Don’t believe people who claim that science proves masks don’t work. lucky train

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MAsks has played a vital role in keeping us all safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the beginning, masks helped flatten the curve for the safety of our hospital systems, and since then, masks have helped make public places and essential services more open and accessible to all. Many studies show that masks work, and they work best when everyone is wearing a high-quality mask to protect each other. The masks are awesome.

Yet, even three years after the pandemic, we still see conflicting stories in the news about masks on a daily basis. The latest culprit to grab confusing headlines is a new scientific review published in Cochrane. The paper analyzes several different studies assessing how effective physical measures – including masks – are against respiratory viruses.

The analysis is flawed because it compares apples to oranges. The paper cobbles together studies that were conducted in different environments with different transmission risks. It also combines studies where wearing masks Part with the study of the time where masks are worn All Time. And it mixes studies that looked at Covid-19 with those that looked at influenza.

If apples work and oranges don’t, but your analysis lumps them together, you may come to the wrong conclusion that apples don’t work. Of the 78 papers analyzed in the review, only two actually studied masking during the COVID-19 pandemic. and they both got that mask Did Protect the wearer from COVID-19. But these studies are drowned out by the high number of studies on influenza, where the benefit of masking is hard to ascertain because it is a much less infectious virus than Covid-19.

Even the authors themselves acknowledge in the paper: “High risk of bias across trials, variation in outcome measurements, and relatively low compliance with interventions across studies hinder drawing firm conclusions.”

The apparent problems with the study haven’t deterred loud voices from exaggerating its findings in major forums. Bret Stephens declared in the New York Times that “The mask mandates did nothing. Will any lessons be learned?” And Tom Jefferson, first author of the Cochrane paper, insisted in an interview: “There is no evidence that [masks] Does it matter? full stop.”

Neither are objective nor reliable sources. Stephens once called global warming “mass hysteria” and claimed that climate science had been “discredited”. Jefferson works for the Brownstone Institute, a COVID-19 misinformation group that operates with dark money.

The Cochrane Review has been deliberately misrepresented by its authors and like-minded supporters. Those with vested interests are using the same disinformation playbook to raise doubts about the science of Covid-19 protection that tobacco companies, the fossil fuel industry and the anti-vax movement have used in the past.

The overselling Cochrane study is a classic example of this. Cherry picking, where partisan groups highlight a subset of data that supports their position while ignoring a larger pool of evidence that disagrees with them. Several direct studies in laboratories show that high-quality masks significantly reduce the number of viral particles that mask wearers inhale and exhale, but these are deliberately omitted in anti-maskers’ arguments. Are being given.

These propaganda tactics are successfully subverting public health policies. Policymakers are susceptible to bad-faith arguments about masks because they look out for short-term corporate interests. Masks are a clear symbol that the pandemic is underway, and politicians fear that these reminders deter people from consuming. It is easy to lie to those who want to believe.

COVID-19 is still a crisis that requires attention and action. COVID-19 is still one of the top three causes of death, millions of people are getting prolonged COVID and many are unable to work as a result, and without public health protections, people at high risk, including Immunity includes the disabled, disabled and/or elderly, unable to safely access essential needs such as health care and public transportation, and being excluded from public life. The pandemic is not over. It is becoming more and more unjust and unjust.

As the spread of COVID-19 remains high for a long time, we need to prioritize policies that make society open and accessible to all, especially those at high risk. Masks are a major solution. While masks alone may not stop the pandemic because COVID-19 spreads faster in places where masks are discarded, such as in homes and social settings, masks help keep people safe in the places where they wear them. Can be worn continuously, such as at home, in hospitals and on public transport.

The CDC still recommends masks on public transportation at all times, in health care settings when transmission is high and in all indoor public places when hospitalizations are also high. And although many political leaders have shied away from their responsibilities, some states and counties still have mask mandates in some essential places. In addition, mask guides put together by groups across the country show that many individual businesses, workplaces and public places are continuing to protect their employees and communities by requiring masks.

We could have done a lot more. polls consistently show that the majority of the public, especially low-income communities and communities of color, support mask mandates. But because the compulsion to wear masks has ended in many places, fewer people are wearing masks. CDC research shows that people are more willing to wear masks when COVID-19 infections are high, but most also think that COVID-19 transmission levels are much lower than they actually are. Another hurdle is that many people cannot afford N95 and KN95 masks, but the government is not providing them for free. Pervasive misinformation about the science of masks undermines policy and education efforts that could bridge these gaps.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need better studies on masks. In science, we always want more evidence. Better studies will help us implement more effective mask policies. We can learn a lot more about what messages and policies work best to encourage more people to wear masks often, wear them correctly, and wear high-quality masks like the N95 .

But we need to stop giving so much air to bad actors. Their goal is to wear us down and numb us into losing empathy and giving up. The uncontrolled COVID-19 spread is still causing significant harm and disrupting the lives of many people, especially those most at risk. We cannot allow the avalanche of disinformation to be a convenient excuse to make us look the other way. Lots of science shows us that masks protect ourselves and our communities when we all wear masks, and masks are still needed. Let’s put that science into practice.

  • Dr. Lucky Tran is a scientist and public health communicator who works at Columbia University. During the pandemic, he has led numerous efforts to provide the public and policymakers with the latest information about COVID-19, and advocated for more equitable and just public health policies. He has a PhD in Biochemistry from Cambridge University

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