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COVID-19 mask. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Why I’m Not Wearing A Mask

With a transmission rate of only 0.2% in an active social arena, wearing masks in a casual environment does not reduce flu infection rates

By Michael Robertson, May 5, 2020 6:23 am

San Diego County health officials recently ordered that everyone wear face coverings “anywhere in public when they come within 6 feet of another person” starting May 1, 2020. I  do not plan on complying because the scientific research says it does not help and may actually harm people.

Mask wearing is ordered in an earnest attempt to reduce coronavirus infections. It’s explained that donning a mask means the infected will spread less virus and the uninfected will be less likely to be infected. Maybe most importantly it will reduce transmission by those who are infected but do not know it because they are at early infection stages or simply never show symptoms as happens with about 50% of those infected.

While this seems logical, the science says it is false. Wearing masks does not reduce influenza infection rate according to an examination of 10 studies looking at this claim. To determine the effectiveness of a procedure requires a randomized controlled test (RCT). Within a population some are given the treatment and others not. By comparing the two populations one can determine if the protocol is effective.

The Center for Disease Control did a pool analysis of 10 RCTs that examined the impact of face masks on reducing influenza infections within a community. They concluded that these studies “found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks.” These studies covered a wide range of environmental settings from University dorms to households, but the results were the same across them all.

“There is limited evidence for their [masks] effectiveness in preventing influenza virus transmission,” they found. This applied to masks “worn by the infected person for source control OR when worn by uninfected persons.” They unambiguously concluded that there was “no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”

Since we know that flu viruses are spread through aspiration, coughing or sneezing, such a result would seem to defy common sense. However it is explainable when examining more closely how the flu spreads. It is spread through continuous extended close contact, and not casual connections.

Research by the National Center for Immunization Research and Surveillance in Australia shows that transmission in COVID-19 infected people, even in close contact with others in a high intensity school environment, is tiny. They arrived at this conclusion by identifying 18 COVID-19 infected individuals and tracing their movements from March to Mid-April 2020. Nine infected students and 9 infected staff across 15 schools were followed. Collectively they had 862 close contacts over this time period. A “close contact” was defined as face to face contact for 15 minutes or in the same room for a minimum of two hours with an infected person. Those in close contact were tested via swabs or blood tests. Of the 735 students and 128 staff members who came in close contact with these 18 cases only 2 infections were identified

With a transmission rate of only 0.2% in an active social arena such as a school without masks, it’s easy to see how wearing masks in a casual environment would not reduce flu infection rates. Specifically since the likelihood of infection from a brief interaction such as a store is so small masks are irrelevant. 

It’s reasonable to ask if there’s possible harm from mask usage. Anyone who has worn one while painting or construction or any extended period of time knows they quickly become moist and slimy, which is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Pathogens trapped in the mask have ideal conditions to grow exposing the wearer to an increased risk unless the mask is disposed of after every use or chemically disinfected.

One study looked at 1607 medical care workers and found that cloth masks lead to higher respiratory infection rates. “The rate of influenza-like illness is statistically significantly higher” with cloth masks they concluded. Disturbingly, COVID-19 is an influenza-like virus which attacks the respiratory system, so it’s possible cloth mask wearers may have a higher rate of contracting COVID-19. They speculate that, Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection.” 

There’s much we’re learning about this pandemic, but the best science we have shows that mask wearing will not reduce transmission because casual contact is not a common source of transmission. Furthermore the cloth masks that many are resorting to may actually increase the likelihood of an infection achieving the exact opposite of the intended result. I call on health officials to look more closely at the science and withdraw their order for mask wearing because the data says it will do more harm than good to residents. 

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54 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Wearing A Mask

  1. Glad to see this article. I won’t wear a mask — which will probably become a problem soon — because we are being made to wear them as a symbol and manifestation of fear. Our lying leaders want that culture of fear to be maintained —- even as the science clearly shows that the masks are not necessary and may even be harmful.

    1. Who are the lying leaders? The President is the lying leader.! The VP had a call with all the Governors. It’s not red or blue. Nice try playing the blame game.

      1. How would the DNC’s Racist Organized Criminal Enterprise stay in business without it’s low IQ Uneducated Useful Idiots the likes of you?!?

  2. Gavin Nuisance has a Billion reasons to force you to wear a face mask. Meanwhile he is borrowing money to pay unemployment?

