On November 18, 2020, another large study has been published showing the ineffectiveness of wearing masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. While the study showed no statistical benefit to their effectiveness, researchers in the 6,000 person randomized study still recommend wearing them. This study adds to the mix of credible studies showing that the efficacy of masks is inconclusive. There have been some credible studies that have shown them to be somewhat effective, while others have not, as we noted in a July 2020 article.
The aim of the study was to assess whether recommending surgical mask use outside the home reduces wearers’ risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection in a setting where masks were uncommon and not among recommended public health measures. So, basically when not at home, participants were expected to be out for at least three hours a day, some with surgical masks and the control group without masks. For two months, they accumulated data of the participants.
The results were that whether a participant wore a mask or not, there was a 2 percent chance of contracting COVID-19 a/k/a SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, the study found that “a total of 3030 participants were randomly assigned to the recommendation to wear masks, and 2994 were assigned to control [not to wear a mask]; 4862 completed the study. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 occurred in 42 participants recommended masks (1.8%) and 53 control participants (2.1%). The between-group difference was −0.3 percentage point (95% CI, −1.2 to 0.4 percentage point; P = 0.38) (odds ratio, 0.82 [CI, 0.54 to 1.23]; P = 0.33). Multiple imputation accounting for loss to follow-up yielded similar results. Although the difference observed was not statistically significant, the 95% CIs are compatible with a 46% reduction to a 23% increase in infection.”
The study’s official conclusion states, “The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use. The data were compatible with lesser degrees of self-protection.”
Nonetheless, researchers in the study have stated that the study “should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections, because the trial did not test the role of masks in source control of SARS-CoV-2 infection. During the study period, authorities did not recommend face mask use outside hospital settings, and mask use was rare in community settings. This means that study participants’ exposure was overwhelmingly to persons not wearing masks.” This statement makes little sense, as the general population were not wearing masks, and the control group was not wearing masks, one would think the control group’s infection rate would be massive compared to those wearing masks in an unmasked environment.