Unless you live under a rock in a thinly-settled part of the world, you are probably familiar with the global government embrace of non-medical cloth or paper face masks. Government medical authorities claim they help prevent infection by the novel coronavirus, AKA COVID-19, and busybodies and social interventionists everywhere are getting increasingly exasperated with the now-minority that will not wear them whenever they leave their homes, get with the fucking program and start caring about their community.
I can’t speak for everywhere, but let me tell you a little bit about how this push campaign is going in Canada. My part of it, anyway.
In the early stages of what it pleases the global political leadership to refer to as a ‘pandemic’, there was a reluctance to endorse masking. The WHO released confusing and conflicting information. The famous Dr. Fauci, who throws a baseball like an undernourished schoolgirl trying to rid herself of a live lizard, initially remarked that there was absolutely no reason for anyone who was not clearly sick to wear a face mask. He later reversed himself, admitting he only said that so panicky people would not run out and buy up all the face masks and there would not be a sufficient supply for the ‘frontline medical workers’. Lied, I guess you would have to say, if you didn’t realize what a visionary and farseeing altruist he is, and didn’t know – because he told you – that he was only doing it for our own good.
But I don’t want to get too distracted by Dr. Fauci, as I mean to turn attention to a more local source. Chris Pengilly, a retired GP, is representative of the Frustrated Class that smirks at the reasons the minority offers for not wearing a face mask in public. I think you’ll agree his tone is the sort of condescending dismissal which might be reserved by a John Deere dealership for a farmer who still plows with a mule – some people just don’t get it the way us smart folk do. Let’s take a look.
Right off the bat, Mr. Pengilly wants you to know that he approves the use of face masks, and believes their wear will soon become compulsory, as if that were reason enough for doubters to line up for them. Not to be a spoiler or anything, but let me say here that a government order to wear face masks in all public spaces is an invitation to a constitutional challenge and a major lawsuit. Why? Because there is no actual scientific evidence that they do anything at all to prevent infection by an airborne virus. None.
Oh, media commentary on the subject, including remonstrations from various levels of medical authorities, claims they ‘help’ prevent infection, in the sort of guarded language that makes it clear they are not a guaranteed savior even if you wear them exactly according to the manufacturers instructions. But they ‘might help’, in the sense that stopping some viral particles is better than nothing. Let’s just short-circuit to ground the whole argument that something should be accepted because it is better than nothing – better than nothing is an argument for going to work with a slice of bread over your nose and mouth, held on with a rubber band, because it ‘might help’, and the chief advantage of a non-medical cloth mask in that instance is that it is more comfortable and doesn’t smell as yeasty.
There has never been a Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT), conducted under scientific conditions, which concluded face masks do anything meaningful or measurable to prevent infection by an airborne virus. The narrative concerning ‘droplets’ and their effective interception by non-medical cloth face masks is based on the early-1900’s research of Dr. Carl Flugge, who determined through research that a linen band which covered the mouth and nose of an attending physician was useful at preventing transmission of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection, spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Bacterial particles are generally much larger than viral aerosols, and tuberculosis was eradicated as a major threat in the USA through “elimination of poverty, improvement of nutrition and through improvement in living conditions”, not lockdowns and face masks. Prior to its eradication through determined effort, it killed one out of every seven dead Americans from the 18th century onward. Even the term ‘eradicated’ is misleading – although tuberculosis has been rendered statistically insignificant in the United States as an epidemiological threat, there were nearly 9,000 new cases reported as recently as 2019, and the pace of decline is slowing.
“In her 2014 article, “Germs and the Pseudoscience of Quality Improvement”, Dr. K Sibert, an anaesthetist with an interest in infection control, is of the opinion that many infection control rules are indeed arbitrary, not justified by the available evidence or subjected to controlled follow-up studies, but are devised, often under pressure, to give the appearance of doing something.” That’s the money shot right there, folks – wearing face masks gives the frightened a warm feeling that they are protected. Unfortunately, that soon turns to manifest disapproval of anyone who appears in public without a face mask.
But let’s get back to Dr. (Ret’d) Pengilly, before I forget that his musings are what brought me here. After announcing that you should wear a face mask because he thinks they make sense, Dr. Pengilly expands on that diagnosis to reveal that while face masks do little to protect the wearer, they ‘significantly reduce’ the risk to those within infection range of the asymptomatic carrier.
That so? Bzzzzt!!! I’m afraid not, Johnny. At least not in my opinion, and although I am not a retired GP, I am supported in that opinion by Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) technical lead for COVID-19. Back in early June, when some in the world were talking about emerging from the completely-useless lockdowns – a term originating with prison administration, if you like your irony ironic – she disclosed, in response to a journalist’s question at a press briefing, that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is “extremely rare”.
“The highest estimate was a transmission rate of 2.2%, suggesting “asymptomatic spread is unlikely to be a major driver of clusters or community transmission of infection.”
