Implicitly, in the context of the public debate about mask use, the Times means that the science has been settled and shows that widespread mask use by the general population in community settings is an effective means of preventing transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which further implies that executive orders requiring mask use are evidence-based.
The New York Times is lying. The debate is far from “settled” in favor of universal mask use, and just how ludicrous a claim that is can be illustrated simply by examining its own cited sources.
It’s not surprising, of course, that the statist Times has taken the position that we should obey executive orders to wear a face mask whenever we leave our homes and enter public places—which, in some states or municipalities, means even when outdoors.
The whole nature of the debate is utterly ridiculous. The question being asked is, “Should you wear a mask?” And there’s a tendency for people on either side of this debate to answer the question either “Yes” or “No”.
But both of those positions are extreme, irrational, and unscientific. The truthful, evidence-based answer to the question is “It depends.”
The idea that a blanket recommendation can be made one way or the other to the entire population is ludicrous and ignores the fact that there are many variables to take into consideration. No bureaucrat can possibly issue reasonable orders to others because no bureaucrat has the unique knowledge of the individual situation that is required to be able to make that assessment.
My purpose here is not to extensively review the existing literature on masks or to detail all the variables that must be taken into consideration, but to simply illustrate how utterly absurd it is for the Times to authoritatively declare that the science has been settled in support of universal mask wearing.
- Inventing a Scientific Consensus
- Drawing a Conclusion That Doesn’t Follow from Its Own Source’s Findings (Exhibit A)
- Drawing a Conclusion That Doesn’t Follow from Its Own Sources Findings (Exhibit B)
- Ignoring Contrary Evidence (Exhibit A)
- Ignoring Contrary Evidence (Exhibit B)
- Airborne Virus Is Not a Primary Mode of Transmission
- Surface Contamination Is Not a Primary Mode of Transmission
- The Unreliability of ‘Expert’ Opinion
To support its argument, the Times article continues, “Although public health authorities gave confusing and often contradictory advice in the early months of the pandemic, most experts now agree that if everyone wears a mask, individuals protect one another.”
Let’s pause right there. Let’s assume just for a moment that this is true, that “most experts” concur with the basis for mask-wearing orders, if not with their mandated use. The first thing to keep in mind is that, as pointed out in one of the most widely cited studies in all of the medical literature, “Empirical evidence on expert opinion shows that it is extremely unreliable.”
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to “experts” and take their opinion into consideration, but that is certainly no substitute for doing one’s own thinking. So let’s do our own thinking.
The first question that we must ask ourselves, if we do our own thinking, is whether it is true that “most” experts agree. How does the Times know? What is its basis for this statement? Was an expert opinion survey done? The Times doesn’t cite a source. So how do we know that this isn’t just the impression of the author, Knvul Sheikh? And how do we know that this expressed opinion isn’t evidence of confirmation bias, the psychological tendency of individuals to accept any information that supports their preexisting beliefs or political opinions while rejecting information that contradicts their views?
If you’re doing your own research and thinking for yourself on this issue, you might already have come to the conclusion that the Times’ claim is extremely puzzling, given the fact that no less authoritative a public health authority than the World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that it’s unnecessary for healthy people to wear a mask.
So which experts are we to believe?
Well, to answer that question, we need to ask ourselves which piece of advice makes the most sense. The same New York Times feature, which includes a series of short articles by various authors, notes in a separate section that the “main driver” of transmission is by “directly inhaling droplets released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, sings or talks.”
The Times cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states, “The primary and most important mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through close contact from person-to-person.”
The virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the CDC says, is “spread mainly” between people “in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)” through “respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks”, with the latter possibly including from people “who are not showing symptoms” (obviously, people who have no symptoms aren’t coughing or sneezing).
We need to be careful, though, to distinguish between larger respiratory droplets and smaller aerosolized particles. The former is recognized universally to be the primary mode of transmission. The latter is a theoretical possibility in community settings but has only been documented in “superspreader” events where people were gathered in close contact with each other for an extended duration.
For example, 53 members of a 122-member choir in Washington state were confirmed or presumed to have developed COVID-19 after 61 of them attended a choir practice on March 10. A CDC investigation concluded that transmission may have occurred through aerosolized viral particles. Dose and duration of exposure is a risk factor for more serious illness, and increased volume increases the amount of aerosols, so an infected person singing or talking loudly in face-to-face contact with others runs the risk of spreading the virus to them.
