Why Masks Don’t Work

In this community-based, randomized controlled trial conducted in a setting where mask wearing was uncommon and was not among other recommended public health measures related to COVID-19, a recommendation to wear a surgical mask when outside the home among others did not reduce, at conventional levels of statistical significance, incident SARS-CoV-2 infection compared with no mask recommendation.”

This study was conducted using high-quality surgical masks, not the cheap ridiculous cloth masks everybody is running around in. And they still didn’t work.

Why? Because of the way SARS-COV-2 transmits.

It has been argued that for the primary route of SARS-CoV-2 spread—that is, via droplets—face masks would be considered effective, whereas masks would not be effective against spread via aerosols, which might penetrate or circumnavigate a face mask (37, 39). Thus, spread of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols would at least partially explain the present findings. Lack of eye protection may also have been of importance, and use of face shields also covering the eyes (rather than face masks only) has been advocated to halt the conjunctival route of transmission.”

And more:

Our results suggest that the recommendation to wear a surgical mask when outside the home among others did not reduce, at conventional levels of statistical significance, the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in mask wearers in a setting where social distancing and other public health measures were in effect, mask recommendations were not among those measures, and community use of masks was uncommon. Yet, the findings were inconclusive and cannot definitively exclude a 46% reduction to a 23% increase in infection of mask wearers in such a setting.

Once again, these are surgical masks. Not whatever garbage we are wearing.

I recommend reading the whole thing. I know that masks are an article of religious faith but there’s got to be some rationality left on the issue. Nobody should forcibly prevent people from wearing whatever they want but nobody should force people to wear them either.

18 thoughts on “Why Masks Don’t Work”

  1. I interpreted the “mask recommendations were not in effect” and “mask wearing was uncommon” to mean that the study participants assigned to wear masks were among people not wearing masks.

    That would mean that wearing a surgical-grade mask is not effective in protecting yourself from getting Covid. No conclusions can be made from this study about the effectiveness of masks in preventing yourself from infecting others.


    1. If you are sick and want to prevent others from getting it, I think it makes sense to stay at home. I don’t want a sick person – whether it’s common cold or flu or COVID – to prance around me, mask or no mask.


      1. Agree 100% – but the problem is that you can have the virus and be (highly) contagious for a day or two before showing symptoms. This is true for COVID but also other viruses like regular colds, etc. Also sorry I did not explain well below and thanks to TomW for clarifying 🙂


  2. Two important points: “The primary outcome was SARS-CoV-2 infection in the mask wearer” and “community use of masks was uncommon.” The idea behind mask wearing is to reduce spread to others, rather than as a way to directly protect the individual mask-wearer, and relies upon a reasonably high percentage of mask-wearing in a community for this to be an effective strategy. So this study can tell us that wearing a mask is likely ineffective at protecting an individual if others around are not wearing masks (which is nothing new, really), but it does not speak to whether high levels of mask-wearing reduce the overall spread of the virus (i.e. the number of cases in the community).


    1. I honestly don’t understand this. Can anybody explain? If aerosolized particles can get in around a mask, why can’t they get out? I understand the part about the ocular infection. But if I sneeze under the mask, how is it that aerosolized particles aren’t flying out? Especially in single use and cloth masks?


      1. My understanding of this is that a cloth or surgical mask can reduce the number of virus particles from an infected person and keep them from traveling as far and as quickly as they would if no mask were worn, but most masks won’t completely stop the virus from getting out. If you are infected and sneeze with the mask on some portion of the virus particles will get out and some portion will get caught in the mask, the ones that get out will tend to go to the side and stay close to you at first because they’ve been diverted to the side rather than straight ahead. Without a mask all of the virus particles get out and they will travel further because they get shot out with no interference. If you are infected the mask can reduce the chance that you will infect another person by reducing the number of virus particles and slowing their spread in a room, but it does not eliminate all risk.

        One of the big problems I see with mask wearing is that people with masks on think it’s completely safe to be close to others when it’s really best to have a mask on, keep your distance, and limit time with anyone who is infected. The mask can improve your chances, but I think they are giving some people a false sense of security.


  3. Clarissa, you’ve just demonstrated why mask mandates exist. Surgical masks are ineffective if only a few people use them, as was the case in this study. From the very beginning it has been clear that masks are about protecting others.

    Please take a look at this picture, and tell me how a mask does nothing to protect others:


  4. The study authors state that their study is limited by: “Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others.”

    That means that the study isn’t very good.

    Also, the conclusion of the authors was: “The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50%…”

    So the study is saying that wearing a mask in the environment that the study was done in will reduce transmission risk by a maximum of 50%.

    Respectfully, this study doesn’t really prove that masks don’t work, or explain why.


      1. Oh yeah. Well. You’re the one citing a study from Denmark, which is freezing cold and full of people trained from birth to stay away from everyone else in flu season. That isn’t a fair study. If you really want to see whether or not masks work, you have to test them somewhere where the population doesn’t behave like they live in a level 3 bioweapons lab.


        1. Well, India – which fits your description perfectly – is far below in COVID mortality rates after Belgium, US and Denmark.

          It’s a seasonal virus that likes cold weather.


          1. The study that you cited is about incidence, not mortality. It isn’t correct to switch between the two.

            In other news, did you know that they invented Lego in Denmark? I didn’t know that until today. You should be like Denmark, Clarissa. Just think of your ideas about masks not working, and…lego of them 🙂


  5. Weren’t facemasks the norm in Southeast Asian countries during the “bird flu” in the early 2000s?
    And also in some of the major cities in China during “air quality alert” due to industrial and vehicle exhaust pollution?
    Not just viruses, but EXTREME POLLUTION scenarios as well.

    …just “food for thought”. Namely, that facemask mandates are highly unoriginal.


    1. Sigh. PSA for people who’ve never been to Southeast Asia: facemasks are the norm there all the time. You’d wear one, too, if you and everyone else in your city commuted on 100cc motorbikes with no emissions standards.


  6. Mask mandates are sort of along the same line as, let’s say, mandating that “shoes must be worn at all times when outside”, so as to “protect the feet from the potential perils of injury from stepping on sharp stones or broken glass fragments”.
    In other words, instead of simply routinely donning another article of clothing, you have that extra garment being required by official decree in a “martial law” manner under the guise of “public safety”.


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