Van Kerkhove was quick to amplify that this did not mean it couldn’t happen – cue Lloyd Christmas of “Dumb and Dumber”, with “So you’re telling me…there’s a chance.” Just that no evidence to date suggests asymptomatic transmission is a significant risk. Such as would imply a broad face-mask mandate, not to put too fine a point on it.
But someone must think they are a hell of an idea, because the same article notes, somewhat sniffily, that the studies which bear out the rarity of asymptomatic transmission “had small sample sizes, which would make their findings less statistically relevant.” Whoops! That neatly torpedoes the argument for masks, which have no proper scientific clinical trials at all which demonstrate their efficacy at preventing airborne viral transmission. Especially non-medical cloth or paper masks, whose claims to functionality are about as credible as a Tijuana Rolex.
Let me give you an example. I have a box of fabric non-medical masks on my dresser upstairs – I have to wear a face mask every day at work, by order of my employer. I got them from Pharmasave; $30.00 for a box of 50, so approximately 60 cents apiece. They’re made in Jiangsu, China, KH brand. The box copy claims they effectively filter 99% of ‘bacteria and particles’.
Which would make them 4% more effective than an N -95 surgical mask; what do you think the 95 stands for? More effective, at 60 cents apiece, than an N-95 mask which would cost at least $3.00 if you could get them. Question, here; is the job of Finance Minister going to come open any time soon?
The KH mask advertising is misleading – when they say the masks effectively filter 99% of bacteria and ‘particles’, they probably mean bacteria and bacteria-size particles, which are approximately three times the size of viral particles. The fabric masks don’t fit your face tightly, leaving gaps at the sides, while an N-95 mask is made to adapt to facial contours and ensure a tight fit. But those Chinese fabric masks are the ones handed out at businesses which insist on customers wearing a mask, and are approved for wear by Transport Canada, which quite early on disallowed the wearing of the cloth mask which incorporates a one-way valve – a boon to those who wear glasses, and are troubled by their own breathing fogging their lenses – because it did not filter outgoing air as well as that inhaled.
Which brings me to Pengilly’s absurd analogies. Wearing a face mask to protect your community from airborne viral transmission, he claims, is little different from observing the total-blackout orders during the Second World War, where leaving the porch light on might result in a 5000-pound explosive package landing on your doorstep.
From a bomber whose aimer could see your porch light from 10,000 feet. Directed by a German navigator who had no idea at all where cities in the United Kingdom were located, and consequently roamed about with the rest of the squadron hoping someone would need to visit the outdoor privy, and would turn on a light. Give me a break.
The Germans probably had a fairly good idea how to find London without having to zero in on random room lights, and bombing rows of houses was never very strategically rewarding anyway in a war where the two sides raced to eliminate one another’s industrial capability. But the good doctor’s tactical ruminations aside, nobody has needed for quite some time to be convinced that proximity to functioning high explosive is deleterious to your health – they actually knew it for quite a few years before Big Two. In case it slips anyone’s mind, the United States of America runs a Randomized Clinical Trial every couple of years in whatever hapless country has been singled out for reshaping by high explosive until the inhabitants grasp the wisdom inherent in American planning for their political future. Not to belabor the point, the effectiveness and effects of high explosive are both broadly known and scientifically proven. Not so face masks. Medical and political figures who should know better claim to be ‘following the science’, but they aren’t. They can’t be, because there isn’t any.
Earlier, I said there had never been a Randomized Clinical Trial of face masks which concluded they are effective at protecting against an infectious airborne virus. That’s true – but the last part is particularly significant. The Danes recently concluded just such a trial, the first of its kind in the world, against a very broad sample base of 6000; 3000 each either masked or not. Once such a trial is complete, the next step is publication in a reputable medical journal, and peer review by medical professionals and specialists in the field.
And that’s where the trial is hung up. Denmark’s researchers cannot get anyone to publish their results, which they decline to discuss until publication. It was offered to The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. None accepted it for publication, and the purported reason is that its results are ‘controversial’.
That’s funny – those blockheads at The Lancet were not afraid of controversy as recently as this past June, when they published a medical study that was about as well-researched as the Old Age Rejuvenator Centrifuge, and which concluded that the use of Hydroxychloroquine as a specific against the risk or effect of COVID-19 led to increased risk of death. And promptly had to retract it, with the most abject of apologies for bullshitting everybody who reads it. Well, everybody who did not already know better. There probably are a few guys who ostentatiously read The Lancet at restaurants and tearooms in the hope it will make chicks think they are doctors. In case the stethoscope ‘accidentally’ hanging out of their pocket is not enough to clinch the deal.
What do you suppose they mean when they say the results obtained from the Danish face masks trial were ‘controversial’? Did they find that face masks worked a treat, and they helped ever so much in the prevention of infection by an airborne virus? What would be controversial about that? It’s already the default position, backed up by a seemingly-endless parade of ‘experts’ joining an increasingly-impatient public in excoriation of the holdouts who won’t wear one.