The spread of the virus by such means requires “unique activities and circumstances”—like 61 choir members sitting closely together and singing loudly together for a long time. The CDC drew the conclusion that people in the community setting should maintain six feet of separation and wear cloth face coverings if social distancing cannot be maintained.
That’s an important “if”. Here in Michigan, as in other states, the mask-wearing order is accompanied by an order to maintain six feet of social distancing and an order to stores to limit the number of people allowed inside based on floor space. How does that make any sense? The mask-wearing order might arguably make some sense if the other orders weren’t in place, but even then not as a universal measure. Again, the individual circumstances matter.
Most superspreader events have occurred indoors, and all have involved groups of people in prolonged close contact with each other.
So, to answer the question, given what we know about viral transmission, the WHO’s advice makes obvious sense, provided that social distancing is maintained.
So how does the Times arrive at the conclusion that you should always wear a mask “in public settings”, regardless of individual circumstances?
To try to get you to believe that the science is settled on that question and that indiscriminate mask-wearing orders are evidence-based, the Times continues:
“Researchers know that even simple masks can effectively stop droplets spewing from an infected wearer’s nose or mouth. In a study published in April in Nature, scientists showed that when people who are infected with influenza, rhinovirus or a mild cold-causing coronavirus wore a mask, it blocked nearly 100 percent of the viral droplets they exhaled, as well as some tiny aerosol particles.”
To continue the exercise of doing our own thinking: what’s this now about breathing? Again, according to the very same Times feature, simply breathing is not a significant mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Suddenly now, though, just breathing is going to spread the virus even with other social distancing measures in place?
What sense does that make? The Times is resting its argument here on the assumption that just breathing is a significant mode of transmission, but it fails to provide any scientific evidence to support that assumption and, indeed, doesn’t even attempt to do so.
But even if we accept that assumption for the sake of argument, if we check the Times’ source (which is a good habit to get into if you wish to avoid being bamboozled by government and media propaganda), we can see that the Times is trying to deceive us.
First, the Times would have you believe that the Nature study examined the effectiveness of “even simple masks” like the cloth masks people have been ordered to wear instead of N95 respirators of surgical masks. Remember, the public has been specifically told not to wear medical masks.
In fact, the Nature study only examined surgical masks. Its findings do not apply to cloth masks as the Times would deceptively have you believe.
Second, as the Times discloses, this study applied to common human coronaviruses, influenza, and rhinoviruses, not to SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, while its findings are helpful for guiding our assumptions about SARS-CoV-2, we should be careful about drawing hard conclusions the way the Times does.
Third, the authors acknowledged that there is “little information on the efficacy of face masks in filtering respiratory viruses and reducing viral release from an individual with respiratory infections, and most research has focused on influenza.”
Does that sound like the science is settled to you?
In essence, the Times is therefore implicitly claiming that this single study’s findings are conclusive and that it singlehandedly ends the debate.
Fourth, the study participants were not only breathing during sample collection. Among those infected with common human coronaviruses, participants averaged seventeen coughs during the 30 minutes of exhaled breath collection.
Fifth, to obtain the results they did, the researchers collected respiratory droplets and aerosols from people breathing and coughing for half an hour.
Sixth, what the Times means when saying that the study showed “nearly 100 percent” effectiveness is that, among those infected with a common human coronavirus, no viral droplets were detected from the eleven surgical mask wearers while viral particles were detected in 30 percent of samples from the ten without masks; no aerosols were detected from the eleven mask wearers while aerosols were detected from 40 percent of the eleven without masks. Only the result for aerosolized particles reached statistical significance, meaning that for larger droplets, there’s a high likelihood that the results were just due to chance because of the small sample size.
As the authors point out, but the Times chooses not to disclose, “Among the samples collected without a face mask, we found that the majority of participants with influenza virus and coronavirus infection did not shed detectable virus in respiratory droplets or aerosols . . . . For those who did shed virus in respiratory droplets and aerosols, viral load in both tended to be low.” (Emphasis added.)
Keep in mind that this was true even though they collected breath and cough samples for a full thirty minutes.
As the authors further noted, this implied that “prolonged close contact would be required for transmission to occur, even if transmission was primarily via aerosols” (emphasis added).
Seventh, the researchers “did not confirm the infectivity of coronavirus or rhinovirus detected in exhaled breath.” (Emphasis added.)
So, in short, to support its statist political message that we should all shut up and obey our authoritarian overlords and wear a mask because the science is settled and the directives are evidence-based, the New York Times cites a study whose findings actually indicate that, unless you are coughing, sneezing, or in prolonged close contact with others, wearing a mask is pointless.
