Huge study finds surgical masks made 'little or no difference' in stopping the spread of Covid-19
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A new medical review has found masks were kind of pointless when it came to preventing the spread of Covid-19.
The Cochrane Review, a research journal widely considered to be the gold standard of evidence-based medical research (according to Slate and Bloomberg), has revealed masks made little to no difference to keeping the virus from jumping from person to person.
The review published their findings at the end of January and the findings were annoying, to say the least.
It found that 'wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference'.
Furthermore, even for the nurses and doctors buzzing about coronavirus wards around the globe providing critical care, the Cochrane Review found 'there were no clear differences' between medical or surgical masks versus the health-preferred N95.
So, every time you were refused an Uber because you'd forgotten yours, well, it was sort of pointless.
All of those times you felt awkward in an enclosed space because the elastic on yours had just snapped? Redundant.
Or was it?
There's a saying, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
And that's what the Cochrane Review doesn't give us.
It doesn't definitively say that masks don't reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
It just argues about types of masks and points to other studies done to date that have not proven that they do.
The review states: "The high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions."
The added: "There is uncertainty about the effects of face masks. The low to moderate certainty of evidence means our confidence in the effect estimate is limited, and that the true effect may be different from the observed estimate of the effect."
Director of the pandemic centre at Brown University School of Public Health Jennifer Nuzzo told Slate exactly this.
"The Cochrane Review tells us two important things," she said.
"First, there have been very few high-quality studies examining the effectiveness of masks during the COVID pandemic, and second, from the little high-quality data we do have, we don’t see large impacts of masking in preventing viral infections on the population level.
"This doesn’t necessarily mean masks don’t protect individuals. But it could mean that the way they’re used at the population level is not effective.
"We need more randomised trials to understand why."
A piece published by the University of New South Wales argues that respirator masks like N95s are useful against viruses such as Covid-19 as they are designed and regulated to prevent airborne infections by fitting closely to the face to prevent air leakage.
They also filter out '95 per cent or more of potential infectious particles', the UNSW article reads.
UNSW researchers said: "Face masks and respirators work in two ways: they protect the wearer from becoming infected and they prevent an infected wearer from spreading their germs to other people.
"There is strong and consistent evidence for the effectiveness of masks and (even more so) respirators in protecting against respiratory infections."
They added: "Masks are an important protection against serious infections."
UNSW researchers called the Cochrane Review 'not informative' as the review doesn't take all situations into account: Masks, no masks, and everything in between.
"A systematic review is only as good as the rigour it employs in combining similar studies of similar interventions, with similar measurement of outcomes," they said.
"When very different studies of different interventions are combined, the results are not informative."
The Cochrane Review noted that