    1. . . . my thoughts also, the “sixth largest economy in the WORLD” is borrowing money from the Feds . . . maybe the one party super majority state is borrowing with the intention to NOT REPAY . . . and then threaten US with “we’re the sixth largest economy the world . . . ” (((( borrowing at zero perfect interest too . . . ))))

    2. Hey Einstein. Who are we borrowing from to cover the 2 trillion dollar stimulus package which in addition to the 1 trillion dollar 2017 tax cuts for the 1% adds up to uh umm like 3 more trillion dollars we are in debt?

  3. Here’s links to the various studies I referenced:

    Research on effectiveness of face masks
    https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article?fbclid=IwAR2V1hPqN0WKb2kXVExP_1UE9ARvru6mtPZvZN0w1jx0S3l3fXLhxMP_bXs

    Research showing low infection rate in school setting
    http://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2020-04/NCIRS%20NSW%20Schools%20COVID_Summary_FINAL%20public_26%20April%202020.pdf

    Research showing cloth masks lead to higher respiratory infection rate
    https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577

    1. The study you referenced was the use of masks in a Flu pandemic. This is a SARs respiratory virus and your reference is invalid.
      The mask is a temporary public health effort to limit transmission. There are many at-risk people and it is a selfish vanity to not attempt to limit spread.
      I understand there is an odd and unfortunate political and psychological element to this. It is truly sad that there is such a lack of care for fellow countrymen.

      1. May I correct your mischaracterization? It want one study during a flu epidemic. It was 10 studies performed over decades.

        Since COVID19 is spread in the same fashion as the flu, the studies are in point to the core question: do masks use by the general public reduce the infection rate.

        It doesn’t matter if it’s “temporary”. It also doesn’t matter if you think it’s “caring”. What matters is, is it effective? And if it is effective, are their downside and what is the cost. That’s how you responsibly assess a hypothesis.

        The data is clear that mask use by the general public DOESN’T reduce the rate infection rate. Do you have any studies proving it does? You do not because they don’t exist. Furthermore if you read the article you know that cloth mask use actually increases the infection rate of wearers. That makes sens because they all get slimy and warm which is the perfect breeding ground for viruses and bacteria.

        Finally, if we waste time and money on dumb and ineffective steps, we will miss smart steps which can actually help people.

        1. Michael – can you please write an article about how all the non- mask wearers
          should unite and get a “DNT” – Do Not Treat- tattoo? Then my son-in-law, a doctor, and my daughter, a nurse, can choose to not treat you – ignore you/send you home if you get Covid? You don’t have to wear a mask! Charles Darwin would support you 100%. I have cancer. I’m in a high risk category if I get Covid. But you go with all your scientific research from your PhD in science? No? MD? No? Huh. Anyway, get the tattoo. If you get symptoms save do NOT go to a hospital. You don’t have the right.

          1. I thought mask-wearing was to protect others. Not ourselves. So your “DNT” tattoo *eyeroll* makes zero sense.

          2. Can you not separate mask usage from medical treatment? People should get medical treatment if they’re ill.

            My point is: we should focus on undertaking steps that have a basis in science to try and protect people. We should question everything because when we waste time and money on ceremonial things like masks, that’s less time and money to use on REAL steps to we can take to protect people.

          3. What all of you non-mask wearing people believe is that you’re ENTITLED to have someone care about you when you walk in the door of a hospital. But, frankly, if the medical staff knows you are a staunch “no-mask person,” which goes DIRECTLY AGAINST WHAT THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY IS ASKING YOU TO DO, they aren’t going to rush to help you. TJ wrote, “I thought mask wearing was to protect others.” That is correct, TJ. You would be wearing a mask to help others so they don’t get Coronavirus if you are asymptomatic. By not wearing a mask, you’re saying others don’t matter to you. When you walk into an ER with Coronavirus symptoms, and you come to the question on the intake form of “Have you been regularly wearing a mask?” are you going to be honest? Go ahead, say “no.” You should add, Mr. Robertson, that you have written an article about why wearing a mask is unnecessary – and see how the staff responds to you. I dated an ER nurse who said, for certain people, he walked a little slower to help them. Shocking, I know. Harsh reality – medical staff are human beings. Hopefully, none of you have him as a nurse. One option for you non-mask wearing people is to lie and say, “Yes! I have been wearing a mask- because I care about my fellow human beings and it’s been recommended by you – the hardworking medical community. ” My grandfather was editor of the Omaha World Herald. He would call your writing, Mr. Robertson, “unethical,” “dangerous” even – especially considering your audience.

