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Statistician Dr. Matt Briggs: ‘Mask Madness — Our Latest Moral Panic’ – ‘Having healthy asymptomatic people wear masks at what is clearly the end of a routine pandemic is asinine’

(Also see key quotes from this article here:

We might as well have a tinfoil hat mandate to protect from aliens. It would, at this point, be just as useful. Should somebody tell him about the evidence about masks and the end of pandemics? Nah. Evidence and reason are now utterly useless.

When are leaders get into a purity spiral, there is nothing to stop them—except the next crisis.

According to one depressing poll, three-quarters of Americans agree with The Godmother.

Three out of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor requiring people to wear face coverings while outside their homes, a new poll finds, reflecting fresh alarm over spiking coronavirus cases and a growing embrace of government advice intended to safeguard public health.

The only part of this that makes any sense is the “fresh alarm”, which is real. But caused entirely—and I mean entirely—by ignorance and politics.

How many times have we seen this official CDC picture of declining reported COVID deaths (updated 23 July)?

You can see July, the point at which reported deaths were much lower than, say, June, May, April, and most of March. It was only in July, though, that the mask panic began. Plus don’t forget these are reported deaths, which are almost surely larger than actual caused-by deaths; but that’s another form of error, but with massive testing it can easily account for the bulk of the small increase in attributed deaths (real deaths we won’t know for years; and this is also why we always must examine all-cause deaths, which shows no bump).

Leaders began shoving each other aside to see who could compose the strictest mandate. DC is the winner so far: it’s a criminal offense not to wear a mask, with a penalty of $1,000, the highest yet. But we have weeks to go.

Here again—and I know we’re sick of this—is the DAILY number of tests, which is driving the “surge” and “record” “new” “cases”. These “new cases” are a medically garbage indicator, which any competent doctor whose mind is not lost to politics would have told you. Before 2020, that is.

It’s testing that has run amok. Reporters are too stupid or too complicit in driving the panic to realize this. Leaders don’t care: they just want to make it sting, because they’re frightened of being blamed, and for other obvious political reasons.

This moral panic is like Prohibition. This time not against alcohol, but against breath. Three quarters of Americans falsely believe death is lurking in people’s breath.

How long did Prohibition last? We won’t even have to change the name of Speakeasys.

We know this in political. The same AP poll was broken down by political party. Just under 90% of Democrats and about 60% of Republicans want to force people to wear masks everywhere.

The AP, like our dear leaders, uses the term “cases” as if they were cases, i.e. illness requiring treatment. When what these foolish people mean is infections, symptomatic or not, past or present. It is medical malpractice to mix the two up.

But we’re doing it. Stupidly in part, but also purposely, because it fits the political goals of our dear leaders.

How about this?

What can you say about this picture—and another which shows a nauseating majority supports stay at home orders—except that propaganda works?

As said, it is probably not worth looking at the evidence of mask usefulness. People’s minds are made up. An army of screeching Karens patrols the land looking to berate those without fear faces. They are certain sure it is only a thin piece of material saving them from a gruesome end.

Here is the new paper “Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures” by Xiao et al. in Emerging Infectious Diseases. This picture (of several) is of a meta analysis of studies looking at mask use combined with hand hygiene (if used by participants) in ordinary settings (like shopping, walking).

Now you know my opinion of p-values and meta analysis: they’re almost always used to “show” what could not be simply demonstrated in single studies. When even a meta analysis can’t find a signal, as this one could not, then it’s a good bet there is no signal to be found. Xiao: “Although mechanistic studies support the potential effect of hand hygiene or face masks, evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials of these measures did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”

In short: these studies found no effect at preventing disease spread.

Then there’s that NEJM study by Klompas et al., Universal masking in hospitals in the Covid-19 era. It too said generic masks don’t do squat. Yet these guys realized, after the fact, that this was a political conclusion on the wrong side of history. They were forced to clarify.

They now say “We did state in the article that ‘wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection,’ but as the rest of the paragraph makes clear, we intended this statement to apply to passing encounters in public spaces, not sustained interactions within closed environments.”

In other words, masks on those who are sick, or those who with good reason to suspect are sick, in places like nursing homes is not a bad idea. Forcing masks on people in “passing encounters in public spaces” has no medical justification. None.

It’s obvious we’re way past medical justification, though.

Having healthy asymptomatic people wear masks at what is clearly the end of a routine pandemic is asinine. Do you know we get these once every twenty years or so? but we only went full gibbering raving panic for this one? Criminalizing lack of masks is like criminalizing alcohol, and for roughly the same reasons.

Testing shows no sign of slowing. It’s being driven by media reports of more and more “new” “cases”. Which causes more people to get tests. Which causes more “new” “cases”. Which etc. I’m sick of saying it, you’re sick of hearing it.

Here is why if we don’t slow testing this madness will be with us for a very, very long time.

Black line is total reported “new” “cases”. The light grey is the best guess of true number of cases, and the darker grey the best guess of the true number of infections. Some 50 to 75 million, or whatever, have already been infected. We’re testing at almost 900 thousand per day.

It’s going to take time for testing to reveal all the infections already present. Only the Lord knows what form of punishment our dear leaders will have thought of by then to stop a bug that can’t be stopped and for which there is no cure (save our own bodies).