Is it time to say no to masks?

To the editor:

Is it time to say no to masks, Indiana?

Mandatory masking isn't slowing Covid in Indiana. Since Governor Holcomb instituted the mandate in July, Covid cases and Covid deaths have not decreased. This was true even two to four weeks after the institution of the mandate, when universal masking should have caused a drop in new Covid cases, but didn't. What we did see was two months of no change, followed by an increase in caseload starting in late September. Today, rates of Covid appear to be at their highest ever — despite widespread masking. Why?

I think, because masks don't work.

This is not an anti-science position. Science supports it. In 2015, a study in the British Medical Journal showed that cloth masks were basically useless, penetrated by nearly 97% of particles; the authors added the "caution" that cloth masks may be more harmful than no masks at all. In 2019, the NIH published a study concluding that cloth masks are "not recommended" because of the high "bioburden" of germs they carry. In 2020 the CDC reviewed evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials and concluded that masking the public was basically useless at slowing the spread of the flu: "Our systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission."

Studies from this year confirm this. In September 2020, the NIH published a review of 15 studies involving nearly 24,000 people showing that "Surgical mask wearing among individuals in non-healthcare settings is not significantly associated with reduction in [respiratory infections]." In June 2020, the WHO said, "There is no direct evidence ... on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with ... COVID-19." A May 2020 study in the New England Journal of Medicine states flatly, "We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection ... In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic."

Why was this evidence not considered in forming Indiana's mask policy? It's all publicly available. Decide for yourselves.

—Jessica Warden

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