24 September, 2020 by Allan Stevo
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an estimated 15,000 in its workforce; some 88 of them work on Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID), a highly regarded, peer-reviewed journal of epidemiology, published by the CDC.
April 3, 2020 — CDC Face Mask Order
On April 3, 2020, the CDC announced that everyone should wear face masks, wash their hands, and clean surfaces in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
CDC 4/3/20: Wear Masks To Fight Covid
On April 3, 2020, the CDC advised “Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.” Private and governmental policies across the US and internationally were crafted according to this statement.
CDC 4/3/20: Wash Hands To Fight Covid
On April 3, 2020, the CDC advised “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.”
CDC 4/3/20: Clean Surfaces To Fight Covid
On April 3, 2020, the CDC advised “Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.”
May 2020 — Researchers Prove the Opposite
May 2020, Dr. Jingyi Xiao, an epidemiologist from the University of Hong Kong, and her colleagues, ran a paper entitled “Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures” at Emerging Infectious Diseases, in which they sought to separate myth from reality and to demonstrate what data-driven measures can be helpful in preventing the spread of Covid-19. Xiao’s research showed the opposite of the April 3, 2020, statements from the CDC to be true.
Xiao’s efforts began with more diligent and rigorous methodology than recent reviewers who came before: “We searched 4 databases (Medline, PubMed, EMBASE, and CENTRAL) for literature in all languages. We aimed to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of each measure for laboratory-confirmed influenza outcomes for each of the measures because RCTs provide the highest quality of evidence.”
Throughout 2020, it has been easy for low-quality Covid research to get published and then circulated through the media, entirely out of context. This has been detrimental in a time when high quality and dependable information would be most useful in the protection of life and livelihood in 2020. Consequently, Xiao does not treat every study the same. Randomized controlled trials with laboratory confirmed outcomes were the standard their review of the literature sought. Rather than cherry-picking the studies with fashionable results, they sought truth and quality over political correctness and assessed the gold standard studies. Not surprisingly, in doing so, Xiao produced the exact opposite results of what you would find from Fox News, the New York Times, Google, or their many clones.
Xiao unsurprisingly reports what researchers of randomized controlled trials with laboratory-confirmed outcomes have long known:
“Although mechanistic studies support the potential effect of hand hygiene or face masks, evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials of these measures did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza. We similarly found limited evidence on the effectiveness of improved hygiene and environmental cleaning. We identified several major knowledge gaps requiring further research, most fundamentally an improved characterization of the modes of person-to-person transmission.”
You read that right:
1.) It doesn’t matter if you sanitize surfaces;
2.) It doesn’t matter if you wash your hands;
3.) Masks don’t work.
CDC Journal 5/1/20: Sanitizing Surfaces Doesn’t Protect Against Covid-19
Sanitizing surfaces is effective for the prevention of gastrointestinal illnesses, but it doesn’t protect from Covid: “Although we found no evidence that surface and object cleaning could reduce influenza transmission, this measure does have an established impact on prevention of other infectious diseases.”
CDC Journal 5/1/20: Washing Your Hands Doesn’t Protect Against Covid
Similarly, hand washing is useful for the prevention of gastrointestinal illness, but the laboratory-confirmed, randomized controlled trials show that it is not useful in the prevention of Covid: “Hand hygiene is a widely used intervention and has been shown to effectively reduce the transmission of gastrointestinal infections and respiratory infections. However, in our systematic review, updating the findings of Wong et al., we did not find evidence of a major effect of hand hygiene on laboratory-confirmed influenza virus transmission. Nevertheless, hand hygiene might be included in influenza pandemic plans as part of general hygiene and infection prevention.”
CDC Journal 5/1/20: Masks Don’t Work
Face masks might help prevent the spread of some infections, but there’s no proof that they work with Covid-19 or influenza: “We did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility. However, as with hand hygiene, face masks might be able to reduce the transmission of other infections and therefore have value in an influenza pandemic when healthcare resources are stretched.”
CDC Journal 5/1/20: Face Masks Don’t Work When Worn By The Sick Either
Some say face masks should be worn by the infected, not the healthy. In doing so, they can prevent infected people from transmitting the virus to the healthy. Xiao found no such evidence of this. Rather than relying on datasets based on questionnaires such as “Did you suffer from the sniffles last week?” Xiao, in examining this issue, only looked at laboratory-confirmed cases and found no proof that people sick with Covid or influenza should wear masks either:
“There is limited evidence for their effectiveness in preventing influenza virus transmission either when worn by the infected person for source control or when worn by uninfected persons to reduce exposure. Our systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”
CDC Journal 5/1/20: Don’t Wear A Dirty Mask, It Can INCREASE The Risk Of Covid Transmission
Xiao takes if a step further, saying not only are face mask be unhelpful in stopping the spread of Covid-19, they can actually increase the risk of transmission: “Proper use of face masks is essential because improper use might increase the risk for transmission. Thus, education on the proper use and disposal of used face masks, including hand hygiene, is also needed.”
What Is “Proper Use?”
