by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Dr. S. Stanley Young, Ph.D is an applied statistician, and a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and AAAS and Director of the Shifting Sands Project with the National Association of Scholars. He currently serves on the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board.
He hounded the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) under state health bureaucrat Mandy Cohen for the oft-proclaimed “data and science” behind Gov. Roy Cooper’s extraordinary order forcing face masks on healthy people.
Young knows the science, and he knows it doesn’t support what Cooper and Cohen are doing. That’s what eventually led to an extraordinary admission from DHHS.
Young writes about it in North State Journal under the title “Are masks really helpful?”
The question we are addressing is whether wearing a mask is any different than not wearing a mask? … [W]e examine results from randomized clinical trials (RCT). Using a meta-analysis allows us to use as much of the available RCT data as possible.
I studied the studies and found one for influenza. The peer-reviewed meta-analysis study looked at flu viral transmission, using 10 randomized clinical trials. When you combine all 10, the study showed that the results are consistent with pure chance.
Just how did the researcher characterize their results? “The evidence from RCTs suggested that the use of face masks either by infected persons or by uninfected persons does not have a substantial effect on influenza transmission… In pooled analysis, we found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks.” Adding up those infected while wearing a mask, 156/3495, 4.46%, and those infected while not wearing a mask, 161/3052, 5.23%, the results are consistent with chance.
Young took these data with their obvious questions to DHHS. Eventually, he heard back. And what he heard was …
I presented my opinion to Dr. Cohen and her staff. After some prodding, I heard from Mr. Fleischman, a senior official on Mandy’s staff. He provided me with another study that dealt specifically with the COVID-19 virus. Here is what I found.
The study he sent was a meta-analysis that looked at transmission of the virus. A total of 19 randomized studies were summarized. Here is what they had to say, “Medical masks were not effective, and cloth masks even less effective.” They also noted that “….respirators, if worn continually during a shift, were effective but not if worn intermittently.”
Wait. DHHS’s own case for forcing masks is based on a meta-analysis that finds masks are not even effective? That’s even worse than what Cohen presented to the General Assembly just before the mask mandate — uncompelling research that, upon further review, wasn’t even applicable to North Carolina.
Maybe Young’s revelation explains why DHHS’s “Get Behind the Mask” campaign includes no references to science. None. It’s nothing more than a heavily propagandized “Because We Said So” campaign with middling graphics.
Maybe it also explains the recent CDC finding that 85% of symptomatic people testing positive for COVID-19 had worn face coverings always (70.6%) or often (14.4%), with roughly the same proportion of symptomatic people testing negative (88.7% — always, 74.2%; often 14.5%).
(Graph source here.)
Likewise, the CDC found that 7.8% of symptomatic people testing positive never (3.9%) or rarely (3.9%) using face masks, also roughly the same proportion (6.9%) of those who tested negative (never, 3.1%; rarely, 3.8%).
Those findings being so evenly distributed across people’s adoption levels of masks is well in keeping with research finding no effect from masks.
Young explained further:
Mechanistically, masks have always only been thought to stop large droplets. Transmission through very fine droplets cannot be stopped by ordinary masks. Most recently, the CDC has confirmed that the virus can be transmitted through fine droplets. The meta-analysis that Mr. Fleischman had sent me supports this claim because, again, it showed no benefit to wearing masks. Incidentally, the Netherlands recently dropped the mask mandate saying the research did not support wearing them.
So why does Dr. Cohen insist that we wear masks?
That is a very good question. “Because We Said So” is the unscientific answer from an administration grown far too comfortable in ordering people about.
With Cooper and other autocrats keeping tight restrictions against businesses and people, threatening to revert to lockdowns again, and blaming the virus for their actions, top scientists around the world have started speaking out in alarm. See the Great Barrington Declaration and the World Health Organization, among others.
Created by three top health experts — Harvard University professor of medicine Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Oxford University epidemiologist Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and Stanford University Medical School professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya — and signed by tens of thousands of medical and scientific professionals and health practioners, the Great Barrington Declaration states:
Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) 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.
Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
We have warned of those very same things at JLF for months.
We have also argued for the very conclusion the Great Barrington Declaration reaches:
Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.