Far from supporting the New York Times’ position, its own cited study rather supports the WHO’s contrary position.
The Times doesn’t help its case any when it goes on to support its contention that simple face coverings are highly effective at preventing transmission by asserting that one study showed that “cloth masks block 10 to 30 percent of tiny particles.”
Well, that doesn’t sound very impressive! But at least it means that cloth masks offer some protection, right? Well, first, turning to the source, here’s what that looks like represented graphically in comparison to the filtration effectiveness of an N95 respirator:
The study, published in 2010, considered only smaller virus-sized aerosol particles, not droplets (and not virus particles), and its authors concluded that cloth masks “may provide only minimal levels of respiratory protection to a wearer against virus-size submicron aerosol particles” in part because “fabric materials show only marginal filtration performance against virus-size particles when sealed around the edges.” (Emphasis added.)
The authors added, “Face seal leakage will further decrease the respiratory protection offered by fabric materials.” They did not measure leakage, “which is a critical component of respiratory protection.” (Emphasis added.)
Overall, cloth masks showed “poor performance” and at best might offer “some level of protection” when used in combination with other protective measures (like social distancing and hand washing).
In short, to support its suggestion that science has settled the question of whether everyone should obey orders to wear a mask, the Times cites a study showing that cloth masks are highly ineffective at preventing aerosolized virus-sized particles from passing through even when forming a tight seal around the edges, which, of course, isn’t the case in real world circumstances.
The Times cites one other study to support its case, but it had to do with N95 respirators, which the general public has been told not to use since these should be reserved for health care workers. Hence, that study is totally irrelevant to the debate and we can forego examining it.
And that’s it. That’s the totality of the scientific evidence that the Times presents to support its contention that the debate is settled, and that the science tells us that we should obediently heed the orders of our overlords.
Naturally, the Times does not share with its readers a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that similarly collected samples from four individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2—as opposed to with a common coronaviruses, influenza, or rhinovirus—and found that “Neither surgical nor cotton masks effectively filtered SARS-CoV-2 during coughs by infected patients.” (Emphasis added.)
Viral particles passed right through both types of masks. The authors also found that, counterintuitively, a heavy viral load was collected on the outside of the mask, with little to no contamination on the inside, which may have been due to a “turbulent jet due to air leakage around the mask”. (They emphasized the importance, therefore, of washing hands after touching the outer surface of the mask.)
They concluded that “both surgical and cotton masks seem to be ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19 to the environment and external mask surface.”
In sum, what the science tells us is not only that masks are unnecessary for healthy people except in certain unique circumstances, but also that cloth masks worn by people with symptoms of COVID-19 are not effective for preventing viral transmission.
Similarly, the Times also does not share the findings of a study published on May 19 on the Cornell University pre-print (not yet peer-reviewed) server arXiv that examined the effectiveness of cloth masks at preventing transmission of aerosol particles from breathing or coughing.
Far from agreeing with the Times that the debate is “settled”, the authors noted that the effectiveness of masks at preventing the wearer from transmitting viral particles to others is “controversial”.
While it seems “intuitive” that “the dispersion of both droplets and aerosol is substantial[ly] reduced by wearing face masks”, there is the potential problem of air leakage around the mask perimeter.
The authors found that, while all types of masks tested could reduce the distance that exhaled or coughed air travelled through the front of the mask by at least 90 percent, both surgical masks and cloth masks produced a “potentially dangerous leakage jet” that is “projected backwards at high speed”. All face covers also produce a “potentially dangerous leakage jet” downward.
They reasoned that if the wearer turns their face to the side when they cough, as people are in the habit of doing as a common courtesy to others, “there is a risk that this backward jet is directed closer to a person standing in front of the wearer.”
Surgical and hand-made masks, they concluded, “generate significant leakage jets that have the potential to disperse virus-laden fluid particles by several metres.”
Consequently, there is “a false sense of security that may arise when standing to the side of, or behind, a person wearing a surgical, or handmade mask”.
In other words, if viral particles are being transported through the air from exhaled breath or coughs, wearing a mask doesn’t prevent this from happening; it just makes it happen in ways that people don’t expect and thereby potentially increases the risk of transmission compared to if people just went maskless and used common sense and courtesy when around others.
Here are two images from the study so you can better visualize the effect:
In short, neither surgical nor cloth masks prevented the escape of potentially virus-laden fluid particles from heavy breathing or coughing.
An important caveat is that this study did not demonstrate viral transmission. They only studied air flow dynamics.
