by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
A little over a month ago, as noted here, WRAL reporters could not resist editorializing amid a news story about the Harnett County School Board voting to make masks optional in Harnett Co. schools.
WRAL is particularly notorious for proselytizing forced child-masking, which researchers have warned cause damage to their psychological, physical, social, developmental, and academic well-being with little to no actual health benefits to offset it all.
Anchor Gerald Owens led the report by framing it as Harnett County reversing its mask mandate for public schools “even though the county has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.” Before throwing it to reporter Chris Lovingood, Owens asked, “Why did the school board vote in favor of optional when so many people are unvaccinated?”
Lovingood mentioned that one of the reasons was the “downward trend of Covid cases” in the district as well as “additional Covid protocols that they’re taking.” Lovingood concluded the live broadcast by reading a text on the air from pediatrician Lori Langdon, who he brought into the story to call parents’ concern about pathogens on children’s face masks a “myth” for this reason: surgeons with years of medical training are disciplined in proper surgical mask-wearing.
Langdon’s text called the school board’s vote “Completely ridiculous. It is frustrating on a professional level. Shouldn’t experts’ opinions matter more than mob mentality?”
WRAL decided to check back in on Harnett, finding out how that “mob mentality” was working.
The report began:
Three weeks after masks became optional in Harnett County classrooms, coronavirus infections and quarantines continue to drop. …
The mask-optional policy for Harnett County Schools went into effect Oct. 5. The preceding day, the district reported 66 infections and 437 quarantines among students and staff.
On Wednesday, the district reported 34 infections – a 49 percent drop from Oct. 4 – and 278 quarantines – a 36 percent decline.
Don’t “worry”; it never occurs to them that all the science and research showing the ineffectiveness of masks against airborne viruses, including Covid-19, could actually be right. How could they when their preferred politicians and politically appointed public health bureaucrats strenuously object that masks work?
They didn’t notice that all 12 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s extensions and even tightenings of his mask order came with case numbers higher than they were when he originally imposed the order. No, they believe in what state health bureaucrat Mandy Cohen preached, “wearing a mask mask mask mask mask mask. Um, right. They work, they work.” (That’s an actual quotation from an adult.)
The second sentence in the article, which I had replaced with an ellipsis (…), rushed to excuse the virus’ lack of punishing Harnett Co. schoolkids: “But one physician who has studied how to limit viral transmission in schools said Thursday that he still believes it’s too early for school districts to drop mask mandates.”
The expert appeared to suggest Harnett’s results weren’t from actual reductions in infections, but from lack of testing:
“The key question there is, how many students are getting tested,” said Dr. Daniel Benjamin, a pediatrician at Duke University and co-chairman of the ABC Science Collaborative, which examines pandemic-related data to provide guidance to school districts about policies and best practices.
Benjamin said one infected student could expose 20 others to the virus when few, if any, are wearing masks.
“If you don’t do much testing, you are not going to see a lot of positive results,” he said. “I would expect, if you have a child infected in elementary school, to have a considerable number of quarantines for every child infected, and if you don’t, that warrants some evaluation.”
Benjamin’s group was nationally excoriated for producing a study “proving” the effectiveness of school mask mandates by not including a control group (schools without mask mandates). The Wall Street Journal published another Duke researcher, Tom Nicholson, who exposed this “Sophistry at Duke in Defense of Masks.” A snippet:
All schools showed low degrees of transmission, for which the report credited the only unstudied pillar, the masking policy. Because it applied everywhere in the state, there was no control group. …
In an inversion of logic, the report concluded that the only nonvariable in the data set must be the cause of low transmission rates in North Carolina schools. It should be obvious that proving some components of a strategy as useless doesn?t demonstrate that others are effective. Such a claim requires a control group or appropriate statistical methods.
The researchers might as well have attributed the low Covid rate in schools to wearing shoes.