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Massive Study Concludes Masks Ineffective at Preventing COVID-19 Spread

Published: February 3, 2023
Masked racegoers at Sha Tin Racecourse on Jan. 8, 2023 in Hong Kong. A study, published by the Cochrane Institute concluded that masks do little to protect individuals from COVID-19 and prevent spread. (Image: Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)

Research carried out by the Cochrane Institute that looked at 78 global studies involving over one million people has concluded that the use of masks to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, makes “little to no difference” in achieving the intended prophylaxis.

The Cochrane Institute’s research is considered the “‘gold standard’ in evidence-based medicine,” according to Francois Balloux, professor of computational biology at the UK’s University College London.

Balloux tweeted on Jan. 30 that Cochrane reviews “follow rigorous methodology and only consider high quality evidence. As such, the review included a limited number of studies and has moderate power to detect small effects.”

The research revealed that the use of surgical masks reduced the risk of catching COVID-19 or the flu by just five percent, a statistically insignificant result. 

They concluded that “wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of influenza‐like illness (ILI)/COVID‐19-like illness compared to not wearing masks,” and that “The use of a N95/P2 respirators compared to medical/surgical masks probably makes little or no difference for the objective and more precise outcome of laboratory‐confirmed influenza infection.” 

In addition, Cochrane said that the harms caused by mask wearing were poorly measured in all of the studies, meaning any benefits masks provide may very well be outweighed by the costs, which beyond mere inconvenience include developing rashes and respiratory issues caused by buildup of microbes and dirt in the masks.

Balloux said that the research indicates that the benefits of wearing a mask are “at best small.”


Mixed messaging

From the onset of the pandemic, people around the world received mixed messaging from authorities on the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Early on in the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, the then director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), advised Americans that masks were ineffective before changing his messaging and recommending that they be mandated. 

In March 2020, during an interview with 60 Minutes Overtime, Fauci said, “Wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing  the perfect protection that people think that it is.”

Fauci added, “Right now in the United States people should not be walking around with masks.”

When pressed about his confidence in his statement, Fauci responded, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”

In another televised appearance Fauci said, “now we have masks, we know that you don’t need an N95 if you are a person, ordinary person, in the street. We also know that simple cloth coverings, that many people have, can work as well as a mask.”

According to the  Cochrane Institute’s findings, Fauci’s initial messaging was correct. 

In a subsequent interview with CBS Evening News, Fauci said he had “no regrets” over his mixed messaging. 

“I don’t regret anything I said then because in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct,” he said, adding that, “We were told in our task force meetings that we have a serious problem with the lack of PPEs and masks for the health providers who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day to take care of sick people.”

More harm than good

Numerous researchers have found that many of the measures enacted by world governments to combat the spread of the virus were ineffective and in fact may have caused more harm than good. 

One study, that looked at multiple other studies, published by the National Library of Medicine, explored the detrimental effects of mask wearing and found that in addition to wearers blood carbon dioxide levels spiking while wearing a mask wearers also experienced a “significant drop in blood oxygen saturation” resulting in increased heart and respiratory rates.

“In another experimental study (comparative study), surgical and N95 masks caused a significant increase in heart rate (p < 0.01) as well as a corresponding feeling of exhaustion (p < 0.05),” researchers found.

The findings were duplicated in other studies, according to the researchers. 

In July, 2021 the New York Post published an article entitled, “Lockdown hysteria did more harm than COVID-19” arguing that “We still have no convincing evidence that the lockdowns saved lives, but lots of evidence that they have already cost lives and will prove deadlier in the long run than the virus itself.”

While the effectiveness of lockdowns continue to be debated, with many arguing they were effective in preventing the spread of the disease and saved countless lives, hundreds of thousands of other scientists and doctors argued against them in favor of “focused protection.”

The Great Barrington Declaration, published in October, 2020 in response to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns states “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.”

Focused Protection was defined as, “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.” 

“The results [of current COVID-19 policies] include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice,” the scientists wrote. 

Legacy media attacked the declaration saying it was a deadly “let it rip” strategy that was an “ethical nightmare.”