It must be emphasized that spread of the virus through aerosol particles, as opposed to larger respiratory droplets primarily from coughing and sneezing, has not been shown to be a significant mode of transmission except under unique circumstances.
The use of the term “airborne” when speaking of transmission appears to confuse a lot of people. I get the sense a lot of people think that SARS-CoV-2 is an “airborne” virus since it spreads through the air via respiratory droplets. And that makes sense if we take the word to mean its simple dictionary definition. However, “airborne” in the scientific sense with respect to transmission is a technical term that specifically refers to smaller aerosolized particles that linger in the air longer than larger droplets.
When the CDC says that transmission occurs through the latter, it is saying that the virus is not generally airborne transmissible. Again, there are documented cases where airborne transmission appears to have occurred, but only in unique circumstances.
A rapid expert consultation in April for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine noted that transmission of aerosolized virus generated by breathing and speaking was a “possibility”, but whether such aerosols would contain enough viable virus to produce infection remained unknown.
Relatedly, while there are documented cases in which asymptomatic individuals appear to have spread the virus, it does not appear that this occurs frequently, contrary to what government officials and the media seem to want us to believe.
The Annals of Internal Medicine study mentioned earlier similarly noted that “Further study is needed to recommend whether face masks decrease transmission of virus from asymptomatic individuals or those with suspected COVID-19 who are not coughing.”
As a technical report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in April points out, “The role of asymptomatic infections in transmission is unknown.”
Although theoretically masks worn by people without symptoms might reduce the spread, “Based on the lack of evidence, it has so far not been recommended that people who are not ill or who are not providing care to a patient should wear a mask to reduce influenza or COVID-19 transmission.” (Emphasis added.)
I have personally read approximately fifty studies and public health guidance documents related to the use of masks to prevent virus transmission. There is enough evidence to suggest that asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers could potentially transmit the virus if they are in close contact with others for an extended duration of time or if they are talking loudly or singing in close proximity to others or in a crowded indoor environment with poor ventilation, like public transportation.
Apart from those caveats, there is no scientific evidence to support the assumption underlying mask-wearing orders that people without any symptoms of illness pose a significant risk to others in the general community setting.
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth pointing out that fomites have not been shown to be a significant mode of transmission, either.
The media has long been fixated on a few laboratory studies showing that viable virus can remain on different surfaces for various amounts of time, but caveats about how lab settings don’t necessarily mimic real world settings are forever lost in the public messaging.
A rare exception happens to be a recent article from none other than the New York Times!
In that article, the Times notes that the CDC has concluded that fomite transmission is possible, but this doesn’t appear to be a primary means by which the virus spreads.
To become infected via this route, someone else would had to cough or sneeze on an object, or on their hands and then touch the object; then you’d have to touch that object while the virus remains viable, which most likely means immediately, but possibly also within a few hours; and then you’d have to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth for infection to occur.
So, the best way to prevent transmission via fomites is not to wear a mask, which might actually increase the risk (as we’ll discuss momentarily), but to simply avoid touching your face and practice good hygiene by, as the Times sensibly advises, “washing your hands.”
Well, as a case in point, the New York Times, in addition to citing the two relevant studies to support its mask argument, also cites the opinion of a single expert to support its argument: “’Wearing a mask is better than nothing,’ said Dr. Robert Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine. Because the coronavirus typically infects people by entering their body through the mouth and nose, covering these areas can act as the first line of defense against the virus, he said.”
Dr. Atmar is thus saying that the purpose of a mask is to protect the person wearing it from infection, as opposed to preventing the wearer from transmitting the virus to others. This flies in the face of what the science tells us, which is that only property fitted masks like N95 respirators that filter out very small particles and form a tight seal around the face do that effectively.
Additionally, the Times paraphrases Atmar saying, “Donning a face covering is also likely to prevent you from touching your face, which is another way the coronavirus can be transmitted from contaminated surfaces to unsuspecting individuals.”
This, too, defies reason considering how people who are unused to wearing masks actually behave when told they must wear one. Anecdotally, whenever I go to the grocery store these days, I look around and invariably see other people touching their masks to pull it down to breath, or to pull it back on again as someone nears them, or to adjust it. Masks don’t appear to me to be preventing people from touching their face but causing them to touch their face much more frequently.
Setting aside personal anecdotes, this tendency is duly noted within the scientific community and medical literature. As the ECDC notes, there is a risk that “improper removal of the face mask, handling of a contaminated face mask or an increased tendency to touch the face while wearing a face mask by healthy persons might actually increase the risk of transmission.”
