Tag Archives: masks

Masks follow up

Neal Priest is unable to offer a scientifically valid counterargument to my hypothesis that masks may enhance the spread of Covid. In place of one, we are treated to the old logical fallacy of appealing to authority. He cites a number of dubious scientific “studies” and proceeds to quote some of the more opaque but scientific sounding lingo — e.g. “Bayesian hierarchical model” — in order to mesmerize the reader into accepting his premise. 

Has he read any of these studies himself? I doubt it. They are among the most embarrassing pieces of non-science published in our lifetimes. 

You can instantly see the problem with these studies in just one word: model. All the studies showing “masks work” are based on models or deploy a model to “interpret” cherry-picked empirical data. Models are easily manipulated to yield the answer the author wants and cannot be trusted. When applied to what has, oddly enough, become a partisan issue, they should definitely be ignored. 

Yes, masks “stop particles” and in that sense they “work” mechanistically. But mechanistic function does not necessarily equate to goal achievement. A sponge absorbs water but it won’t stop your basement from flooding. Mechanical functionality is a necessary but not sufficient component in preventing infection. Masks become saturated with moisture, dirt, and particles. They are easily bypassed when not fitted properly (spoiler: they are almost never fitted properly). They allow some particles through, and if you tighten the porosity to prevent that, you only enhance the bypass effect. 

The irony is that the only mask that would actually work is a respirator, but how about that: those were specifically forbidden in all the mandates. And since we don’t know the viral load needed to infect someone there is no rationale, objective way to assert effectiveness. The “experts” are literally just guessing. 

When we return to the real world from the fantasy world of models, we find the data shows zero effect on community infection rates. Japan, the poster child for “masks work,” has 99% compliance but a case rate through the roof since January (see below). 

This phenomenon can be replicated across the world, again and again. “It would have been worse without them” is not an answer, because it simply asserts the very thing that needs to be proven.  Meanwhile, in Sweden the only people wearing masks are deluded American tourists, and there have been no ill effects.

The null hypothesis puts the burden of proof on the mask proponents. If there is even one instance showing masks “don’t work” then the entire hypothesis must be discarded. Science is not a game in which each side scores points and the winner is whoever is currently ahead. The hypothesis is either true or it is not. 

Priest can cite however many model based studies that he wants, but I need only to point to a single study showing no effect from masks. But my side doesn’t have just one study. We have countless thousands. Every chart comparing locales with and without a mask mandate only underscores their total lack of utility. 

If masks “worked,” it should be easy to look at the charts of various countries and determine when large-scale masking, or mask mandates, must have been introduced. But the results are instead entirely random. In Austria, Spain, Belgium, the UK, Germany, Italy, and so on, if I showed you the charts of their Covid results you would have no way of figuring out when mask mandates began in each country. But if masks are worth arguing about, shouldn’t their effects be so clear that we can easily determine when they started being used on a large scale?

No matter how much Neil may wish it were otherwise, most people agree with me. Just visit any airport or sporting event now that the mask mandates are gone. The ratio of mask-free to masked is easily a hundred and often a thousand to one. People are smart and see through the dissembling of the mask nags. Witness “our democracy” in action every day as people vote with their faces. 

Masks incubate Covid, but no one seems to notice

It’s taken some time, but it’s nice to keep being proven right years later. I made a prediction 


based on the material and chemical characteristics of masks and Covid particles, masks would enhance the spread of Covid. It seems some researchers have unwittingly provided evidence that supports this hypothesis, albeit indirectly. Once you, dear reader, read the article cited below the obvious insight should dawn on you: masks are great incubators for Covid virus particles. Thus the longer they (the particles) stay active and infectious the more likely the effect I hypothesize will occur. In other words, the absolute worst thing you can do is mask someone with Covid, it’s only going to concentrate and then disperse that concentrated stream of particles from their saturated mask. 

My tweet storm:

Researchers demonstrated that the humidity differential between the throat/mouth and the outside air upon exhalation of SARS-CoV-2 particles results in a reduction of infectiousness by 50% within seconds and by 90% within 20 minutes. It was also reported that the virus survives longer at lower pH, thus upon exhalation its survival time will be further negatively impacted. This is due to the fact that the rapid decrease in partial pressure of CO2 in any expelled aerosol results in a rapid increase in pH (CO2 drives pH downward, thus its removal drives pH upward.)

Where would we be more likely to find a humid environment with a higher than average level of CO2? Perhaps within the confines of a mask? Indeed, masks are the PERFECT incubation device for extending the useful life of externalized SARS-CoV-2 particles. As they build and build and build within the balmy CO2 rich environs they eventually reach a critical mass on the interior of any mask at which point, like a vacuum cleaner bag that can hold no more, they will start leaking through the other side in a constant steady stream of active virus. Now one might argue the mask has merely delayed the exhalation event and that emission from a mask is no different than from one’s mouth. However the critical difference is that the particles have been concentrated within the mask, so now each breath pushes out a much higher concentration than was originally emitted from ones mouth. This effect is augmented by the moral hazard of people believing they are protected while donning a mask so they will tend to stand closely together thinking they are “safe.” 

