Wearing face-masks — even fancier N95 masks — probably has "little or no" effect in protecting against COVID-19 and the flu compared to not wearing one, according to a massive new British meta-study.
"There is uncertainty about the effects of masks," concludes a team of 12 international researchers in the study published Jan. 30 in the peer-reviewed U.K. journal Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
"Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory‐confirmed influenza/SARS‐CoV‐2 compared to not wearing masks," an abstract of the U.K. study states.
Moreover, the study concludes that among medical workers, even the more robust N95 masks did not yield greater protection compared to more standard masks, which might surprise people who wear the boxier masks believing they are gaining heightened protection from COVID.
But researchers have found numerous issues with the study. As one analysis demonstrated, the study ignored how COVID spreads and how masks work, as well as making apples-and-oranges comparisons between studies:
This Cochrane Review combined RCTs where face masks or respirators were worn part of the time (for example, when caring for patients with known COVID or influenza: “occasional” or “targeted” use) with RCTs where they were worn at all times (“continuous use”).
Because both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses are airborne, an unmasked person could be infected anywhere in the building and even after an infectious patient has left the room, especially since some people have no symptoms while contagious.
Most RCTs of masks and N95s included in the review have not had a control arm – therefore finding no difference could indicate equal efficacy or equal inefficacy.
The analysis also pointed out the low compliance with masking in the Cochrane review: "But if in a study of masking, most people don’t actually wear them, you can’t conclude that masks don’t work when the study shows no difference between the groups. You can only conclude that the mask advice didn’t work in this study."
LaBarbera isn't going to tell you that, of course -- his job is to discredit the efficacy of masks, as his employer orders him to do.