Letter to the Editor: Unmasking the COVID face masking deception

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One of the most controversial non pharmacologic interventions (also known as NPIs) during the COVID pandemic was the recommendation by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and oftentimes ensuing local mandate — of masking to decrease the spread and infection of the SARS COVID-19 virus. 

Our community was told it was necessary for the public good without any prior solid scientific evidence that masking our faces was effective in halting the spread of respiratory viral infections. A pre-COVID pandemic Cochrane review published in 2020 revealed “there is low certainty evidence… that wearing a mask may make little or no difference to the outcome of influenza-like illness … compared to not wearing a mask.” 

Journalist Alex Gutentag said, “Masking perpetuated the illusion of a crisis … a relentless reminder that everyone was a source of disease and death.” 

Face masking became the mantra of government and public health institutions who took control of the national narrative and pushed this NPI on all individuals down to the age of two. The World Health Organization advised against masking children under six years, and the European Union advised against use in children under 12 years. 

To obfuscate the lack of evidence of effectiveness, shoddy studies often commissioned by our own CDC were propped up and eagerly reported by both national and local media. Yet when such studies were exposed for their flawed conclusions, such as this story that appeared in the Atlantic and this piece written by Vinay Prasad, professor of epidemiology at the University of California-San Francisco, the same news media outlets such as KHQA and WGEM did not report these criticisms.

The biggest bombshell study was released by the Cochrane Library a little more than a month ago. Cochrane is an international network of reviewers and is “recognized worldwide as the highest standard in evidence-based healthcare.” The review concluded that wearing any kind of face covering “probably makes little or no difference” in reducing the spread of respiratory illness.

This systematic review should have been the end of the mask debate. As lead author Dr. Tom Jefferson stated in an interview regarding this review of evidence on face masks: “There is just no evidence that they make any difference. Full stop.”  

Why has news about this Cochrane Review not been given due attention by our local news media? Perhaps because CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, when confronted with this review, responded, “Our masking guidance doesn’t really change with time.” 

That’s not how “science” works. It is not static. It is not dogma. It evolves. The CDC and its media acolytes continue to ignore actual science. The news media should do better. This relentless crusade to push masking efficacy without evidence per Dr. Jefferson is a “complete subversion of the ‘precautionary principle,’ which states that you should do nothing unless you have reasonable evidence that benefits outweigh the harms.”

There is no shortage of harms and no demonstrable benefits of masking children, from speech and developmental delays, delays in literacy acquisition in school, and social-emotional impairments to teen insecurity and isolation.

Yet the CDC director and our local media never report these harms.

Perhaps the greatest harm of all is the media’s continued portrayal of masking as a cost-free and effective intervention, thereby creating a false sense of security and leading individuals to believe that it is possible to stop the inevitable spread of COVID-19 or any other respiratory virus. I am a medical doctor and advocate for children’s health. I have read the research. No methodologically sound study to date proves masks of any kind can accomplish this. 

Founding father Thomas Jefferson said, “A press that is free to investigate and criticize the government is absolutely essential in a nation that practices self-government and is therefore dependent on an educated and enlightened citizenry. On the other hand, newspapers too often take advantage of their freedom and publish lies and scurrilous gossip that could only deceive and mislead the people.”

In medicine, this constitutes the ethical responsibility of informed consent which consists of full transparency of both expected benefit and potential harm of every recommended intervention.  

The time is now for our local news media to take their responsibility seriously so that citizens can make appropriate, risk-based decisions.

Dr. Todd Porter
Community Pediatrician
Quincy, Illinois

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