What is the real science around masks?

So forgive me for rocking the boat, but my interest is hearing all the science and making an informed decision…

Can anyone tell me what to make of what is reported at the following? I hardly have much inside information, but the individuals and organizations that question the efficacy of masks don’t exactly seem fringe or agenda driven.

Thus it raises my suspicion again to be told yet again “the science is settled” when there seems to be legitimate dissent from very serious scientists and public health organizations.

The numbers do support it. I don’t know what “current evidence” they are looking at.

https://www.kansascity.com/news/coronavirus/article244805567.html

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article243787217.html

https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article244959870.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2020-opinion-coronavirus-global-face-mask-adoption/

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Here’s a simple question. In the whole discussion around masks, who is actually providing the technical explanations and hands-on demonstrations?

It’s not the anti-mask brigade. If you look at their claims that the science is “not settled,” all you see are appeals to authority from experts-for-hire. And when you actually click through the links to see what the experts’ concerns about masks actually are, what do you find? They aren’t saying that masks are ineffective at all. Their worries are about people ending up with a false sense of security. Or about wearing their masks in ways that reduce their effectiveness. They are being portrayed as saying that masks are not necessary when in actual fact they are saying that they aren’t sufficient.

What you don’t see from them is any kind of critique of the reasons why we are being told to wear masks. No discussion of the R number. No discussion of the fact that the virus gets carried in droplets, and it’s those droplets rather than the individual virus particles that get stopped by masks. No discussion of the demonstrations of why masks are effective that are two a penny on YouTube. Such as this one for starters:

That’s the thing you need to realise about science. It is not something that gets decided simply by pitting one set of opinions against another. It is a very hands-on, practical activity where you learn and draw conclusions by actually doing it or seeing others do it.

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There is now the suggestion that a mask protects the wearer, too, by reducing the viral load that they get, thus reducing the severity of their illness.

And there is this (moderators may choose to delete it, understandably :slightly_smiling_face:)…

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I cannot find a single whack job link on masks spreading the disease. How about that!

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Alabama has had a turnaround since instituting the mask ordinance. It was a very noticeable difference. You get some blips here and there from certain events, such as a church having a gospel meeting, potluck, and singing (inside without masks), but even with that, where a good 2/3 (at least) of the church got sick all at once, the community spread is already slowing down a few weeks later. Thank you, mask ordinance! Only problem with the ordinance is that it exempts churches, hence the super spreading event in my county. It wasn’t my church, though some of my church’s families were affected by it - it didn’t spread at our service, despite at least one positive family being present while contagious. We were social distancing, most of us wearing masks, and singing outside only.

Most of the non-mask stuff I’ve seen has been coming from far right conspiracy theory groups, usually worrying about their rights (though they don’t complain about being forced to wear clothing over their private parts in public :woman_shrugging:). You also get it from the anti-vax crowd, but some of that overlaps with the conspiracy theory crowd. I was told that mask mandate leads to vaccine mandate which leads to microchips for everyone. :roll_eyes: The US isn’t going to mandate vaccines, other than requiring them for school entry… unless you have an exemption, which is easy to get in most states.

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A knowledgeable friend of mine is convinced that those who are now wearing masks forty hours a week at their work will eventually be suffering some long term health effects from this sustained practice … I think just due to bacterial build up and having all that trapped where your breath must largely be filtered through it. Does anybody know where that idea came from or how science does or doesn’t speak to that? All the material I see about masks seems to concentrate (understandably) on their present efficacy with the COVID situation. I haven’t (yet) seen anything that addresses this long-term health concern.

They’re supposed to wear a different mask each day or wash a cloth mask after each use. I think the bacteria issue is only if you reuse a mask without cleaning it. That would be pretty nasty.

Yeah, that would! I didn’t ask her if she was presuming people would be doing that. But common sense, not to mention unpleasant sensations would militate against that practice.

When the pandemic first hit, before there was any discussion about masks in the larger media or culture, and no disputes on the topic, the medical experts and professionals in our staff meetings were very concerned and guarded about recommending people wear masks in general, because their concern that the general population was not trained in such, that improper protocol when donning or doffing the masks would transfer the germs to hands far more easily, then to surfaces, that failure to wear regular disposable masks or wash cloth ones would simply expand the problem, etc.

(The similar concern was made about wearing gloves in the larger population… they were concerned that doing so would create a false sense of security, it would reduce hand washing and other such protocols, and improper use would be more likely to transmit than if people washed their hands.)

