Mask delusion: A footnote [with comment by Paul]

Paul Mirengoff added a comment to Kevin Roche’s column on the inutility of masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Paul didn’t want readers to be misled into believing that there isn’t another side of the argument. The column itself implicitly acknowledges the existence of contrary literature. Although the column is phrased in the conclusory terms of an op-ed column, I think it unlikely that Power Line readers could have been misled or really needed links to contrary studies and studies of studies, of which Paul provided eight and a Washington Post fact-check of Rand Paul for good measure.

Kevin is former general counsel of UnitedHealth and chief executive officer of its Ingenix division. He analyzed health data and studies at a high level for a living. He continues to do so as a health care consultant. Over the past two years I have found his epidemic-related assessments and predictions more reliable than those of many public health experts on the national scene. Kevin’s November 10 Star Tribune column “Time to face hard truths and get on with life — virus and all” is a good example. Check it out to see what I mean.

Kevin’s column on the inutility of masks was written just before the mask regime was reinstated yesterday in St. Paul and Minneapolis. It could not be more timely for those of us in the Twin Cities.

One more local note. In his column Kevin alludes in passing to the Minnesota Department of Health’s suppression of its own study of masks to prevent spread in Minnesota. It is something like the dog that didn’t bark in the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze.”

Kevin provides the links to the studies he referred to in his column here at his Healthy Skeptic site. To these I would add Jeffrey Anderson’s Claremont Review of Books essay “The masking of America” and the study of studies by Ian T. Liu, Vinay Prasad, and Jonathan J. Darrow, “Evidence for Community Cloth Face Masking to Limit the Spread of SARS‐​CoV‑2: A Critical Review.”

PAUL ADDS: Roche’s column denied the existence of credible evidence supporting the view that masks do anything to slow the transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus. He said, “despite the best efforts of what can only be described as the mask religionists, there continues to be no credible data or research favoring a positive impact.” He added, “there simply is no well-designed study which shows any impact of mask wearing, much less mask mandates, on the community spread of Covid-19.”

Roche might be right. However, I wanted to provide readers with links to research by people who, at least on the face of it, seem like credible sources with relevant expertise — not “religionists” — that purports to show a positive impact.

It may well be true that many readers didn’t really need (or want) to see evidence that contradicts Roche’s position. Given the large number of people who long ago took hard, fixed positions in the mask debate, and given what had already appeared on Power Line about the subject, it also may be that many readers didn’t need to see Roche’s opinion piece, either.

However, I would like to have had easy access to a source collecting research and analysis on both sides of this question. Some readers might like that too. With Scott’s two posts and my comments, they now have it.