Additionally, there is a risk that “The use of face masks may provide a false sense of security leading to suboptimal physical distancing, poor respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene—and even not staying at home when ill.”
As the ECDC advises, “Recommendations on the use of face masks in the community should carefully take into account evidence gaps, the supply situation, and potential negative side effects.”
I have seen no evidence that politicians issuing mask-wearing orders have taken those things into account. On the contrary, what I see are politicians ludicrously claiming that their policies are supported by The Science™ and are all benefit and no risk. The very idea of a blanket recommendation itself is ludicrous, given the actual science.
The only recommendation that makes sense is for every individual to behave in a socially responsible manner and exercise their own judgment about whether wearing a mask would be appropriate based on their own unique circumstances.
Echoing the ECDC’s warnings about the potential risks of widespread mask wearing among the general public, a recent Lancet article noted that “improper use of face masks, such as not changing disposable masks, could jeopardise the protective effect and even increase the risk of infection.”
The Lancet article also points out that, in addition to the WHO recommending the use of masks only for people with symptoms or who are caring for someone with COVID-19, public health authorities in Japan advise: “If you have symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, wearing a facemask is proved to be highly effective in catching the droplets, and therefore might help prevent the spread of viruses. The effectiveness of wearing a facemask to protect yourself from contracting viruses is thought to be very limited. If you wear a facemask in confined, badly ventilated spaces, it might help avoid catching droplets emitted from others but if you are in an open-air environment, the use of facemask is not very efficient.” (Emphasis added.)
In the UK, the National Health Service advises: “Face masks play an important role in places like hospitals, but there is little evidence to show that they are beneficial in public settings.” (Emphasis added.)
A WHO guidance paper on the use of masks to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 points out that “Current evidence suggests that most disease is transmitted by symptomatic laboratory confirmed cases.”
That is, while politicians and the media perpetually paint the mental picture of asymptomatic carriers going around and infecting everyone else in the community setting, the evidence suggests that’s not what’s happening. For starters, by definition, people who are asymptomatic are not coughing or sneezing, which is universally recognized to be the predominant mode of transmission. The nuances with respect to the possibility of asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission occurring have already been discussed.
As the WHO points out, “pre-symptomatic transmission still requires the virus to be spread via infectious droplets or through touching contaminated surfaces.” (Emphasis added.)
Therefore, “the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risks.” (Emphasis added.)
The risks include “self-contamination that can occur by touching and reusing contaminated masks”; “depending on type of mask used, potential breathing difficulties”; and “false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene”.
Government officials making recommendations or policies with respect to mask usage should “explain to the population the circumstances, criteria, and reasons for decisions”, and the public “should receive clear instructions on what masks to wear, when and how”. Medical masks should be reserved for health care workers, and there is “no current evidence” to support the use of cloth masks in the community setting.
Of course, that is not what’s happening in the US. Instead, clueless politicians who think they know better than the rest of us what’s in our own best interests are issuing diktats that are unsupported by scientific evidence and contrary to common sense.
Both common sense and the scientific evidence rather tell us that the question of whether to wear a mask must be made by everyone based on each individual circumstance.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, whether its in favor of or against the use of masks, either doesn’t know what they are talking about or is lying to advocate a political agenda.
So, what explains Dr. Atmar’s comments selectively chosen by the New York Times to support its position? Is he truly so ignorant of the science? Or could it be that he is just towing the official line on masks because his university depends in part on taxpayers’ dollars forcibly expropriated by government bureaucrats for redistribution to his institution?
In this context, it’s worth pointing out that the endgame of authoritarian lockdown measures has from the start been mass vaccination. The public has been conditioned to submit to executive orders, with governors declaring “law” by fiat and enacting faith-based lockdown policies for which the exit strategy is based on hope in the pharmaceutical industry to save us with drugs or vaccine technology.
Here in Michigan, for example, Gretchen Whitmer has unveiled a six-step plan to reopen the state that informs us that mandated social distancing and mask wearing, limitations on the size of gatherings, and continued forced closure of some businesses and strict limitations on others will continue until “the number of infected individuals falls to nearly zero” due to “[h]igh uptake of an effective therapy or vaccine”.
In the same context, it’s worth noting that the Baylor College of Medicine is involved in vaccine development. In fact, one of Dr. Atmar’s colleagues at Baylor, Dr. Peter Hotez, also serves as co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and is currently working on two COVID-19 vaccines.
