The Science Has Not Changed: Masks Do Not Work

With all of the governmental nonsense about restricting Thanksgiving and Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to review the latest science pertaining to masks, "social distancing" and their effectiveness at stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

Bottom line: The science continues to show the same results this autumn as it did over the summer and the spring: masks and social distancing do not work. 

The newest study was published November 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. JAMA is considered the "gold standard" of U.S. peer-reviewed medical journals. The study was conducted on U.S. Marines with the approval of the Marine Corps. The study of Marines using masks, social distancing, strict procedures (separate doors for ingress and egress, etc.) versus Marines who were not was surprisingly rigorous. In the words of the study...

During the supervised quarantine, public health measures were enforced to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission (Table S1 in the Supplementary Appendix, available with the full text of this article at All recruits wore double-layered cloth masks at all times indoors and outdoors, except when sleeping or eating; practiced social distancing of at least 6 feet; were not allowed to leave campus; did not have access to personal electronics and other items that might contribute to surface transmission; and routinely washed their hands. They slept in double-occupancy rooms with sinks, ate in shared dining facilities, and used shared bathrooms. All recruits cleaned their rooms daily, sanitized bathrooms after each use with bleach wipes, and ate preplated meals in a dining hall that was cleaned with bleach after each platoon had eaten. Most instruction and exercises were conducted outdoors. All movement of recruits was supervised, and unidirectional flow was implemented, with designated building entry and exit points to minimize contact among persons. All recruits, regardless of participation in the study, underwent daily temperature and symptom screening. Six instructors who were assigned to each platoon worked in 8-hour shifts and enforced the quarantine measures. If recruits reported any signs or symptoms consistent with Covid-19, they reported to sick call, underwent rapid qPCR testing for SARS-CoV-2, and were placed in isolation pending the results of testing.

The study is at the above (gray) link. Most of the important information is in the "supplementary information" so be sure to look at that. 

The bottom line results are stated in the figure below.

Unfortunately, the figure is hard to read. The bottom line: 
  • The number of cases among the Marines who strictly wore masks, social distanced and quarantined? 51.
  • The number of cases among Marines who did not take the precautions? 26

In other words, the risk among people wearing masks, etc., was double the risk of those Marines who did not take precautions. If you think about it, this matches America's current experience. We are seeing skyrocketing numbers of cases even though just about everyone is wearing masks indoors. 

Even the politicians do not believe what they are selling. Both of these examples are from the past week: 
The politicians on the Hawaii junket, including from California and Washington -- two of the strictest states -- are disregarding what they are imposing on the rest of us. And, California Governor Lockdown, err, Newsom -- yet again -- was caught around strangers without a mask: this time at a birthday party

Based on what I have read, I would recommend the following Thanksgiving precautions:
  • If you have the slightest inkling you may be "coming down with something" or already sick, stay home and quarantine!!
  • Think twice about going to Thanksgiving dinner in the home of an elderly relative in questionable health or a person of any age with respiratory ailments. That is a high-risk situation. 
  • Self-Quarantine, as much as you can, before going to someone's home for Thanksgiving, regardless of their age. Go to the grocery store eight days before your trip. Work from home. Don't eat out or go shopping. I recommend at least seven days. On the road, try to limit fuel and restroom stops if driving. If flying, and you haven't already, see if you can book an airline that is doing tests immediately before boarding the fight. 
  • Wash your hands and use bleach wipes -- frequently -- on surfaces. The science on this is solid. 
If you want to wear masks indoors, I certainly won't say no even though they may be worse than nothing. I understand both the law and social pressure. 

However, the idea that masks matter outdoors in the wind -- unless people are tightly crammed together -- is preposterous. Even if crammed together, the COVID risk is low. 
Yet, no one got COVID-19 from storming the field. 
This leads me to what I think is my best suggestion regarding Thanksgiving dinner. If the weather at your location will allow it, try to eat outside. The sun and fresh air are good for you and your guests.

As long-time readers know, I am not a fan of politics or politicians. Yes, they are, or perceive themselves to be, under pressure to "do something" about COVID. And, there seems to be an authoritarian impulse among some of them. That is dangerous for American society. We need to press for quality science and for politicians to follow it. Authoritarian measures are not justified by the science nor are they in the American tradition. 

UPDATE: 7:45pm Wednesday. The situation is even more bizarre that I first thought. The birthday party Newsom attended was with -- wait for it -- employees of the medical association!
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