Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been at the forefront of the senseless agenda to push masks on schoolchildren in America – whether they need them or not.
Now, even The Atlantic has had enough and is calling out CDC Director Walensky for misleading the public, even if it is in a tamer manner than is required. Unfortunately, it provides very poor evidence to support its claims in the opening of its article. We will briefly address that before getting into the story’s debunking of the director’s claims.
— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) September 28, 2021
“The debate over child masking in schools boiled over again this fall, even above its ongoing high simmer,” the article begins. “The approval in late October of COVID-19 vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds was for many public-health experts an indication that mask mandates could finally be lifted. Yet with cases on the rise in much of the country, along with anxiety regarding the Omicron variant, other experts and some politicians have warned that plans to pull back on the policy should be put on hold.”
So, “anxiety” has nothing to do with science. The Omicron variant has been compared to a Common Cold coronavirus and it is even doubtful whether or not it is responsible for the loss of one life in the United States. The effects of the variant have been described as “generally mild” for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups (this may be due to the prevalence of “natural immunity”).
“Scientists generally agree that, according to the research literature, wearing masks can help protect people from the coronavirus, but the precise extent of that protection, particularly in schools, remains unknown—and it might be very small,” the article goes on.
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This is incorrect. It is once again the shoddy “appeal to consensus” that does not constitute actual science. Science entails falsifying claims. There are a variety of “masks” and they have different characteristics. As OSHA has stated, neither cloth masks nor surgical masks are designed to protect wearers from airborne pathogens, particularly respiratory viruses. The confidence intervals for the efficacy of cloth masks and surgical masks to slow the spread of respiratory viruses are poor. N95 masks fare only slightly better.
(Recently, the usual suspects accidentally admitted this in response to the Omicron surge: CNN’s fanatical zero-Covid doctor Leanna Wen rightly called cloth masks “facial decorations” while sociopathically touting universal N95 masks.)
“What data do exist have been interpreted into guidance in many different ways,” the article goes on. “The World Health Organization, for example, does not recommend masks for children under age 6. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommends against the use of masks for any children in primary school.”
We are getting closer to reality now: Children are not at statistical risk from Covid-19. Full stop. The survival rate of healthy children is on the order of 99.99995% (the infection survival rate overall is at least 99.995%). Covid deaths are one percent of annual deaths for those under age 18.
“Seen in this context, the CDC has taken an especially aggressive stance, recommending that all kids 2 and older should be masked in school,” the article notes. “The agency has argued for this policy amid an atmosphere of persistent backlash and skepticism, but on September 26, its director, Rochelle Walensky, marched out a stunning new statistic: Speaking as a guest on CBS’s Face the Nation, she cited a study published two days earlier, which looked at data from about 1,000 public schools in Arizona. The ones that didn’t have mask mandates, she said, were 3.5 times as likely to experience COVID outbreaks as the ones that did.”
Of course, this is patently false, and The Atlantic article usefully explains why:
But the Arizona study at the center of the CDC’s back-to-school blitz turns out to have been profoundly misleading. “You can’t learn anything about the effects of school mask mandates from this study,” Jonathan Ketcham, a public-health economist at Arizona State University, told me. His view echoed the assessment of eight other experts who reviewed the research, and with whom I spoke for this article. Masks may well help prevent the spread of COVID, some of these experts told me, and there may well be contexts in which they should be required in schools. But the data being touted by the CDC—which showed a dramatic more-than-tripling of risk for unmasked students—ought to be excluded from this debate. The Arizona study’s lead authors stand by their work, and so does the CDC. But the critics were forthright in their harsh assessments. Noah Haber, an interdisciplinary scientist and a co-author of a systematic review of COVID-19 mitigation policies, called the research “so unreliable that it probably should not have been entered into the public discourse.”
This is not the only study cited by Walensky in support of masking students, but it’s among the most important, having been deployed repeatedly to justify a policy affecting millions of children—and having been widely covered in the press. The agency’s decision to trumpet the study’s dubious findings, and subsequent lack of transparency, raise questions about its commitment to science-guided policy.
The article goes on to show that not only is the study “misleading,” it is based on outright lies. Read on:
The Arizona study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at school-associated outbreaks in Maricopa and Pima Counties, comparing rates across schools with and without mask mandates for students and staff. “The school year starts very early in Arizona, in mid-July, so we had the advantage of being able to get an early look at data,” one of the lead authors, J. Mac McCullough, told The New York Times. The early look revealed that just 16 outbreaks had occurred among the 210 schools that had a mask mandate in place from the start of classes, versus 113 among the 480 schools that had no mandates at all. According to McCullough and his colleagues, this amounted to a 3.5-fold increase in incidence of outbreaks for the no-mandate schools.