          4. By that logic, should we deny treatment to patients with diet induced diabetes because they won’t change their diet? Or should a smoker be denied treatment for their smoking acquired illnesses? I mean really! How angry are you at life right now for you to want medical professionals to tell people to die at home because of that person’s personal choices? People get sick and people die. That is a fact of life and it is unavoidable, but being a dick about it is optional.

          5. No one is talking about how all of you wearing a mask are improperly doing so…. I have witnessed so many people constantly adjusting them with their dirty hands in public. So now whatever you touched is on your mask and face. They put their mask in their pocket or purse or a dirty surface then proceed to put it on their face. They are touching their face more because they are constantly adjusting it which is defeating the purpose. If you are not using the proper procedure to putting on and taking off a mask you are doing more harm than good to yourself. If you feel the need to wear a mask why are you even going out in public? Please stay home. We don’t want you out. Stay home and be scared… I mean stay safe….You have more chances of dying in a car crash while wearing your mask then catching COVID-19.

      2. It’s true that the studies referenced are for flu. But it has been shown that CV-19 is blowing through the cloth. My biggest fear is the MISHANDLING of the germy cloth and cross contamination. I fully expect a MRSA outbreak, at the very least. I personally think it’s nasty to wear cloth for hours at a time. For shift workers who are wearing the same piece of germy cloth for hours at a time, it’s like wearing dirty underwear. I would suggest doing your own research from infectious disease publications. Cloth masks may be OK for a quick trip to the store but with so many taking them on and off to talk on the phone, dangling from the rearview mirror, taking it off to cough or sneeze I’m not understanding what is going on here with the CDC’s 180. Appreciated the article and I believe that time will tell the non mask wearers keeping distance will fare better than the cloth mask wearers out and about.

    2. Sir, you quote the cloth mask study and make it seem as if cloth masks increase your likelihood of infection as compared to wearing nothing. Quoting from the article directly:

      “An analysis by mask use showed ILI (RR=6.64, 95% CI 1.45 to 28.65) and laboratory-confirmed virus (RR=1.72, 95% CI 1.01 to 2.94) were significantly higher in the cloth masks group compared with the medical masks group.”

      The study was comparing cloth masks to medical masks, nowhere does it state that wearing a cloth mask will increase you risk of infection over wearing no mask at all.

      You state elsewhere in the comments that there is no research indicating masks are effective but there are recent studies that are asserting that:

      https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1442

      https://royalsociety.org/news/2020/05/delve-group-publishes-evidence-paper-on-use-of-face-masks/

      https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.01.20088237v1

      1. Bob – thanks for the thoughtful response. It’s refreshing! Let me respond: First all the “research” you list are just opinions – not randomized controlled trials. Masks proponents use this logic: masks reduce droplets or at least droplet size and therefore there SHOULD be less infections. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not true. There are many, many factors not just droplets. For example, people wearing masks actually touch their faces far more than others so you could be increasing the likelihood of transmission. Maybe.

        The way you determine if a hypothesis is correct is a controlled trial. None exist saying that mask usage by the general public reduce infections. None. Nowhere in the world. Don’t you find that odd? If it’s so clear wouldn’t mask companies happily commission such research? Then they could sell billions of masks! Yeah.

        There ARE trials which shows that masks are NOT effective at reducing infections in aerosol transmitted infections. So one view has the actual trials and the other has opinions.

        As for cloth masks, your observation is correct but incomplete. They found “Penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97%” suggesting cloth masks achieve very little. Furthermore they state “Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection.” It would have been nice if they had a controlled group that didn’t use masks at all.

        I’m grateful you’re looking at the actual science. That’s awesome!

    3. Thank you! I was just about to ask if I could see your sources! I agree with you 100% on this, but I like to do my own research.

    4. -You think that an RCT is a ‘randomly controlled test.’

      -You describe yourself as ‘accomplished.’ (Accomplished people let others choose that description.)

      -The study you reference finds that cloth masks result in higher infection *relative to the benchmark of surgical masks* (https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577).

      -You say: “With a transmission rate of only 0.2% in an active social arena such as a school without masks, it’s easy to see how wearing masks in a casual environment would not reduce flu infection rates.” This. Does. Not. Follow. At. All.

      Your sentences are jumbled, confused, lacking all syntax, structure, logic, flow. This is painful to read.

      In all honesty, you seem to have dementia. That sounds cruel, but I’m not saying it to be cruel, I’m saying it because you deserve to know.

      1. Please no personal attacks. Instead use logic and reason to make your point.

        The only logical point I see is that the cloth mask test are comparing them to surgical masks. That’s true, however the study also says that cloth masks are 97% ineffective. Add to that the greater risk of infection and I think people should think twice before using cloth masks.

