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More Doctors Admit Face Masks Don’t Stop Viruses

Denmark Does Not Mandate Face Masks and Still Has Low Death Numbers in its Population

By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal

August 26, 2020


   While face mask wearing in public in the U.S. has been elevated to a charismatic religious faith, two doctors at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have come under fire for pointing out the scientific fact that disposable surgical face masks and cloth face masks do not stop the spread of viruses, nor were they ever intended or designed to do so.

   The commentary was published on the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) website.  It is entitled COMMENTARY:  Masks-for-all for COVID-19 not based on sound data.1  The commentary was written by Dr. Lisa Brosseau ScD,  a national expert on respiratory protection and infectious diseases and professor (retired) at UIC and Dr. Margaret Sietsema, PhD, an expert on respiratory protection and an assistant professor at UIC.  Their conclusions are corroborated by a report published in May in the U.S. CDC’s medical journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases2

   Their commentary came under fire by pro-mask advocates who demanded they delete the commentary.  However, the doctors resisted the pressure to be politically correct. CIDRAP continues to host the article and the doctors’ responses to those who want the article burned in the Orwellian memory hole.

   All the doctors did was look at the scientific evidence for filtration, effectiveness of seal and use of face masks among untrained members of the general public to support their conclusions that the face masks worn in public today - most of which are classified as “anti-dust” masks on their packaging - are completely useless at stopping viral transmission.

   The doctors’ commentary notes that data is lacking to recommend broad mask use.  “We do not recommend requiring the general public who do not have symptoms of COVID-19-like illness to routinely wear cloth or surgical masks because there is no scientific evidence they are effective in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”

   “Sweeping mask recommendations - as many have proposed - will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing masks in Hubei province, China before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year.  Our review of relevant studies indicates that cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or PPE.”

   In reviewing the filter efficiency of various materials, the doctors noted that cloth masks had a near zero efficiency at 0.3 μm, similar to the size of a virus particle.  “These studies demonstrate that cloth or homemade masks will have very low filter efficiency (2% to 38%).  Medical masks are made from a wide range of materials, and studies have found a wide range of filter efficiency (2% to 98%), with most exhibiting 30% to 50% efficiency.”

   “In sum, cloth masks exhibit very low filter efficiency.  Thus, even masks that fit well against the face will not prevent inhalation of small particles by the wearer or emission of small particles from the wearer.”

   They cited research done on the 1918 influenza pandemic which noted that the cloth masks mandated at that time also did not slow or prevent the spread of the virus.  That research, conducted by Dr. W. H. Kellogg, MD was published in the American Journal of Public Health.  The preface to the article states, “Masks have not been proved efficient enough to warrant compulsory application for the checking of epidemics, according to Dr. Kellogg, who has conducted a painstaking investigation with gauzes.  This investigation is scientific in character, omitting no one of the necessary factors.  It ought to settle the much argued question of masks for the public.”3

   As for the disposable medical surgical masks (those being sold today are classified as “dust” masks), they found there was “no significant impact on secondary disease transmission,” and the use of a surgical mask in a household environment “appears to have very little impact on transmission of respiratory disease.”

   The doctors concluded their initial finding by stating, “Cloth masks are ineffective as source control or PPE, surgical masks have some role to play in preventing emissions from infected patients, and respirators are the best choice for protecting healthcare and frontline workers, but not recommended for source control.  These recommendations apply to pandemic and non-pandemic situations.”

   Pro-face mask advocates were crushed by the overwhelming scientific data presented by the doctors and attempted to buoy their religious faith in mask wearing by demanding the article be removed, citing several of their best arguments for face masks - which the doctors responded to and published as a preface to their commentary.

   One point from the pro-mask crowd was “If the data are limited, how can we say face coverings are not effective?” The doctors responded that there are laboratory studies that indicate cloth masks or face coverings offer very low filter collection efficiency and “are largely responsible for transmission [of viruses].”  They also noted the guidelines from the CDC rely on references that “employ very crude, non-standardized methods or are not relevant to cloth face coverings.”

   The pro-mask group also suggested that face coverings may ‘flatten the curve’ and stop the pandemic (even though those are two completely different scenarios; the former is slowing the pandemic while the latter is stopping it).  The doctors responded, “We have reviewed the many modeling studies that purport to demonstrate that cloth masks or face coverings have the potential for flattening the curve or significantly decrease the number of cases.  These studies fail to recognize several important facts:  1.) filter performance of a cloth material does not directly translate or represent its performance on and individual; 2. Cloth masks or coverings come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials and are not made according to any standards; 3.) Transmission is not simply a function of short random interactions between individuals, but rather a function of particle concentration in the air and the time exposed to that concentration; and 4.) A cloth mask or face covering does very little to prevent the emission or inhalation of small particles.”

   They concluded their rebuttal, “...we continue to conclude that cloth masks and face coverings are likely to have limited impact on lowering COVID-19 transmission…”

   In an updated clarification on July 22, 2020, Michael T. Osterblom, director of CIDRAP stated, “I have been concerned about 'message creep' since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first recommended in April to use cloth face coverings without providing additional context regarding their use. Public health messaging should include a more precise discussion of the effectiveness of cloth face coverings in preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. We need to be clear that cloth face coverings are one tool we have to fight the pandemic, but they alone will not end it. And we need to underscore the key role that physical distancing plays—even when you wear a face covering...As of this writing, few data support that cloth face coverings will help flatten the curve. In countries and cities where mask wearing is more likely to be followed by most of the population, there are now significant and ongoing outbreaks. The authors of the commentary last week added a statement to their comment clarifying that they support people wearing face coverings where they are mandated but encouraging people to continue to limit their time spent indoors near potentially infectious people and to not count on a cloth face covering to protect them or the people around them. Avoiding or spending as little time as possible in crowded, indoor, poorly ventilated places should be a higher priority.”4

      Some European countries are taking a more rational approach to face mask mandates.  Some are not mandating them at all.

   For example, with just 616 deaths as of August 4, Denmark has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the world. But to the chagrin of pro-mask advocates, Denmark has no mandate to wear face masks in public.   “From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation,” said Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark.

   In Sweden, where COVID-19 deaths have slowed to a crawl, public health officials say they see “no point” in requiring individuals to wear masks.  “With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert.

   Meanwhile, in Finland and Holland, 80-90 percent of people say they never wear masks when they go out in public.

     “The problem with mask mandates is that public health officials are not merely recommending a precaution that may or may not be effective,” wrote Jon Miltimore from, “They are using force to make people submit to a state order that could ultimately make individuals or entire populations sicker, according to world-leading public health officials. That is not just a violation of the Effectiveness Principle, it’s a violation of a basic personal freedom.”