Monday, February 13, 2023

Unmasked: the failure of Covid mandates

No nation forced masks on people with as much zeal as the US, whose libertarian reputation belied pockets of maniacal health authoritarianism unknown in Australia or even Europe.

The US, uniquely among advanced nations, forced masks on children aged two and up, something not even Victoria countenanced at the height of the great madness.

Today, still, after the vast bulk of Americans has sheepishly consigned masks to the bin, school students in Michigan and Massachusetts are required to mask up in class, despite mounting evidence that masks stunt childhood development.

In that context, a new, rigorous study that found masks did nothing to slow Covid-19 might have made the news. But no; a 305-page Cochrane analysis published globally on January 30 that assessed 78 high-quality scientific studies that included more than 610,000 participants has yet to rate a single mention in The Washington Post, The New York Times or on CNN, for instance.

Even passionate maskers, such as Baltimore epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo, conceded Cochrane reviews were the “gold standard” of evidence-based medicine and its latest mask study “a very serious undertaking”.

Cochrane found that surgical masks, the kind doctors wear in operating theatres to avoid accidentally sneezing into an open wound, did nothing to stop Covid-19.

More embarrassing for Team Mask, those even more uncomfortable N95 masks made little to no difference either. Only hand washing seemed to work to prevent the spread of corona and influenza-like viruses.

“There is just no evidence masks make any difference. Full stop,” University of Oxford associate tutor Tom Jefferson, one of the study’s 12 authors, told Australian journalist Maryanne Demasi last week.

“In the absence of evidence, you shouldn’t be forcing anybody to do so,” he said, describing advocates of forced masking as “activists, not scientists”.

It turns out the billions upon billions of masks that were manufactured in response to government mandates and now are floating in oceans or piling up at rubbish tips were likely to have been a colossal waste. American multinational 3M alone produced 4.5 billion N95 masks in 2020 and 2021, according to Statista; the mind boggles at what the global total for all masks might be.

“Governments completely failed to do the right thing and demand better evidence,” Jefferson says. “At the beginning of the pandemic there were some voices who said masks did not work and then suddenly the narrative changed.”

Thankfully, the narrative is changing again, in part to a US House of Representatives Repub­lican majority that is determined to probe some of the madder aspects of the great madness.

“I had doctors who spent years in medicine telling me masks were not effective, and yet these were being forced on people and school kids,” Republican congressman Gary Palmer said last week at a congressional hearing that included US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky. “We’re seeing a devastating impact on their educational attainment, so it surprises me that the CDC didn’t do any follow-up testing even while this was going on.”

Surprisingly, no government health agency in the US or elsewhere bothered to conduct any randomised control trial of what was a highly divisive intervention that pre-2020 science had counselled against.

Walensky said she didn’t rate the latest Cochrane study because it analysed only the highest quality mask studies. “I’m not sure anybody would have proposed a clinical trial because so many studies demonstrated time and time again … masks were working,” she said in reply, referring to studies that would have been deemed junk before 2020.

Indeed, none of the findings in the latest Cochrane review should have been a surprise. The overwhelming consensus among scientists pre-Covid-19 was that forcing healthy people to wear masks, let alone outside, was pointless and potentially harmful. Minuscule viruses would slip through the tiny holes in the masks or simply go around them.

As late as March 31, 2020, the World Health Organisation was sticking to the old science.

“There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly,” WHO health emergencies program executive director Mike Ryan told journalists.

But a few weeks later, following a total of zero new studies, “the science” had emerged in all its authoritarian glory, deeming masks effective and forcing them on hundreds of millions of people against their will for up to two years. Masks might have failed totally at stopping Covid-19 surges in every nation that implemented them, but they were highly successful on one metric: stoking fear, providing an in-your-face, everyday reminder of the pandemic that might increase compliance with other measures.

At the same time the incentive structure for researchers, who previously had toiled largely in obscurity, changed dramatically in the first half of 2020. Fame, speaking fees, academic promotion – all were in the offing for the canny researcher who could help demonise anyone who pointed to pre-2020 science or simply preferred to risk getting a bad cold rather than wear a mask.

Governments and their media cheer squad were eager to promote studies that vindicated mandatory masking.

That’s what explains the contemptible silence following the latest Cochrane review.

Wearing a mask sent a powerful message throughout the pandemic: I follow the science. Increasingly, it’s sending a different one: I’m a credulous goose. Or perhaps even, following new research in Frontiers in Psychology published last month: I’m not very attractive.

“Our results consistently demonstrated that self-perceived unattractive individuals were more willing to wear a mask, as they believed it would benefit their attractiveness,” the authors concluded.

To be sure, it wasn’t a randomised control trial but it reveals at least as much truth as any post-2020 study telling you masks worked.


Covid’s devastating impact on the heart as lockdowns take a triple toll on the health of the nation

New heart research confirms fears COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on the health of Australians after confining them indoors, deprived of opportunities to exercise and exposed to poor diets and sleep routines.

Almost half of more than 6000 people who have undergone Victor Chang Heart Health Checks since the start of the pandemic have recorded results considered outside the healthy range.

A specialist team which conducts a mobile testing service across Australia has found cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels all significantly higher since COVID arrived.

The number of people having at least one test result outside the healthy range since March 2020 increased from 33 per cent to 47 per cent - a relative jump of more than 40 per cent.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Program manager Anastasia Dounas says for many the COVID effect was real and of serious concern. 'They got out of the habit of going to the gym during lockdown and ate and drank more because they were worried and stressed, leading to weight gain,' she said.

'Working from home also led to less incidental exercise and the fear of COVID saw more people choosing to drive to work than catching public transport which resulted in people taking fewer steps each day. 'That all adds up.'

Since the launch of the heart check program in 2011 until the onset of COVID in 2020, more than 76,000 participants have been tested with just over a third having one or more results outside the normal healthy range and advised to follow up with a GP.

Within this group, eight per cent were beyond the healthy limit for blood pressure and blood sugar, and almost 30 per cent for cholesterol.

Since March 2020, 6182 participants have been tested with just over 47 per cent having one or more results outside the healthy range and advised to see their doctor.

Of these, 15 per cent were on the wrong side of healthy for blood pressure, 10.5 per cent for blood sugar and 32 per cent for cholesterol.

Heart check nurse Clare Lennon said it was more important than ever to be assessed and start re-engaging with exercise and a healthy diet.

'Heart health checks are vital in revealing if you are at risk of heart disease but can also help prevent it,' she said.

'Lifestyle changes or medications can make a huge difference to risk factors but you need to be aware of whether you have high cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar to begin with.'




No comments: