A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that masks or cloth face coverings do little to prevent someone from contracting the novel coronavirus.
In surveying 154 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus, in the previous 14 days before their illness began, 71% reported using either a cloth face covering or a mask “always.” Another 14 % said the wore masks “often,” which adds up to 85%.
Only 4% of respondents said they never wore facemasks, and another 4% said they rarely did.
These case-patients were “symptomatic adults… with SARS-CoV-2 infection confirmed.” The control-participants were symptomatic patients “who had negative SARS-CoV-2 test result.”
Of those surveyed from the control group, 74% reported wearing masks “always” while 15% worse masks “often.”
“In the 14 days before illness onset, 71% of case-patients and 74% of control-participants reported always using cloth face coverings or other mask types when in public,” the study noted.
This study, originally published in September, seems to reinforce the notion that wearing face masks or cloth coverings does little to prevent a person from contracting the coronavirus, though it may still help reduce the transmission of the virus.
The CDC currently claims that “cloth face coverings help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.”
In September, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield was criticized for saying that cloth facemasks were better than a vaccine.
“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine,” Dr. Redfield said.
As late as March, the World Health Organization (WHO) was recommending people not wear facemasks unless they are in direct contact with someone who had contracted the virus.
“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,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said at the time.
Additionally, there is some evidence that cloth masks, as opposed to medical masks, may increase respiratory infections.
“The widespread use of cloth masks by healthcare workers may actually put them at increased risk of respiratory illness and viral infections and their global use should be discouraged,” a study from the University of New South Wales found in 2015.
“Respiratory infection is much higher among healthcare workers wearing cloth masks compared to medical masks… Cloth masks should not be used by workers in any healthcare setting,” the study also noted.
Yet, after the CDC called on Americans to begin wearing masks in July, Dr. Redfield said “that cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.”
Though the science seems mixed, 33 states and the District of Columbia mandate face-coverings in public.
You can follow this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary