That message has reached the public, who have turned masks into a “culture war”. All rights reserved. The questions are if and how they’re corrected. These are studies that are presented online prior to going through peer review so other scientists can start evaluating the results more quickly. That's about 3% of respondents. Truth is whatever validates your prejudices, feeds your sense of grievance and fuels your antipathy toward the people you’ve decided are on some other side.”, Bruni isn’t really upset about the unnamed person who yelled at his unnamed friend. Now the authors of a controversial study on the effectiveness of face masks, published on June 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), are pushing back against calls to retract the paper. From January 21 to February 22, 60 to 80 percent of cases were attributed to spread before symptoms appeared, the researchers report June 22 in eLife. The finding that masks are a good way to slow the pandemic aligns with other research, as well as the guidance from health agencies that now recommend wearing them. Now the authors of a controversial study on the effectiveness of face masks, published on June 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of … If it was the latter, they probably didn’t need the masks. As if that alone isn’t enough, there are valid scientific studies concluding that masks do nothing to protect people from disease and can even be harmful. That’s not to say the conclusions are explicitly wrong. This is not the first controversy surrounding research on COVID-19, as scientists from many fields have rushed in to respond to the crisis. One new emblem of science in the Covid-19 era is the prominence of preprints. Conflicting recommendations It's also unclear how much protection a mask would offer in each case. Those opposed to mask mandates protest. This kind of study is known as causal inference, and it’s one of the more difficult types of analyses to perform. Then they became a required component to reopening businesses. Our immune system is used to touching. We also don't know how this reduction of aerosols and droplets translates to reduction of infections in the real world. Who is right? Science News was founded in 1921 as an independent, nonprofit source of accurate information on the latest news of science, medicine and technology. “Call it civic responsibility,” he wrote, in that condescending manner so perfected by the Times. In other words, the likelihood of running into someone who feels personally affronted at the idea of wearing a mask is virtually nil -- within the margin of error of zero. Sweating and moisture from warm exhaled air can result in a rash and infection, as can the sides of the mask rubbing against facial skin. A mask might calm the nerves of others around them who are susceptible to falling severely ill -- that is, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. People around the world are facing life-or-death decisions around the pandemic, from how to treat critically ill patients to public health guidance for millions of people. “I really highly doubt it would have been published in PNAS if it had gone through the regular channel,” Grabowski said. (Author provided). But as lockdowns have lifted, many people haven’t followed that advice, and case numbers are rising in some states. All of this adds pressure to defend results rather than scrutinize them. use by the general public to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent back-and-forth debate—and policy reversal—over the use of face masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 reveals a glaring double standard. After all, the virus, just like any germ, can shed from people who don't even realize they have it. To mask or not to mask: Modeling the potential for face mask. Wearing any face covering, including bandanas or neck warmers, could at least partially block the cloud of droplets released in a cough, the experiment showed. Requiring employees, but not the general public, to wear masks didn’t lower case counts, the researchers found. 4 reasons you shouldn’t trash your neck gaiter based on the new mask study, How COVID-19 may trigger dangerous blood clots, How two immune system chemicals may trigger COVID-19’s deadly cytokine storms, Why bat scientists are socially distancing from their subjects, The arthritis drug tocilizumab doesn’t appear to help fight COVID-19, We still don’t know what COVID-19 immunity means or how long it lasts, Heating deltamethrin may help it kill pesticide-resistant mosquitoes. Post was not sent - check your e-mail addresses! A recent Hong Kong laboratory study found some evidence masks may prevent the spread of viruses from the wearer. Wearing face masks prevented thousands of new Covid-19 infections, according to the study. We are often called selfish and are told that (somehow) we are going to kill other people. Instead, researchers now think COVID-19 is spread mainly by someone inhaling the virus expelled by another person. To resolve this question, we analysed 14 randomised trials of mask wearing and infection for influenza-like illnesses. And to Frank Bruni — please stop being a mask-snob. The World Health Organization recently released an updated guide. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. E-mail us at We have reviewed the results of more than a dozen randomised trials of face masks and transmission of respiratory illnesses. The apparent minimal impact of wearing masks might also be because people didn't use them properly. We develop an immune response daily to this stuff. Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article. A high-profile dispute between researchers over the role of face masks in preventing Covid-19 is revealing the tensions in how science is conducted during a global pandemic. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said if he were in the White House, he would “do everything possible to make it required that people have to wear masks in public”. But it has become clear that contact with virus-laden objects isn’t the major way that the coronavirus passes from person to person, says immunologist Robert Quigley. Infectious Disease Modelling. To examine this, we need to first look at how coronavirus spreads and how masks might stop it. Clearly, the face mask is igniting something much deeper within us. Connect with friends faster than ever with the new Facebook app. Paul Glasziou, Professor of Medicine, Bond University and Chris Del Mar, Professor of Public Health, Bond University. However, in the social sciences, peer review is often double-blind, meaning the reviewers and the authors of a submitted paper don’t know each others’ identity. Controversy over our response to Covid-19 has intensified as states have begun loosening the social distancing restrictions. It was specifically referring to federal policies across the United States as a whole compared to policies in New York City, rather than comparing the city to other cities or states. As more information comes out, it’s worth reevaluating some of the foundational work to see if it holds up. The video showed a jet of air streaming from his nose as he coughed. First, it is our right as American citizens to chose what we do or do not wear on our faces, protected under the U.S. Constitution. It’s also raising questions about the role of prestigious journals in elevating findings that may not hold up. Alone, cloth masks aren’t great at protecting the wearer, says Abba Gumel, a mathematical biologist at Arizona State University in Tempe. The finding that face masks are the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus could be true, and it aligns with numerous other studies on Covid-19 transmission. It also requires scientists to have some humility about the limits of their own knowledge. Daniel Larremore, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Colorado Boulder and a researcher at the BioFrontiers Institute, said that there are also ongoing experiments with the peer review process itself. Subscribers, enter your e-mail address to access the Science News archives. At the individual level, some people have protested that their personal freedoms are being infringed upon by being told to cover their mouths and noses. Regular handwashing and refraining from touching your face were the main prescriptions (SN: 3/4/20). Here’s what we know about the movement against masks in the US: What is the controversy over masks in the US? That’s unlike a typical paper in the journal, where the journal selects the reviewers. The researchers accounted for shelter-in-place orders and other public health measures, but can’t say for sure that masks are the sole reason for the decline, Wehby says. Reopen NC, a group that opposes shutdown orders in North Carolina, said masks were “muzzles” that, along with things like mandatory temperature checks, were “ways our freedom is being eroded”. It also seems to indicate the policies had an immediate effect without a time lag. As for the straight trend lines across curves, the authors insist that it was appropriate. But using high-speed visualizations, he could determine which masks blocked the trajectory of air coming from his lungs when he coughed or talked. “A simple inspection of the data indicates a remarkable linearity in the portions of the figures we highlight,” they wrote. That could mean small stores, public buses or trains, or in churches or bars and clubs. Mask wearing for the possibly infected, to prevent spreading the infection, warrants rigorous and rapid investigation.

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