For more than a year, people have been at loggerheads over whether masks can prevent the spread of Covid-19. It is rare that we see civil discussion on this topic. People have dropped anchor on their position and many are quick to jump into a fracas over this topic.
Do you want to know why mask mandates are so controversial?
It’s because almost nobody sees real evidence suggesting that masking is, or isn’t, effective in preventing virus spread.
What we do see on news sites, Twitter, etc. are claims to offer proof of the effectiveness, or futility, of wearing masks in defense against Covid.
Yet, this ‘proof’ is almost always a graph (or several) showing:
- Covid-19 cases rising, or falling, and
- A date marker indicating when mask mandate went into a effect, or were lifted
There’s couple of things wrong with this. First, these graphs rarely cite the source of their data. As far as I can tell, nobody is peer-reviewing these screen grabs, either.
I hate to break to all of you, but these graphs only “prove” that the creator of the graph missed the 7th-grade unit on correlation vs. causation, or the creator assumes their audience did.
And if your “proof” includes mask-compliance rates, then I guess it’s time we had THE talk about that, too.
Those figures are not reliable. They depend on people being honest (some won’t be) and accurate (many more won’t be). There is no way to gauge how often people are actually wearing mask, or whether they are engaging in other behaviors that might affect virus spread.
Furthermore, merely showing case patterns juxtaposed against the start, or end of a mask mandate does, not take into account the variables that we can measure, such as weather-related factors: precipitation, wind and temperature.
The former two affect the physical distribution of a virus, the latter can determine if people are spending time indoors, or closing windows.
There is honest-to-God laboratory research with experimental analysis, on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of masks in the prevention of viral spread. Though these type of analyses aren’t likely to show up on cable news.
They sure as hell won’t make it to social media.