I’m happy to listen to all perspectives, but I am always concerned when any legitimate scientific dissent is summarily ruled out of court, and their dissent is practically condemned a moral issue, where morality would be defined by their abandoning their independent thought and just getting on the bandwagon. these seemingly highly respected directors of medical services in European countries don’t strike me as some sort of fringe, backwoods unscientific folk whose alternative perspective on these topics ought to be so summarily dismissed.

I used to think that was what science was about, after all… to borrow again from my mentor…

It is just the same here as in science. The phenomenon which is troublesome, which doesn’t fit in with the current scientific theories, is the phenomenon which compels reconsideration and thus leads to new knowledge. Science progresses because scientists, instead of running away from such troublesome phenomena or hushing them up, are constantly seeking them out.

At least, I used to believe this is how science was supposed to work. :cry:

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If that were that case, all the people who have been wearing masks all day for decades (surgeons and other health workers or certain people who work in construction, for example) would have documented problems. It’s not like wearing masks is this unheard of new development.

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Yeah. It’s not like the mask was invented in 2020.

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You’re right. Reading some of those articles implies that my father, who was a general surgeon on the mission field and wore a mask a huge proportion of his waking hours, should have expired from the mask long ago, or at least been deathly ill when he came home (he wasn’t). . I also used masks daily when doing first assists in our rural hospital (which we did often, for hours at a time), and had no problems. Pulse oximetry (the finger kind you can get on Amazon for $15 to $20 a piece) shows pretty much the same saturation with and without a mask. WHO doesn’t recommend a mask if you’re exercising or less than 2 years of age. It also recommends washing your mask daily https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html. Surgeons change their masks daily, too (actually, with each surgery), to protect the patient.

. I imagine for us, if we didn’t change our masks daily, it’d be like sleeping on a pillow case that you drooled on every night–you could get pustules or cellulitis on your face from contact bacteria, though I don’t know the studies.

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that’s right. Politics can mess things up. People frequently say that opioid overuse is a consequence of orthodox medicine, but I don’t think that’s quite true. There was tremendous political pressure to use a tiny study on post hospital patients who had a relatively low risk of opioid addiction for acute disease as a basis for prescribing longterm opioids to chronic pain patients, saying it was safe, back about 1999. It reacted to legitimate concerns that physicians were too afraid to give pain control in certain situations, and forgot to take into account the multitude of non opioid meds for pain that are available. As a result of this pressure (that made pain the next vital sign, and threatened to put caregivers out of business of they didn’t comply), prescribing went up a lot. Most folks acknowledge that the science did not support the use of this study in chronic pain patients. Cochrane.org is a source of review studies that demonstrates there is no good evidence for opioids safety in chronic pain patients. However, there are many who struggle yet with how to control pain, and it’s understandable how we got into this mess.

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Thanks everybody. Those thoughts (that masks aren’t a new thing) had occurred to me too. I wasn’t sure about the 40 hrs each week, though - if even surgeons ever keep a mask on for that much time. I would be surprised if surgeons didn’t have a fresh new disposable mask on for each new surgery that they do. And of course people can do the same - though I find cloth masks to be much more comfortable. And those can be laundered.

Whoops–my bad. I wasn’t thinking and wasn’t clear. You’re totally right. Everything has to be sterile… There’s a regimen to put everything on that keeps you sterile. All surgeons change masks with each surgery (and wash multiple times, for a minimum of so many minutes, and clean under their nails, and use Hibiclens/betadine, etc).

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Of course in dust-ridden environs, the mask option would give desirable protection necessitated by undesirable conditions. In the question of “entirely fresh air” vs. “partially fresh air”, it would be interesting to know if there is any study or science teasing out the differences in those two situations. [And everybody can relax; I’m not fishing for excuses to weasel out of my neighborly responsibility to mask up. - just making conversation here that might educate me how to better respond to questions that come up.]

So getting back to the science …
A cloth next to my face (which I often do in winter time bicycle riding - pandemic or no) will cause me to re-inhale a greater portion of my newly exhaled carbon dioxide. So I probably end up breathing just a bit harder to maintain adequate oxygen levels as a result. More breathing exercise shouldn’t be a bad thing, right? On the other hand, if there are slightly elevated CO2 levels … that could be interesting.

I think with all this new concern about bacteria, people are forgetting how filled with bacteria EVERYTHING is and how very un-sterile most aspects of our lives are. Wearing a clean mask for a day surely can’t be more “bacteria exposing” than, say, kissing someone. I heard someone complain about masks and bacteria, but I have watched this person’s dog lick his butt and then lick his master’s mouth. And I’m supposed to believe he is suddenly all concerned about germs. Please.

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I think this is a myth.

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