Xiao cites a World Health Organization (WHO) notice from 2009 entitled “Advice on the use of masks in the community setting in Influenza A (H1N1) outbreaks” that offers some well-established advice for proper mask use. Again Xiao has demonstrated that proper mask has does not stop Covid-19 but to cite the WHO the great risk of the mask is that transmission is increased: “Using a mask incorrectly however, may actually increase the risk of transmission, rather than reduce it.”
The following from WHO is listed as behavior that can increase transmission:
- Touching mouth and nose
- Touching a mask in use
- Touching a clean mask with unwashed hands
- Not washing hands every time after touching a dirty mask
- Wearing a mask that is not new and clean
- Continuing to wear a mask after it has become damp, instead of immediately replacing it
- Re-using a single-use mask
- Not discarding a single-use mask immediately upon removal, as opposed to leaving it in the immediate environment
Have you seen even one person follow that protocol in 2020? Proper mask protocol doesn’t stop there either. Rather than informing the public that such behaviors may actually help spread Covid, the most vocal instead demand that everyone be masked, regardless of the potential negative impact it may have in increasing the transmission of Covid-19.
CDC Journal 5/1/20: Covering Your Mouth Doesn’t Even Seem To Work
Etiquette in many places says you cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Xiao went so far as to investigate this also, finding such respiratory etiquette unhelpful in preventing the transmission of Covid, and encouraging others to take up that area of research: “Respiratory etiquette is often listed as a preventive measure for respiratory infections. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support this measure. Whether respiratory etiquette is an effective nonpharmaceutical intervention in preventing influenza virus transmission remains questionable, and worthy of further research.”
Caveat: Xiao Did Not Look At N95 And P2 Respirators
Focusing on the most pressing matters that relate to the greatest number of people, Xiao looked at face masks and not respirators. Respirators come with their own warning. They, too, require their own hygiene and fit protocol in order or be effective, protocol seldom followed.
Xiao writes: “We did not consider the use of respirators in the community. Respirators are tight-fitting masks that can protect the wearer from fine particles and should provide better protection against influenza virus exposures when properly worn because of higher filtration efficiency. However, respirators, such as N95 and P2 masks, work best when they are fit-tested, and these masks will be in limited supply during the next pandemic.”
Who Is More Credible — Political Hacks or Gold Standard Scientists?
It would look, on the surface, like the CDC is contradicting itself. One organ of the CDC said one thing in April and another organ said something else in May, which would not be the first confusing message from the CDC. One may feel torn between who to believe. That need not be the case at all.
You have the top brass at the CDC, composed of political hacks saying to wear something, anything, as long as it vaguely resembles a mask. Their statements shift whenever it’s expedient to them. Then, in contrast, you have the peer-reviewed scientists pointing to the well-established, long-established fact that masks don’t work for reducing coronavirus transmission.
I don’t know what the political hacks are trying to pull or why, and I don’t particularly need to know in order to understand why not to trust political hacks. What I know is that what they are saying is predictably inaccurate. This is the case for much of what political hacks say. Just because it comes from the hacks does not make it wrong, but hacks have a bad track record when it comes to science. They just don’t have a primary penchant for truth. If they did, they would not be political hacks.
Face masks don’t work in preventing the spread of Covid. The science on that is well-established.
2020 Has Been A Year Of Superstition, Not Science
Many of the weird, OCD, germophobe, anti-social, hypochondriac maneuvers that have become commonplace in 2020 are rooted in superstition, but not science. While these interventions may be the advice of those reading Fox News marquees or New York Times headlines, they are not data-driven interventions backed by peer-reviewed, laboratory-confirmed, randomized controlled trials. Those trials say something clearly different.
Face mask orders are the territory of the science-denier, the anti-logician, the mob with torches ready to punish Copernicus for applying the scientific method and thinking according to his findings. It’s not me saying that, that’s just the 14 gold standard studies used by Xiao et al.
Knowing This, What Will You Do?
Now I have tremendous regard for those who will take this knowledge and evangelize. I also have tremendous praise for those who will take that knowledge and crash the gates. My method has been to encourage people with exemptions to say the words “I am unable to wear a face mask safely.” Thousands have successfully used this technique. Millions can successfully use it. One free person at a time, these lockdowns come to an end, not when any blue ribbon committee says they end.
Conclusion: The Experts Know A Lot Less Than They Have Led Us To Believe
Xiao provides a useful slice of humble pie to the people who suddenly became Covid experts and tinpot dictators this spring. The aggressive mask-police don’t know as much as they think they do. The “experts” that the aggressive mask police are getting their info from don’t either.
Unfortunately, this sober appraisal doesn’t sell advertising, fund studies, or make careers, so instead of being the most cited study of 2020, Xiao has practically been ignored.
Perhaps in your own circle of friends, you can change this by sharing this article.
And while you’re at it, please also send me your tales from the face mask compliance checkpoint, and help me put an end to this tyranny.
At least two studies have been removed from websites, with very little explanation given.
The dentistry journal Oral Health Group has removed a research paper from its website which found masks do not work to halt the spread of disease. They claim the paper is “no longer relevant in the current climate”.
The article – “Why Face Masks Don’t Work: A Revealing Review” – has been used as a source before by us before (see here), and was a great collation of all the research studies done on the effectiveness of masks as a disease prevention tool. In general it found the evidence suggested masks have little to no value as infection preventatives.