In 1918 the Spanish flu wrought its way across the United States. Within a near two year span, the virus would end up killing 675,000 Americans, around 500 million people worldwide.
Amidst the carnage, mask wearing became an issue. “Masks were called muzzles, germ shields and dirt traps,” and “bandits used them to rob banks,” wrote the New York Times’ Christine Hauser (“The Mask Slackers of 1918,” The New York Times, Aug. 3, 2020).
The thing is: mandatory public mask policies don’t work.
One prominent California physician in 1918, Dr. J.C. Bainbridge, was reported then as saying that “the common use of the mask tends to propagate rather than check influenza.” He went on to say that “the mask arrests bacteria influenza. The masks are part of the face, it catches more germs than would the nose and mouth without it, since the catcher is broadened many times by its use.”
Many other doctors of the time agreed with the assessment that public mask policies were ineffective.
It thus becomes understandable why the World Health Organization consistently advised the public (up to early June 2020) not to wear masks: “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider” (“Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19,” June 2020, interim guidance, https://www.who.int/publications).
Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services also advised the public against mask wearing.
The CDC (in its May 2020 Policy Review) said it “found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.” The US Surgeon General even tweeted that masks “are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”
That all of the aforementioned health officials would make a complete reversal of their position against masks is a mystery that needs to be brought to light. “Science” couldn’t be the reason for their turnaround.
Denis Rancourt, former physics professor at the University of Ottawa, with hundreds of medical journal articles to his name, explains: “Masks and respirators do not work. There have been extensive randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies, and meta-analysis reviews of RCT studies, which all show that masks and respirators do not work to prevent respiratory influenza-like illnesses, or respiratory illnesses believed to be transmitted by droplets and aerosol particles.” (“Censored: A Review Of Science Relevant To COVID-19 Social Policy And Why Face Masks Don’t Work,” April 2020, posted on various websites including www.rcreader.com, www.technocracy.news, covidinfos.net, and straightlinelogic.com)
Dr. Rancourt is not alone in saying so.
Oxford’s Dr. Carl Heneghan, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine: “Despite two decades of pandemic preparedness, there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks” (“Masking lack of evidence with politics,” www.cebm.net, July 2020).
Many other European experts agree. Henning Bundgaard, chief physician at Denmark’s Rigshospitale, says that “all these countries recommending face masks haven’t made their decisions based on new studies.” Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark chimes in: “From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation.” Then there’s Sweden’s Anders Tegnell: “We see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport.” (“Europe’s Top Health Officials Say Masks Aren’t Helpful in Beating COVID-19,” Foundation for Economic Education, August 2020)
And the more information that comes in, the more evidence there is against public mask policies.
The US CDC (in its Report dated Sept. 11, 2020) pointed to a study showing that 85% of those who got infected “always” or “often” wore masks, while 70% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 “always” wore masks.
This is echoed by White House COVID-19 adviser Dr. Scott Atlas: “general population masks and mask mandates do not work” and noted that “infections exploded even with mandates in Los Angeles County, Miami-Dade County, Hawaii, Alabama, the Philippines, Japan and other places.”
And contrary to those who keep inanely blaming Filipinos and their supposedly “pasaway” (disobedient) attitude, our citizens are actually amongst the most mask compliant in the world (see YouGov/Imperial College July 2020 survey).
This amidst the world’s longest (and still ongoing) lockdown.
Bottomline: if the science on public mask wearing shows that such is useless or doesn’t work, or at the very least uncertain, then for the government to make public mask wearing a mandatory requirement is arbitrary, capricious, and even perhaps despotic.
It is one thing to recommend people to wear masks. But to force people to wear masks under risks of penalty is simple government overreach. Government power is and should be strictly confined to what is provided for under the Constitution. If the government is allowed to make unnecessary, arbitrary rules against its own citizenry, such is indulging in unconstitutional acts that could only eventually lead (if history is any guide) to unbridled government power.
If that happens, COVID-19 will be the least of our problems. Masks, merely unhelpful now, will be utterly inutile.
Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.