Experts: “Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations.”
Also Experts: “We’ve been saying this for many months!” But when I said this twenty months ago (and every month since), I was a conspiracy theorist who was spreading "dangerous misinformation."
You have to watch the following clip with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Before this interview, she proclaimed in another CNN interview that “cloth masks are little more than facial decorations.” Dr. Wen faced a great deal of criticism for this statement, as countless individuals who have been saying this from the beginning were accused of spreading misinformation or dismissed as conspiracy theorists. This is how Dr. Wen responded to her critics:
I’ve seen and heard a lot over the past two years, and I know that public health officials and media personalities have often distorted reality. But Dr. Wen’s claim that she was surprised at the criticism was over the top: “This is not the first time that I, or Professor Osterholm, or really any of us public health experts have been saying that cloth masks are not appropriate for this pandemic.” If this is the case, why have government and public health officials not only continued to recommend cloth masks but also modeled them for the past 20 months?
Back to the interview:
Cloth masks are not appropriate for this pandemic. It’s not appropriate for omicron, it was not appropriate for delta, alpha or any of the previous variants either, because we’re dealing with something that’s airborne. We’re dealing with a virus that’s extremely contagious. At the very beginning of the pandemic we didn’t know about masking, and we didn’t have enough high-quality masks for healthcare workers, so we were trying to ration those.
Two things to note:
(1) First, Dr. Wen reminds us that public officials lied about masks not working early in the pandemic because there were not enough high-quality masks for healthcare workers (“we were trying to ration those”). If they deliberately lied then, why should we believe they are telling the truth now?
(2) If cloth masks have not worked FOR THE ENTIRE PANDEMIC, yet public health officials have continued to both recommend and wear them (and encourage mandating them as well), what are we to make of this? Have public health officials and media networks been deliberately deceiving the public for nearly two years? Have young children, college students, and workers been mandated to wear a piece of cloth for many hours a day for nothing? If Dr. Wen is now telling the truth, it would seem that is indeed the case.
Where do we go from here?
In light of Dr. Wen’s recent statements, other news outlets have been reporting that we all need to upgrade our masks. Some school districts are even requiring medical-grade masks, and others are encouraging small children to wear N95s (if not outright mandating them) despite knowledge that N95s are not designed for children and can cause them harm. Moreover, the calls for medical-grade face masks fail to recognize that European countries have already tried them, and the upgraded masks didn’t work to “reduce the spread.” To the contrary, Germany (as one example) mandated medical-grade masks in January of last year, and this was the result:
I’m truly glad that Dr. Wen and others are finally admitting that cloth masks don’t work and that, according to Dr. Wen, they never worked. But the answer is not upgrading masks. If what Dr. Wen and others say is true—that cloth masks were never appropriate for any strain of Covid, not just omicron—this means that the masks we have been using for the past two years have not been doing anything the “experts” claimed they were doing (the data already showed this). They were not slowing the spread. They were not protecting people. Which means we have either been lied to by health experts for nearly two years, which is certainly possible, or at best public health officials and media outlets have done an incredibly poor job of communicating that cloth masks do nothing. In either case, it seems unwise to continue placing trust in so-called experts who were either deliberately deceiving the public or who were content to allow the public to believe that cloth masks were effective.
Whatever the case, whether lies or incompetence, the solution cannot be for everyone to upgrade their masks at the behest of these officials. The evidence from Europe shows upgrading masks doesn’t work. And even if it did, we need to reevaluate whether the risk of contracting covid is worth living in a permanently faceless society (it is not). We need to stop listening to public health officials who have sought to micromanage every aspect of people’s lives in the name of combatting a singular threat, especially when these officials have been wrong time and time and time again. Truly, the ever-growing threat of totalitarianism is an infinitely greater risk to both life and health than any virus. We must resist the efforts of governments and health authorities to remake society into a dystopian medical dictatorship, and that begins by refusing to believe these Orwellian lies.