I must respond to Brian Baker’s guest commentary, “The Great American Mask Scam” (Dec. 2).
Mr. Baker refers to “the science” and lists multiple scientific articles that, he claims, support his position that mask wearing is a “scam.” Unfortunately, he has either misinterpreted these studies or has cherrypicked the sentences that seem to support his argument. In many cases he ignores the nuances and limitations of the studies he cites.
Baker cites an article “published by the National Library of Medicine” that is actually from a Swiss journal, Frontiers in Medicine. He quotes, “Surgical mask wearing among individuals in non-health-care settings is not significantly associated with reduction in (acute respiratory infection) incidence in this meta-review.” But he conveniently ignores these statements: “However, a study that examined the protective effect of SM [mask] use against secondary influenza episode in a household setting, found a 70% reduction in reported episodes when participants were compliant in SM use.” And “SM usage cannot be a stand-alone strategy to protect against infection, but ought to be used together with other physical intervention methods such as hand hygiene and social distancing to combat multiple modes of virus transmission in the community.”
Baker provides a quote from a World Health Organization publication saying, “At the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high-quality or direct scientific evidence.” Yet he ignores the next paragraph, “However, taking into account the available studies evaluating pre- and
asymptomatic transmission, a growing compendium of observational evidence on the use of masks by the general public in several countries, individual values and preference, as well as the difficulty of physical distancing in many contexts, WHO has updated its guidance to advise that to prevent COVID-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, government should encourage the general public to wear masks in specific situations and settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”
I read all of the articles that Mr. Baker cites and find that, if read carefully, all support the wearing of masks by the general public during the COVID-19 crisis. The warning that comes through loud and clear in many of these articles is that we don’t know who, in the general public, is asymptomatic and could be spreading the disease. Wearing a mask protects us from them and others from us. With widespread use of masks, social distancing and hand washing,, we can defeat the virus and let our businesses, schools and lives get back to normal.