As we begin to put COVID-19 behind us, we’re learning about what worked and what didn’t work. A study that was released this week shows that mask mandates didn’t work.
Mask use—defined as “the percentage of people who always wear masks in public settings”—was associated with slower spread during low-transmission periods. But it was not associated with slower spread during high-transmission periods.
Going into the study, lead author Damian D. Guerra, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Louisville, and co-author Daniel J. Guerra, of VerEvMed, “hypothesized that statewide mask mandates and mask use are associated with lower COVID-19 case growth rates.” To test this hypothesis, they compared COVID-19 case growth in the 33 states that imposed statewide mask mandates on or before August 2, 2020, with those that imposed mask mandates after this date and those that didn’t have mask mandates at all, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
However, the study does add to evidence that mandating mask use may have made little difference. “Case growth was not significantly different between mandate and non-mandate states at low or high transmission rates,” they found.
The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and may still prove to be flawed. But it does line up with some other data points on mask mandates. For instance, Texas saw no case spike when it lifted its mandate in early March. And an April 2021 analysis saw states with stricter rules about face coverings and indoor dining faring worse than states that did not.
The study does not say masks were completely useless but instead were far more useless than government officials claimed. The claim that masks are better than vaccines has always been ridiculous.
Vaccines were the only way out of the pandemic. Masks and other restrictions were imposed in order to give the illusion that non-pharmaceutical interventions could control the spread of the disease.
Don’t be surprised if other coronavirus restrictions are found to be ineffective in the months and years to come.