porn, we have to go back to real evidence. First, there is no evidence that my wearing any mask will protect you. Period. Will my wearing a mask protect me? Only if it’s an N-95 or better. And that mask will have to be re-sterilized or replaced frequently. If I don’t do that, I’ll have a lovely petri dish full of viruses an inch from my mouth.
Fauci and the CDC aren’t quite lying to us. But they aren’t telling us the whole truth, either. They are happy to let us confuse aerosols and droplets when they are as different as clouds and rain. They’re happy to let us think that “may” equals “will,” when discussing mask usage. “COVID positive” becomes a proxy for either antigen or antibody positivity when counting “new cases.” But antibodies say you had it back when not now.
We could go on. Is it any surprise that the natives are getting restless? Who are we going to believe? Fauci or our lying eyes?