Face masks may return amid an anticipated holiday “tripledemic” of highly contagious respiratory viruses, reports the Washington Post.
COVID-19, seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) already are spreading, and public health officials are beginning to talk about face masks again, the paper said.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, says her agency urges everyone “to wear a high quality, well-fitting mask to help prevent the spread of respiratory illness,” particularly on public transportation and during airport travel. She said masking is especially important in counties with high COVID-19 community levels.
However, last February, medical scientists from UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine and USC’s Keck School of Medicine sent a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors arguing the mask mandate in effect at the time wasn’t working, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The scientists cited the county’s statistics along with studies in Europe and some U.S. states showing transmission of COVID-19 did not slow down after mask mandates were imposed.
In July, some of the same doctors published their views in an op-ed in the Orange County Register.
The Post cited a CDC study of mask use in California that found people who reported always wearing a cloth mask in indoor public spaces last year were 56% less likely to test positive for the coronavirus compared with people who did not wear masks.
But the scientists at UCLA and USC pointed out that when researchers repeated the CDC study, using identical methods but a larger and better dataset, the benefit of masking disappeared.
Randomized control studies have indicated masks offer little or no protection from COVID-19, including a Danish study published in Annals in Internal Medicine finding no statistically significant difference between wearing a surgical mask and no mask. A much larger Yale study in Bangladesh – which has been widely touted as support for masking – found no statistically significance difference between mask wearers and those without for every age group under 50.
Until the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the World Health Organization and the CDC advised against wearing masks in public to protect against a respiratory virus. In March 2020, a top WHO official affirmed there is “no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.”
A former adviser to the WHO and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a list of more than 150 studies and articles presenting data and evidence that universal masking is ineffective in stopping the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and causes harm.
The Post also recommended using N95 masks, which the paper said “will trap at least 94 to 95 percent of the most risky particles.”
But a new peer-reviewed, randomized controlled trial published in Annals of Internal Medicine found no statistically significant difference between the performance of surgical masks and the highly touted N95s against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Los Angeles County is considering renewing its indoor mask mandate, the Los Angeles Times reported. And the Sacramento City Unified School District said it would require masks indoors if the CDC designates Sacramento County as having a high COVID community level.
The U.S. government, under Dr. Anthony Fauci’s leadership of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has advocated masking for children as young as 2.
However, during a recent deposition in a joint lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, Fauci was unable to cite any study backing his sudden change of position on the effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.