        Not sure why you’re not grasping the point about low transmission rates in causal interactions. There are other studies showing infections are mostly in extended close contact like in homes or offices where people aren’t wearing masks. Is that clearer now?

  4. Mask wearing is important. It is a way to show support for the government, and faith in the mass media. It also sends an important message: “I’m better than you!.” It also makes people feel good; as if they are doing something to fight this pandemic, much as some people believe they are “saving the planet by “recycling,” when much of what is placed in recycling bins ends up in landfills anyway.

    None of this applies to the few people that might have medical reasons to wear masks.

    I won’t wear a mask. I won’t shop at stores that require customers to wear masks, and will never again shop at them. Business owners have their rights, but in the long run, the customer can still be the boss.

    The points made in this article are very well taken.

    By the way, why is it that the same demagogic politicians that called for “resistance” when President Trump was elected are the same ones that today call for unquestioning obedience?

  5. When State Governments let you go to the grocery store, hardware store, liquor store, pot dispensary store, but demands mail-in voting, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR HEALTH!

  6. Mike, something food for thought: “To some, wearing a mask means admitting a fear they may not have consciously confronted yet, said David Abrams, a clinical psychologist and professor of social and behavioral science at New York University’s School of Global Public Health.
    Many view the mask as a walking symbol of vulnerability that tells others you’re scared about contracting the virus. So to compensate for that fear, and as a show of strength, they may reject the masks entirely, he said.”

    1. Wow, I must have really hit a nerve. Who knew? Would you mind sharing with us what your stake is in having everyone walk around with masks that are unnecessary and likely harmful, as outlined (with citations) in the article above?

  7. If you really believed your B.S. you would show yourself in a Covid-19 ward interacting without a mask.

    1. That’s ridiculous and not an accurate representation of real-life exposure unless you’re a professional within that ward.

      In any case, in that scenario it’s the PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK who should be wearing the mask, NOT the healthy person.

  8. Yeah, so using studies infection rates
    of masks (of CLOTH masks vs paper masks, which is bad faith in itself) for INFUENZA with coronavirus, which is novel, meaning we know little about it. It’s a new sport for conservatives to lie about a novel virus because it’s so easy to do, and takes little effort.

    By all means head out to coronavirus wards mask-free when no one is around to look after your childish stunts and demonstrate the power of positive thinking to eradicate this virus. Please don’t siphon off coronavirus treatments and equipment from those who chose to take precautions — and we all know the facemasks are just the tip of the iceberg for people who have the conservative attitude. It has long ago stopped being an ideology, because conservatives have been shedding any principles for decades now.

    Politicizing a pandemic? Don’t blame me, it was your orange false idol you should complain to, as he politicized this pandemic at the outset. Almost like he had already made his decision when spy agencies started briefings about it in November and quickly, suddenly put his DC Trump hotel (cash cow) up for sale soon afterwards.

  9. All through history slaves have been forced to cover their faces, so as to remain anonymous to their masters.

  10. As a retired county worker, I was required to wear N95 masks while running a power broom, mower or other equipment with dusty conditions. They filter some of the dust out, but when you were done, you would still cough up dust loogies. They simply do not filter everything . We ended up changing to gas mask type protection. Anyone telling you they are full proof is bonkers

  11. Those citing Fauci’s recs should check their dates. Research and data are changing constantly. As the research changes, so do the recommendations.

    Btw, no one said face masks are 100% going to “stop” infection, but they serve a purpose to prevent the unnecessary spread of the infection and to protect vulnerable populations.

    Check it out (from early April):
    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/what-dr-fauci-wants-you-to-know-about-face-masks-and-staying-home-as-virus-spreads

    The Cliff’s Notes:
    Americans should wear face masks as a way to help stifle the spread of COVID-19, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top doctors leading the public health fight against the coronavirus pandemic — a departure from previous government guidance to only wear a mask if you were caring for someone with the illness or had it yourself.

    “If everybody does that, we’re each protecting each other,” Fauci said.

  12. There is no “new research” showing mask usage by the general public reduces infection rates. All the research shows it is not effective at reducing infections.

    Nobody is saying masks are 100% effective. That’s called a strawman where you make up a position the other side isn’t taking and arguing against that.
    What’s changed is the mob and mania has grown stronger forcing most to bend their knee or face attack from the pitchforks.