You are much safer to stand together unmasked where (a) the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 particles is lower upon exhalation in comparison to a fully saturated mask and (b) any that do exit the non-masked mouth will rapidly decline in infectiousness.

Mask Equivocation

            Do masks “work”? We keep hearing that term thrown around by the politicos, talking heads, and media nags, but they never bother to define it. There is a reason for this. The reason? Equivocation. Equivocation is the deployment of ambiguous language so that one may never be called out for inaccuracies. If a word can have multiple meanings then you can safely call up whichever meaning gets you your get of jail free card. So when they say “masks work” what they are factually referring to is the ability of a properly fitted N95 mask to offer limited utility in limited situations for a limited duration. But they don’t mention those details. Rather, they reference that term without context in order that you the listener (or reader) will assume the discussion relates to the policy, not science, position regarding masks. Namely that they have been shown to effectively halt or diminish the rate of infection and death among populations that deploy them universally. This belief, however, is not supported by empirical evidence. Positive claims such as these (X does Y) are subject to the scientific method because they are falsifiable. That means it is possible to conceive of an experimental outcome that would not support the claim. For example, scientists once thought that electromagnetism travelled through a medium known as the ether. Experiments were done that supported the claim. Then one day an experiment was done that did not (Michelson-Morley). That one experiment overturned the entire theory of the ether. That is how falsifiability works. It does not matter if you have a thousand studies that support your claim. It only takes one piece of empirical evidence that does not and that claim is void or must be adjusted to conform to the new evidence. 

            This is the situation with “masks work.” Yes, the New York Times may cherry pick some locality that introduced masks followed by declining “cases” (I’m looking at you selectively charted Kansas counties). They may even find dozens of those. But we only need one that doesn’t conform to the narrative (all things equal). We have hundreds (numerous examples can be found at twitter.com/yinonw and here). But I’ll share just a couple of the most damning ones here. 

            Connecticut (97%), Massachusetts (97%), and California (94%) all have had continuous mask mandates for the chart period (compliance rate%). Florida (89%) ended theirs at the point shown. If you weren’t told could you pick out the state with no societal restrictions (masking, gatherings, school, sports, etc.)? Not only did cases rise among all four, they rose concurrently. That seems like an odd coincidence for such geographically disparate locales (Northeast, West, and South). Almost like the virus follows a well-established seasonality profile that is invariant to our various mitigation measures. And to be fair we can see that even though there is no state mandate in Florida the masking rate is still quite high (89%) in Florida (86% in Georgia for the curious). But this still doesn’t really help the masks work camp; all four states are rising (indeed the more compliant masking states are rising faster). There is simply no correlation of the proposed measure with the desired outcome. You may claim crowing roosters cause the sun to rise and cite numerous correlated examples; but I only have to provide one example of the sun rising in silence to settle that argument.

            If the masks “worked” then the “cases” would remain at baseline noise and never rise. Or would rise in some clear relationship between mask compliance rates and cases. Not even that is seen. Clearly something else is at work here. Clearly the masks are not having the effect that the “experts” tell us they should. At this point the masks serve no other purpose than as an externalized reminder from the state that we are in a self-made “crisis” that only the state can save us from. That’s quite convenient. But for the masks we would be unaware of anything amiss. A true crisis doesn’t require daily reminders that there is in fact a crisis. Ask yourselves then, why does this one?

Postscript to Unmasked 10-19-2020

Shortly after the release of my article a paper appeared in Nature’s Scientific Reports that investigated the suitability of various types of masks (N95, surgical, cloth, etc) to compare their efficacy in decreasing particle expulsion (source control). This is one of the better of the “pro-mask” type articles in that they are completely open and honest about the limitations of their studies as well as raising a very interesting hypothesis that if true, could very well mean masks are making the spread worse.

The idea is this: you breath out and the masks captures the particles. Ok. Where do they go? They don’t simply vanish into another universe. If they are adhered to droplets and aerosols (water) then once that material builds up on the mask interior further breathing will actually re-aersolize it through the mask spraying it out like a spray can. This would have the effect of creating a much broader and more disperse ejection of material given that it is now concentrated in one spot. Likewise, even if the water particles evaporate leaving the viral particles behind – they still exist – on the mask. They are now attached to the fibers etc of the mask. These are no irreversible chemical bonds, they are loose electrostatic interactions. This is important because this study showed that cloth masks actually produced more particles than no mask at all. The reason for this being that breathing through it cause mask material itself to become dislodged and break free. So if a virus can attach to these then the virus will be hitching a ride on them.

This casts serious doubt on the mitigation effects of masks insofar as it demonstrates the very real possibility that at best they are doing nothing whatsoever and at worst they could be amplifying the spread. The only way to avoid this scenario would be to use N95 or surgical masks and change them out for new ones over the course of a few minutes. We know this is not happening nor is it practical in an real sense to expect that. Therefore the best approach is to only mask the vulnerable with suitable masks and use such masking as a signal to others to maintain a wide berth and take other protective measures. If every tree is marked then which tree has the pot of gold?