Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award winning journalist Laurie Garrett gave a refreshingly honest and clear-eyed assessment of the usefulness of masks in fighting coronavirus pandemics. Unfortunately, her assessment, given as the Keynote Address at the National Academy of Medicine in December 2018, was given prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Garrett, a Council of Foreign Relations member, spilled the beans in a presentation called “From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic to 2009 H1N1 Pandemic to Now: Is the World Ready to Respond to the Next Outbreak?”
After her presentation, which periodically cast doubt on the historical utility of general public masking around the world, she fielded a question from a member of the audience on such measures. This was her candid response. Watch:
“Let me just put it in context for the whole audience,” Garrett replied. “What if we today said ‘uh oh, it’s happening, there’s a really nasty bug out there’ and it’s carrying with it tremendous virulence and it seems to be like the 2009 virus — very, very efficient at human to human transmission.”
“Then, everybody in this room and all of your friends and family would want to know, ‘how do we protect ourselves?'” she continued. “And that would immediately go to, ‘what do we know about exactly?’ You know, how important is sneezing versus —thank you for the sound cue over here. Coughing… how much does washing your hands matter?”
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“You know, is there any kind of mask that actually keeps this virus out?” she added. “If so, where do I get, you know, 5,000 of them. And you go on and on down the list.”
“And what you can see is that there are practical recommendations that I’m sure everybody in this room would follow, because you would, for any infectious agent you know, wash your hands, cover your mouth when you’re coughing, that sort of thing,” Garrett went on. “But as you get further down to real hardcore specifics, you see that there’s a tremendous amount of unknowns.”
“And there’s only a couple of countries that have ever really done large scale studies to try and figure out what might work,” she said. “Japan, it may not surprise you, as one of them. And they, in one of their large studies, they basically showed that the masks, it seemed like the major efficacy of a mask is that it causes alarm in the other person. And so you stay away from each other.”
Garrett expanded on the clinical findings with a personal anecdote.
“And that’s what I think happened with SARS,” she said. “When I was in the SARS epidemic, I saw it everywhere, all over Asia people started wearing these masks and it is alarming. When you walk down a street and everybody coming towards you has a mask on you definitely do social distancing. You definitely — it’s just gut thing, but did the mask really help them? Did the mask keep the virus out?”
“Almost certainly not,” Garrett concluded.
Thus, “public health experts” are acting more like authoritarian social engineers, implementing public policy dictates by decree, than actually giving health advice that benefits citizens individually.
Dr. Eleanor Murray, a Harvard-educated epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health, has advocated for mask mandates as a tool to change social behavior, rather than because they have any usefulness for personal protection. Murray stated it quite bluntly in a Washington Post piece she co-wrote in March 2022.
“Masks are far more powerful as a public health tool implemented through mandates than as an individual protective measure,” Murray wrote in the article.
While health experts touted the near-universal mask compliance of nations like Japan and South Korea throughout the pandemic, these temporally bounded assertions were debunked in due time with explosive Covid waves — indeed, these Asian Pacific nations would go on to experience some of the highest Covid case rates in the world.
It was only after the Covid pandemic subsided that health experts started divulging a smattering of truth about the extremely low usefulness of public masking.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member and former FDA Chief, admitted in January that cloth masks don’t work.
“Cloth masks aren’t going to provide a lot of protection, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “This is an airborne illness. We now understand that. And a cloth mask is not going to protect you from a virus that spreads through airborne transmission. It could protect better through droplet transmission, something like the flu, but not this coronavirus.”
CNN health contributor Dr. Leana Wen argued in December that the cloth masks that people were predominately wearing throughout the Covid pandemic were little more than “facial decorations.”
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) December 21, 2021
But calling the masks mere “facial decorations” is putting a rosy spin on the matter. Masks contribute to generalized social anxiety in part because they “confuse” the reading of human emotions, as a September 2020 Frontiers journal article found.
The researchers scored respondents’ reading of emotions and found that masks led to lower aggregate scores on a number of emotional states: Anger, disgust, happiness, and sadness being among them.
While many health experts continue to insist that Covid policies are ‘keeping children safe,’ the preponderance of evidence shows that they pointlessly inflict psychological distress on children.
The U.S. Surgeon General in December 2021 sounded the alarms about the worsening childhood mental health crisis in America, which has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic response.
“The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating,” the HHS report stated. “The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation. Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.”
A pediatric infectious disease expert, Dr. Shamez Ladhani, who consults with the UK Health Security Agency, laid out in unmistakable terms that masks have been shown to be of no benefit for protecting children.
“I cannot find a single study that justifies mask wearing in schools,” said Dr. Ladhani. That about sums it up.
The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics released data in 2021 that showed children who masked were more likely to test positive for Covid than those who did not mask.
No wonder the United Kingdom did not mandate that children wear masks in school to fight Covid, which has been shown to be less harmful to young people than the seasonal flu.
These surprising results might be taken as a ‘one-off’ if there were not a recent multi-national study that showed that more masking is related to higher Covid rates.
A peer-reviewed journal article in Cureus called the “Correlation Between Mask Compliance and COVID-19 Outcomes in Europe” found that the higher the mask compliance rates, the higher the Covid case rates.
“While no cause-effect conclusions could be inferred from this observational analysis, the lack of negative correlations between mask usage and COVID-19 cases and deaths suggest that the widespread use of masks at a time when an effective intervention was most needed, i.e., during the strong 2020-2021 autumn-winter peak, was not able to reduce COVID-19 transmission,” the study concluded. “Moreover, the moderate positive correlation between mask usage and deaths in Western Europe also suggests that the universal use of masks may have had harmful unintended consequences.”
The important takeaway from such findings is that masking among the general public does have one important effect: The spread of irrational fear.
This fear tends to defuse critical thinking among people and leaves them more vulnerable to propaganda and emotional manipulation. Masks thus prey upon and feed a target population’s anti-social tendencies and exacerbates them; the resultant heightened state of alarm can lead to a physical state of ‘resistance’ followed by exhaustion. This, ironically, can degrade the subjects’ immune systems and leave them more vulnerable to ensuing viral waves.
The intentionally induced state of panic, fueled in part by masks, can lead over time to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. When combined with economic dislocation and the disruption of social norms — the shuttering of churches, the elimination of funerals, fencing off public parks, forbidding people from seeing sick loved ones — the results are a social crisis.
As America’s public officials have reminded us on numerous times, their governing philosophy is “never let a crisis go to waste.” When the crises come ever more often, and are constantly not resolved but rather worsened, one has to seriously question the motives of the ruling class when they recommend any measure “for our own good.” Every once in a while, you can catch a glimpse of their true motives; we have to move beyond our own fears in order to see it.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.