Transport Canada ordered passengers on public transit in British Columbia to wear face masks around mid-August. Since then, new cases – which have replaced deaths as the harbinger of doom – have more than tripled. How is that possible, with a clear majority masking up whenever they leave the house, some even wearing them while in their cars or when walking alone on near-empty streets? Less than half the public wore masks in public in July, but since then, the greater the acceptance and prevalence of public masking, the higher new cases of infection have soared. An argument might be made that increased testing reveals exploding numbers, but that does not explain why increased adoption of face masks is not knocking the numbers down. In fact, what it probably suggests is that the virus is spreading faster than testing can keep up with, and actual numbers are significantly higher than the official record. Which in turn suggests COVID-19 is far, far less lethal than initial media reports warned, and far less lethal than the media continues to imply.
Which is pretty much what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA found, as well, according to recently-released figures. Here are the survivability rates, broken down by age group, of persons in the United States who have been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.
- Ages 0-19, the survival rate is 99.997 percent
- Ages 20-49, the survival rate is 99.98 percent
- Ages 50-69, the survival rate is 99.5 percent
- Ages 70+, the survival rate is 94.6 percent
As you can see for yourself, the projected survival rate for the highest-risk group – those aged 70 years and over – is 94.6%. All other groups are over 99%. Like those odds? If I told you, run down to the corner store right now and buy a lottery ticket, because you have a better than 99% chance of winning a million bucks, would you go? Would I hear the squeal of hinges on a door flung wide, and the dying away of echoes produced by running feet getting further away? I think I would. Don’t forget your mask.
Dr. Pengilly scoffs at the notion that anyone’s civil rights are being violated by an implied or actual order to wear a face mask in public. Refusal to wear a mask, in his book, is “egoistic and inconsiderate” – how would an ‘anti-masker’ (that’s what we are now, gotta have a label to call out the enemy) feel if he suddenly needed surgery, and the surgeon refused to wear a mask? Considering there is no available evidence to suggest wearing a face mask would protect me from COVID-19, it would not bother me at all, if we were talking about me. Considering those in my age group who become infected with COVID-19 have a 99.5% chance of not dying from it, knock yourself out, Mr. Surgeon; I don’t care if you sing a Kate Smith impersonation of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” at peak volume while you’re operating on me. And considering by Dr. Pengilly’s own admission, face masks are an accepted part of medical personnel’s PPE and they will still be wearing one during their duties long after CVOVID-19 is gone, the entire point assumes a flavour of farce.
There’s good reason – as good as you can get without a randomized clinical trial, meaning ‘because experts say so’ – to believe that hand-washing is at least as effective at preventing transmission of viral infections. Let me ask you this; first, suppose you wanted to know how many people in your city were paying attention to what you told them to do, and were willing to obey your orders in this and perhaps future situations. Now, can you look at a group of strangers passing by in the street, and determine who among them has washed their hands, and who has not?
Can you look at a group of strangers passing by in the street, and determine who among them is wearing a face mask, and who is not? Hell, yeah – you don’t even have to be present. You can look at a video feed of Pearson Airport in Toronto and identify at a glance who is an obedient citizen and who is a potential troublemaker who will not do as he’s told. An anti-masker, if you will. Is that the level of civil rights you were accustomed to in British Columbia, Canada pre-pandemic, Mr. Pengilly? Is it? Actually, pre-pandemic it was against the law to wear a face mask if you were part of a demonstration or protest the authorities termed ‘unlawful assembly’ – doing it could get you a 10-year prison sentence. You’ll like this – according to the president of Canada’s Police Association at the time, Tom Stamatakis, “In my experience when someone shows up at a protest with a mask, their intentions are violent… There is no good legitimate reason for someone to protest peacefully and show up wearing a mask.” Funny old world, innit?
A final point: ‘anti-maskers’ are not interested in converting those who wish to wear a face mask. Knock thyself out. Wear two. If you prefer to believe that a rectangle of cloth (or two) held on your face by ear loops makes you invisible to an airborne virus, hallelujah! Testify, my brother! Rock those face-panties all day and night – as Matthew Good says, whatever puts you all the way out. Cite me an example, if you can, of anyone in a public setting rounding on an innocent face-masked citizen and barking “Will you GET the hell BACK with that mask???” Sadly, examples abound of righteous citizens – people who were formerly ‘my community’ – prancing in an ecstasy of choler in public spaces like grocery stores and demanding to know what motivates you to be such a selfish prick who cares so little about public safety. Because you’re not wearing a mask. Yes, indeedy – the authorities have discovered a gold mine in public safety; an issue to which all individual civil rights immediately become subordinate, to the enthusiastic hero-worship of the quacking crowd which could care less whether there’s any reason for it or not. And when COVID-19 assumes its place in history as a mass hysteria which rivals the weapons-of-mass-destruction oopsie that ushered in the wholesale wreckage of Iraq, there will never be any sort of apology for those who were reviled and insulted by know-nothings who were satisfied by the pious protestations of government that it is ‘following the science’.
“Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent — the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free.”