Wearing face-masks — even fancier N95 masks — probably has “little or no” effect in protecting against COVID-19 and the flu compared to not wearing one, according to a massive new British meta-study.
“There is uncertainty about the effects of masks,” concludes a team of 12 international researchers in the study published Jan. 30 in the peer-reviewed U.K. journal Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
“Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory‐confirmed influenza/SARS‐CoV‐2 compared to not wearing masks,” an abstract of the U.K. study states.
Moreover, the study concludes that among medical workers, even the more robust N95 masks did not yield greater protection compared to more standard masks, which might surprise people who wear the boxier masks believing they are gaining heightened protection from COVID.
“There were no clear differences between the use of medical/surgical masks compared with N95/P2 respirators in healthcare workers when used in routine care to reduce respiratory viral infection,” reports the abstract. The authors conclude: “The pooled results of RCTs [randomized controlled trials] did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks.”
The researchers analyzed at 78 “randomised controlled studies” through October 2022 that looked at physical measures people take to avoid getting a respiratory infection like influenza or COVID-19 — from hand-washing and using hand sanitizers to wearing various types of face-masks.
Meanwhile, the CDC is “still recommending masking in areas with ‘high’ [COVID] transmission levels — fewer than four percent of U.S. counties — as well as indoor masking to protect high-risk contacts in ‘medium’ counties (27 percent),” reports Just the News in a story on the British study.
The Cochrane study described N95 masks as “close-fitting masks that filter the air breathed in, more commonly used by healthcare workers than the public.” A recent Substack article by Megan Mansell seeks to explain why N95 masks don’t work.
A “plain language summary” of the U.K. meta-analysis gives the following as among the potential reasons for the inefficacy of masks:
- “lower adherence with mask wearing, especially amongst children”;
- “quality of the masks used”;
- “self‐contamination of the mask by hands”;
- “lack of protection from eye exposure from respiratory droplets (allowing a route of entry of respiratory viruses into the nose via the lacrimal duct)”;
- “saturation of masks with saliva from extended use (promoting virus survival in proteinaceous material)”; and
- “possible risk compensation behaviour leading to an exaggerated sense of security.”
Regarding hand hygiene, the meta-study found that “following a hand hygiene programme may reduce the number of people who catch a respiratory or flu‐like illness … compared with people not following such a programme.” It also reports that several studies that it analyzed found people complaining of “discomfort” wearing masks.
The authors recommend more and better studies on the practical effects of supposedly protective measures and approaches, including “physical distancing,” e.g., the requirement of a six-foot gap between people widely embraced by authorities during the COVID pandemic.
Just the News reports researchers for the Cochrane study “are affiliated with a geographically disparate range of institutions in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Italy and Saudi Arabia. Half are affiliated with the Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare at Australia’s Bond University. The corresponding author is the University of Calgary’s John Conly.”
JTN reports that masks are still required in educational institutions in blue states New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington and California, citing a story in the Daily Mail.”
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