Please Don't Buy What the New York Times is Selling
They're Not Admitting to a Mistake, They're Just Blaming Us
On Tuesday, David Leonhardt of the New York Times published a mia culpa piece attempting to answer the question as to why mask mandates haven’t worked.
The thesis of the piece is that Masks Work, but as implemented in the real world Mask Mandates don’t.
David should have just asked yours truly…
There’s certainly an argument that if the NY Times can admit that mask mandates are useless, there's value in not criticizing them for it. The problem is their flawed rationale is still causing significant societal damage. Claiming that "masks work" when all real world evidence including EVERY randomized controlled trial conducted before and during the Covid era shows that they do not, does nothing more than perpetuate mental illness.
This NY Times piece really struck a cord with me and at first I couldn’t put my finger on why. I've come to the understanding that what annoys me most about the NY Times piece and the Public Health gurus it quotes, is not that they won't admit to their mistakes on masking science, but that their excuse for why mandates failed is to blame the public.
Notice they pivot very quickly away from defending their claim that masks work. They simply cite laboratory studies, aka mannequin studies which are very poorly analogous to the real world, as their unimpeachable evidence for the efficacy of masks. When they claims that laboratory studies prove masks work, what they're actually saying is that if you seal a mask to a mannequin's face with glue it prevents 1 micron particles from escaping. But as I wrote last year, if said mask has even a 0.1 inch gap, even in these lab studies it becomes as useless as no mask at all.
"As the study shows ( In table III) a KN95 with even a tiny gap (they studied a 3mm gap or about 0.1 inches) is not effective at all! They calculate 3.4% ± 8.9%. Zero!"
Plus, the vast majority of virus containing aerosolized particles are sub 1 micron. Masks, in any real work setting, simply don't work...
But having distracted us with their impeccable evidence, they very quickly move on to a completely evidence-free theory that mask mandates failed simply because of the "exceptions" to the mandates as well as the lack of compliance.
"We got the science right, but people wouldn't abide by it..."
No effort is made to disprove this theory. That's the scientific method: observe the world, propose a hypothesis, test it, report the results.
Did they do that?, No, because the goal isn't science, the goal is ass covering!
But we could do it...
- If we suspect masks being droffed in restaurants were the cause of spread we could use contact tracing to verify if more transmission occurs in restaurants as compared to other indoor settings where masks aren't droffed while seated, say entertainment. We would expect the proportion of cases found in restaurants to be higher in regions with mandates than in regions without mandates.
If that what we find? No, contact trace studies across the US found very low proportions of spread in restaurants regardless of mandates.
If we suspect eating on airplanes is the source of spread on planes we could use flight attendants as a control. They had much higher compliance with masking and didn't drop masks throughout the flight. We just had a natural experiment where after the lifting of Biden's transportation mask mandate, basically overnight nearly every flight attendant across the country went maskless. If the NY Times was correct, we would expect this group of high mask compliant individuals to see a spike in cases just after the lifting of the mandate. This would have resulted in mandatory quarantines, lost work shifts, and eventually canceled flights due to staffing shortages. This is in fact what many of our Public Health Betters who were fighting to keep the mandate had predicted would happen.
Is that what we saw? No, in fact there were fewer cancelled flights after the mandate ended than before.
How about poor mask compliance? If the issue is just that the general public is ill informed on how to use masks, we would expect those who wear masks properly to see lower case rates. Is that what we saw?
No, in fact in the Danish masking RCT, in a sub-group analysis including only mask group participants who reported wearing face masks “exactly as instructed” the infection rate was 2.0%, higher than the 1.8% rate among the mask group participants as a whole... (and don't forget, the non-mask control group has the same rate too, because masks don't work...)
If the NY Times was concerned with "following the science" they'd find this and loads more real world evidence to prove their hypothesis is flawed, but they aren't concerned with science at all. Their only concern is dodging blame.
For an example of this, take a look at this clip of former White House Covid Taskforce Member Dr. Deborah Brix being asked about the NYT's article:
Dr. Brix is one of the individuals most responsible for our country's devastatingly terrible response to Covid. In this clip she is basically shrugging and saying, "don't blame me guys, masks work great but you pleabs didn't wear them properly." The closest she can come to admitting to any blame is to say that, "we [didn't] want to take the time to explain the science and the data for who should be using [masks] and why they should be using them."
This is full on Principal Skinner Meme territory:
This is the same reaction we have seen to every failure of the Public Health response throughout Covid.
“Lockdowns weren't bad policy, you just didn't lockdown hard enough.”
“School closures weren't bad policy, you just didn't lockdown so they lasted too long.”
“We didn't oversell the efficacy of the vaccine, you just didn't take enough doses.”
At every turn during this pandemic our Public Health Betters have refused to own up to their failures and turn it around by blaming the public.
Which is a tragedy! The general public of the United States by and large went to unprecedented lengths to comply with Public Health Orders during the pandemic, especially at the beginning. We put travel on hold, we stopped visiting with family and friends, we covered our faces in public, we shutdown our businesses, we stopped educating our children! For a brief time in the Spring of 2020 the country was relatively united in our response to Covid. These issues only became political when it became clear to many that these efforts had failed and our Public Health Establishment refused to pivot and instead doubled down and blamed the public for not following them in unison down that path.
The truth is that for the vast majority of the population who have recovered from Covid, been vaccinated against Covid, or are just young and healthy enough for it not to matter either way, Covid is no longer a significant risk at all. Perpetuating the lie that people should be altering their lives because of it, and possibly considering "one way masking" isn't sound science, it's post pandemic hypochondria, and sadly there are millions of people around the country who will read this NY Times article and continue to practice useless preventative measures against a virus they are already immune to. It's irrationale, and it will continue to harm society, especially our kids until it is rejected.
The Public Health response to Covid caused immense damage, and if we continue to let them get away with blaming it on us, they will continue to cause damage. If it took until 2022 for the NY Times to admit that mask mandates don't work, maybe we can expect them to finally admit that masks themselves never worked in 2024...
Unfortunately, my feeling is that anyone who thinks this NY Times piece will give the all clear to Public Health officials to give up on mandates doesn't know how these CYA bureaucrats think.
If the lesson is "Masks work Great!, but we Didn't Mandate them Hard Enough" the conclusion will not be, "Don't Mandate", the conclusion many Public Health Knuckleheads will come to is "Mandate Harder"...
We are already seeing the return of mandates in some of the bluer jurisdictions:
If we’re already seeing the return of mandates now, then it's gonna be a fun Winter, brace yourself...
Anyway 0 and 2...