Yet the study’s methodology and data set appear to have significant flaws. The trouble begins with the opening lines of the paper, where the authors say they evaluated the association between school mask policies and school-associated COVID-19 outbreaks “during July 15–August 31, 2021.” After reviewing school calendars and speaking with several school administrators in Maricopa and Pima Counties, I found that only a small proportion of the schools in the study were open at any point during July. Some didn’t begin class until August 10; others were open from July 19 or July 21. That means students in the latter group of schools had twice as much time—six weeks instead of three weeks—in which to develop a COVID outbreak.
“Ketcham said that a comparison of median start dates is insufficient,” the article notes. “If schools with mask mandates had fewer school days during the study,” Ketcham told the author, “that alone could explain the difference in outbreaks.”
The Atlantic article goes on to cite a Bangladesh study, but doesn’t note that it has also been shredded. Dr. Scott Atlas in September rightly criticized the study:
One, in people defining Covid as symptoms plus anti-bodies, there is no evidence that cloth masks have any impact, no significant impact with cloth masks for people who have Covid as defined by Covid symptoms with antibody documentation. So cloth masks are worthless according to this study.
The second part is the surgical mask study. And the surgical mask study shows that there is from my reading here about an 11% decrease in individuals having symptomatic Covid with antibodies. 11%. And basically only older people. So what this shows you after all is said and done is it confirms that cloth masks are worthless. It shows – if you take the data at face value – a very minimal impact, 11%, decrease in symptomatic cases in mask usage by the village.
And so, you know, of all the clamoring for something desperately to show that masks work, this is what I would call extremely weak tea. In fact, it confirms the reason why we have seen all over the world and in the United States that mask usage by the population does not significantly stop the spread of the virus.
It’s being oversold, but people are desperate to find some pebble somewhere that shows masks work.
Dr. Atlas was far from the only critic. Here was Professor Francois Balloux:
I don't wish to enter the mask debate. I'll just make one point. When the data from this trial is analysed conventionally, it's not obvious that masks (including surgical ones) are statistically significantly associated with reduced transmission at the level of the population.
— Prof Francois Balloux (@BallouxFrancois) September 1, 2021
Nick Hudson, chairman of Pandata.org (PANDA), shared a post by Substack writer el gato malo titled, “bangladesh mask study: do not believe the hype,” calling it “sound commentary.”
This was the criticism of el gato malo:
To claim that masks caused any given variance in outcome, you need to isolate masks as a variable. They didn’t. This was a whole panoply of interventions, signage, hectoring, nudges, payments, and psychological games. It had hundreds of known effects and who knows how many unknown ones.
We have zero idea what’s being measured and even some of those variables that were measured showed high correlation and thus pose confounds. when you’re upending village life, claiming one aspect made the difference becomes statistically impossible. the system becomes hopelessly multivariate and cross-confounded.
The authors admit it themselves (and oddly do not seem to grasp that this invalidates their own mask claims)
Dr. Martin Kulldorf also shared his scrutiny of the study:
Odd that mask advocates are excited by this study. As a vaccine advocate, I would be horrified if a vaccine trial showed 11% efficacy. Based on the 95% confidence intervals, we do not even know if surgical mask efficacy is more than 0%. https://t.co/N7d5bjbxxe
— Martin Kulldorff (@MartinKulldorff) September 1, 2021
Even more devastating to the masking for kids argument, surgical masks were only shown to have had marginal efficacy for those over age 50:
Big news on Twitter today. Bangladesh study w/342,146 adults finds “Masks Work!”
Well, “Surgical Masks Work!”
I mean, “Surgical Masks Work if You’re Over 50!”
— Karl Dierenbach (@Dierenbach) September 1, 2021
The Atlantic article additionally refers to the widely cited Georgia study on masking children in schools, which purportedly showed that “COVID was 37 percent lower in schools where staff were required to wear masks, and 21 percent lower in schools where that rule applied to kids.” it notes, crucially, although this does not appear to register with scientifically illiterate people, that the results were statistically insignificant, and even the authors noted that the data “cannot be used to infer causal relationships.”
On the other side of the coin, a study that did not get much traction in the mainstream media showed that schools in Florida saw no statistically significant difference between mask mandated ones and unmandated ones. This was from the October press release:
New COVID-19 cases for children ages 5-17 – the vast majority of the school-aged population – have decreased 79% in the month of September, in the 54 Florida counties where school districts have no masking policy or are following state law by honoring the parental opt-out rule.
For comparison, COVID-19 cases for children 5-17 in the 13 districts that imposed forced-masking in schools have decreased 77%, on average.
That would be no significant difference. Strikingly, if you examine this chart of the United States, you can see the 29 states where there are exactly zero reported Covid-related deaths:
Then if you compare this chart with one that shows school masking policies in the U.S., you may find it no surprise that masking does not seem to make any significant difference preventing Covid-related mortality among children.
The fact of that matter is that there never was sound science to force little children to wear masks in school for as long as eight hours a day. The CDC went searching for the science to justify its political decision that was made in response to teacher’s unions.
Now that there is a childhood mental health crisis being exacerbated by the cruel and pointless school mask policies, it is time to actually listen to the science, instead of trying to make the science listen to our politicians.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.