Face mask
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A meta-analysis of 78 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving 610,872 participants, conducted by Cochrane, an international organization, has demonstrated that wearing face masks (of any kind) has negligible to no impact on respiratory viral infections, including SARS-CoV-2 (COVID).

Many of the clinical trials included in the analysis were conducted prior to the COVID period; in fact, very few RCTs were conducted over the past three years, despite widespread masking mandates. The analysis notes that the six RCTs they located from the COVID period were conducted in Mexico (two), Denmark, Bangladesh, England, and Norway.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promoted a study in support of mask-wearing based solely on researchers calling people on the telephone to ask about mask compliance. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the now-retired head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), publicized his support for mask-wearing on numerous occasions yet never commissioned a RCT to test for efficacy.

The Cochrane reviewers included a total of 12 trials comparing medical/surgical masks to no masks, with two of the trials studying healthcare workers and 10 conducted within the community (almost 300,000 participants). They found that, "Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of influenza-like illness ... [or] to the outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza/SARS-CoV-2."

Furthermore, even N95 masks appeared to make no difference to infection rates, while discomfort when wearing them was mentioned in several studies.

By contrast, hand hygiene was found to have a "modest" effect on reducing respiratory illness.

In conclusion, the researchers called for "large, well-designed RCTs addressing the effectiveness" of non-pharmaceutical interventions.

This is not the first study to demonstrate the negligible role played by surgical or N95 masks in preventing disease transmission; many such studies were conducted prior to the COVID era. Other studies conducted in the past three years have also highlighted some of the negative impacts of mask-wearing and mask mandates, with evidence emerging that mask-wearing in educational settings has a deleterious effect on learning. Other studies even suggested that mask-wearing correlates with higher death rates.