  13. To all of you non-mask wearers: I’m starting a data base of protesters like you, including using photo software recognition. It will be going out to all applicable hospitals in the United States. Kind of like a “Most Wanted” list. You all understand there is no law that says everyone is entitled to good medical care. If you think a doctor and/or nurse HAS to help you -to the best of his/her ability- you’re sadly mistaken. They won’t.

  14. I agree with your review of some of the evidence. But the case for mass masking is a more nuanced debate than we seem to be having. It is likely that a public choice to wear masks will have a positive impact on the country as a whole. Hank Kong and s. Korea’s success, not due to mask masking entirely certainly was derived in part. The mechanical benefit is real but it operates at the level of the population and not the individual. Perhaps this simply must be accepted as a cost to all citizens of the values we live by. More Americans must die because we reserve the right to act as we as individuals see fit. This value will kill more people in the USA than the Vietnam war in the next year. But I see it as a choice. The challenge here is that those who elect to act in one way will no doubt cost the lives of some who do not. The best and most recent review of the topic of mass masking I have come across:
    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30918-1/fulltext

  15. I agree there are nuances. Perhaps the biggest is that the virus isn’t going away. You can hide but it won’t be eradicated. So it will come back. Even if masks worked, thisc would only delay infections. Only herd immunity will truly make it go away.

    I don’t understand the “it doesn’t work on individuals, only the larger population” don’t make any sense. If masks worked then the trials world record reduced infections. But it does not.

    The evidence you offer suggesting mask works is inadequate. It only measures reduced droplets. That isn’t infections. It doesn’t matter if people THINK that reduces infection only if it is measured to do so.

  16. You ought to stick to your day job as you clearly have not done the research and know nothing about the nonsense that you spew. I’d do the readers of this publication a favor and prove your arguement wrong but I have neither the time nor the inclination to waste any on you as it appears from the comments above that that job has already been undertaken and done well.

  17. Where are your references?? For the studies you discuss in this editorial? You should have provided a reference list with links to the studies you mentioned, as well as citations. Without it, The information you are sharing here has no evidentiary value and cannot be fact checked. People are sharing your opinion piece as if it’s laced with scientific fact. Very irresponsible!!

  18. Heidi, I included links to all the studies I cited in the comments section. Here they are again.

    Research on effectiveness of face masks
    https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article?fbclid=IwAR2V1hPqN0WKb2kXVExP_1UE9ARvru6mtPZvZN0w1jx0S3l3fXLhxMP_bXs

    Research showing low infection rate in school setting
    http://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2020-04/NCIRS%20NSW%20Schools%20COVID_Summary_FINAL%20public_26%20April%202020.pdf

    Research showing cloth masks lead to higher respiratory infection rate
    https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577

  19. It’s almost always a conservative tech guying selling the snake oil. Yes, there are scientists who think CLOTH masks are not effective, but the N95 certainly is, and there are plenty. There is other evidence that cloth masks, which prevent droplets from being exhaled at some percentage, and inhaled by some percentage, reduce transmission. The studies that they increase infection are bullshit in that they assume wearers are doing things people can be educated to NOT do. I realize the lowest common denominator wants to act like a toddler and not be told what to do, but it’s an easy measure with evidence that it can be effective and resisting this simple measure is just really not adulting. Grow up.

    1. I find many of the pro-mask commenters above, so tiring, It’s the typical liberal attempt to attack anyone who disagrees with them or their leaders. regardless of any pesky facts. To them it’s always a “feel good” thing and declaring superiority over those who won’t blindly follow them or their favorite “leaders”. Some independent thinking would be refreshing, but sheep must follow, so I won’t hold my breath.

  20. “None of the household studies reported a significant reduction in secondary laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infections in the face mask group (11–13,15,17,34,35). Most studies were underpowered because of limited sample size, and some studies also reported suboptimal adherence in the face mask group.”

    So they admit that the results were based on a very small group, and with people not adhering to the guidelines set out for them.

    Aka, you’re cherry picking. The fact that you leave out the very next sentence in the CDC study is completely indicative of it.

    The study doesn’t say that they aren’t effective, but that they couldn’t prove that they were due to small sample size and poor controls. That’s a massive difference.

  21. Way back in the beginning stages of this irrational fear, a couple of epidemiologists and a doctor from the East Coast said that masks don’t keep you from getting it, but they can keep from spreading it if you have it. That was good enough for me, since it was so early that politics hadn’t been involved yet. I didn’t have it, (still don’t), and don’t wear a mask, either. But like the author, I did my own independent thinking, and came to my own conclusion based on data I trusted.

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