Hotez has also been a strong proponent of state-mandated vaccinations, euphemistically framing his advocacy of systemic violation of the parental right to informed consent in terms of a child’s “right” to be vaccinated, which effectively means the state’s “right” to dictate to parents what medical interventions they must submit their children to, despite government bureaucrats having none of the same specialized knowledge of the individual child that the parents have and that is required in order to be able to conduct a meaningful risk-benefit analysis.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, Hotez also serves as a leading propagandist, manufacturing consent for public vaccine policy by deceiving the public about the risks and benefits of vaccines, such as claiming that the fatality rate of measles in the US is 1 to 3 deaths for every 1,000 children infected despite the CDC’s own data showing that, in the pre-vaccine era, the fatality rate was 1 to 2 deaths per 10,000 infections, which is also reflected in the observation of the Institute of Medicine in a 1994 report that, in developed countries like the US, “the measles fatality rate is 1 per 10,000 cases”.
Dr. Atmar, too, is involved in vaccine development as a member of the Baylor Vaccine Research Center and the federally funded Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit, which conducts trials of experimental and licensed vaccines.
Mandatory mask-wearing regardless of individual circumstances test the limits of what the American people are willing to submit themselves to in terms of infringement on our liberty, with grave implications for governmental respect for our right to informed consent and our right to determine for ourselves the most appropriate and socially responsible behavior in any given circumstance.
We’re left to speculate with respect to Dr. Atmar’s demonstrably unreliable expert opinion, but when it comes to the statist New York Times, the evidence is unequivocal that it is outright lying to the public in order to support the political agenda. It is obvious just from examining the Times’ own sources that it is not doing journalism but advocating policies that, contrary to its bold proclamation, are unsupported by the weight of scientific evidence.
The only mask recommendation that makes any sense and is supported by science is the recommendation for each individual to educate themselves about the transmission risks and the benefits as well as the risks of mask wearing and accordingly to exercise their own judgment as to whether it is an appropriate measure to protect themselves, their loved ones, and others in their community.
The proper role of government and the media in all of this is to help educate and inform, to empower people with the knowledge they need to be able to exercise good judgment. Unfortunately, politicians are more interested in scaring people into obedience while mainstream media sources like the New York Times are more interested in manufacturing consent for authoritarian government policies than in doing journalism.
[Correction appended June 25, 2020: As originally published, this article stated that the number subjects not wearing masks in the study by Leung et al. was four. The correct number is eleven. The number four referred to a subset of subjects from whom samples were collected both while wearing and not wearing a mask. Correction appended, July 31, 2020: As originally published, this article suggested that all 122 members of the choir in Washington state attended the practice at which 53 were believed to have become infected with SARS-CoV-2. In fact, 61 members attended that practice. The original version also suggested the members were standing right next to each other. In fact, the CDC investigation describes them as sitting closely to one another, within six feat of each other. The original version also mischaracterized the investigators’ conclusion. They did not conclude that airborne transmission occurred but that it “possibly” occurred.]
 Knvul Sheikh, “You should be wearing a mask.”, featured in “Six Months of Coronavirus: Here’s Some of What We’ve Learned”, New York Times, June 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-facts-history.html.
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 Apoorva Mandavilli, “We can worry a bit less about infection from surfaces.”, featured in “Six Months of Coronavirus: Here’s Some of What We’ve Learned”, New York Times, June 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-facts-history.html#link-52bb8dd1.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “CDC updates COVID-19 transmission webpage to clarify information about types of spread”, CDC.gov, reviewed May 23, 2020, accessed June 4, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s0522-cdc-updates-covid-transmission.html.
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 Lea Hammer et al., “High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020”, MMWR, May 15, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm.
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 Seongman Bae et al., “Effectiveness of Surgical and Cotton Masks in Blocking SARS–CoV-2: A Controlled Comparison in 4 Patients”, Annals of Internal Medicine, April 6, 2020, https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-1342.
 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Rapid Expert Consultation on the Possibility of Bioaerosol Spread of SARS-CoV-2 for the COVID-19 Pandemic (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press), April 1, 2020, https://doi.org/10.17226/25769.
 Bae et al.
 European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, “Using face masks in the community”, ecdc.europa.eu, April 8, 2020, https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/COVID-19-use-face-masks-community.pdf.
 Tara Parker-Pope, “What’s the Risk of Catching Coronavirus From a Surface?”, New York Times, May 28, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/28/well/live/whats-the-risk-of-catching-coronavirus-from-a-surface.html.
 ECDPC, “Using face masks in the community”.
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