It’s officially been over two months since Dem. Gov. Roy Cooper imposed his statewide mask mandate. Since then the administration has claimed simultaneously that (1) COVID-19 cases have unstably increased but also that (2) the mandate succeeded at stabilizing trends. This week, JLF’s Jon Sanders examined the evidence for continuing mandatory masking of the public. Sanders writes:

When Gov. Roy Cooper ordered everyone in North Carolina to wear face masks in June, he defended the order by citing reliance on “science and data.” His press office held that “Growing evidence shows that cloth face coverings, when worn consistently, can decrease the spread of COVID-19, especially among people who are not yet showing symptoms of the virus.”

Not even among or possibly among, but especially among people “not yet showing symptoms of the virus.” So Cooper forced mask-wearing on everyone under the notion that the most infectious people are the ones who feel perfectly well.

Sanders examines this claim and the evidence available to analyze it with, stating:

But there’s no science that supports this idea that asymptomatic people are the most infectious people. What research there is on the question of asymptomatic transmission is very limited and not at all what we’ve been led to believe.

Sanders quotes the World Health Organization (WHO):

Among the available published studies, some have described occurrences of transmission from people who did not have symptoms. For example, among 63 asymptomatically-infected individuals studied in China, there was evidence that 9 (14%) infected another person. Furthermore, among two studies which carefully investigated secondary transmission from cases to contacts, one found no secondary transmission among 91 contacts of 9 asymptomatic cases, while the other reported that 6.4% of cases were attributable to pre-symptomatic transmission.

The available data, to date, on onward infection from cases without symptoms comes from a limited number of studies with small samples that are subject to possible recall bias and for which fomite transmission cannot be ruled out.

Sanders cites another interesting case study from the journal Respiratory Medicine:

study also published this month in the journal Respiratory Medicine tracked 455 contacts of “Case A, “a 22-year-old female patient who had a medical history of congential heart disease (CHD)…”

As part of hospitalization, she was was given a nasopharyngeal swab to test for SARS-CoV-2 [i.e., COVID-19] infection, a test that came back positive despite her being — and remaining — asymptomatic for COVID-19…

The study routinely screened all of Case A’s contacts, including 224 hospital staff members, 35 nearby patients, and 196 family members. Median contact with family members was five days; nearby patients, four days; and hospital staff, “long exposure” except for “some doctors in other departments [brought in briefly] because of emergency consultation.” The study found that “All the 455 contacts were excluded from the SARS-CoV-2 infection,” reiterating “there had been no cases of infection in a relatively dense space.”

Sanders writes:

We’re not getting that information from Cooper, DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen, or the media they allow to participate. Instead, the message that folks are told is, You don’t wear the mask to protect yourself; you do it to protect others. The more panicked among us have turned that into, If you don’t wear a mask, you’re the reason people die!

This is how it’s come to be that the scariest figure in public imagination is a strong, fit, active person who looks and feels perfectly well but isn’t wearing a mask. The horror.

Read the full brief here. Learn more about the Cooper administration’s evidence and rationale behind the mask mandate here.