Friday, 27 May 2022


Black line: mask mandate states; Orange: no mask mandates
I’ve meant to do an update on all the data, pro and con, the wearing of masks. Intuitively you’re bound to think that wearing masks will stop coronavirus. Well, yes, but to some extent. From all the studies, they help, somewhat and limited (eg. Yale and Stanford large-scale randomised study). That study showed about a one percentage point difference from 8.4% (not wearing) to 7.4% (wearing). Which leads to the next idea: that you need to test those “somewhat” benefits, against the costs, which the world, and all its experts, have spent very little time on. 

The article above is one that I’d meant to reference, but I’ve not the time for the rest, so I’ll let it stand here for now.  Here it is, Maskaholics. John Tierney mentions Japan, where there’s a kind of addiction to wearing masks. Kind of. I’ve been to Japan many times over the years and they do, or did, wear masks much more than the rest of the world, but mainly for where one had a cold. Now it’s much more. And so in Hong Kong. I think people are already so acculturated to masking that they’ll do it, even when they’re not demanded to. 

ADDED: There are other studies, in the lab, the show bigger benefits from masking. But then at a macro level -- like the chart above, from States in the US -- it appears there’s very little difference between neighbouring areas which have mask mandates cf those that don’t have mandates. The same is true in the UK, where England has no mandates, while Scotland and Wales do: there is no difference in caseloads, hospitalisations and deaths. 

I think the reason there’s a difference between the lab results and the real-world results is that the lab tests are done on crash-test dummies, with instruments measuring the percent of virus blocked by a mask, all carefully controlled. Whereas in real-life there are all sorts of confounding factors: the type of mask (cloth is useless), how people wear them, how far apart they keep while wearing masks.... Also, it may be that a mask blocks 95% of the virus, but that 5% of a very contagious virus is enough to pass on anyway.