UK face coverings discussion

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35B

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Carl Henegan posts about the landmark Danish study into mask wearing... Facebook flags it as false information.

On this basis, how many articles saying masks 'save lives' have been flagged as false?
Indeed. Heneghan states that the study does not support mask wearing to prevent spread, when the study only assessed the protective effect of masks on wearers. Heneghan’s credibility has just fallen dramatically in my eyes having read that claim, to the level where he appears to be an activist, not the neutral observer he portrays himself as.

I find the way that those opposed to masks, who challenge studies quoted by those in favour of mask wearing for being insufficiently robustly scientific, then leap behind this study as proving their contentions very revealing.

This is a study with many weaknesses, that in no way meets the randomised control standard, yet is now being claimed to be proof that they do not work in the way that we are being advised to wear them.
 
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DavidB

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Indeed. Heneghan states that the study does not support mask wearing to prevent spread, when the study only assessed the protective effect of masks on wearers. Heneghan’s credibility has just fallen dramatically in my eyes having read that claim, to the level where he appears to be an activist, not the neutral observer he portrays himself as.

I find the way that those opposed to masks, who challenge studies quoted by those in favour of mask wearing for being insufficiently robustly scientific, then leap behind this study as proving their contentions very revealing.

This is a study with many weaknesses, that in no way meets the randomised control standard, yet is now being claimed to be proof that they do not work in the way that we are being advised to wear them.

I've not read the full study, but yet again it needs to be reiterated that the burden of proof should be on those who claim they work, not on trying to prove a negative.

Given that many people won't know they have it, and in most countries those who do know will be expected to stay at home, it would be interesting to hear how you think any real-world experiment could be carried out into the effect masks have on transmission?
 

greyman42

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It's not so much knowingly breaking the law that bothers me - I personally believe the law is wrong and unnecessarily authoritarian. It's more the fact that I would have to deal with the BTP, who are probably just doing their jobs and would prefer not to be enforcing these laws.
As far as i am aware, if you sat you have an exemption BTP take it as face value. I am aware there had been very rare isolated incidents at the beginning of the pandemic but i don't think they happen now.
 

packermac

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As far as i am aware, if you sat you have an exemption BTP take it as face value. I am aware there had been very rare isolated incidents at the beginning of the pandemic but i don't think they happen now.
I find it strange that people complain about be stared at by others for not wearing a mask when the mantra of "Just say you are exempt" seems so prevalent on here.
I wonder if people blatantly ignore other laws that they may not like, speed limits, drink driving limits etc?
 

DavidB

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I find it strange that people complain about be stared at by others for not wearing a mask when the mantra of "Just say you are exempt" seems so prevalent on here.
I wonder if people blatantly ignore other laws that they may not like, speed limits, drink driving limits etc?

The 'say you are exempt' comments have been to people who have a genuine reason to claim exemption.

Comparisons with speed and drink driving laws are irrelevant- those have actual evidence for working, have no need for exemptions, and don't lead to people being discriminated against and harassed
 

greyman42

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I find it strange that people complain about be stared at by others for not wearing a mask when the mantra of "Just say you are exempt" seems so prevalent on here.
I wonder if people blatantly ignore other laws that they may not like, speed limits, drink driving limits etc?
If people are exempt then what would you expect them to say?
 

bramling

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I find it strange that people complain about be stared at by others for not wearing a mask when the mantra of "Just say you are exempt" seems so prevalent on here.
I wonder if people blatantly ignore other laws that they may not like, speed limits, drink driving limits etc?

Laws need to be respected, and I simply cannot respect this one.
 

Domh245

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Indeed. Heneghan states that the study does not support mask wearing to prevent spread, when the study only assessed the protective effect of masks on wearers.

Could you point out where he says this? Nowhere in the spectator article can I find any comments along the lines of what you've claimed Heneghan has said. The closest it gets is:

And now that we have properly rigorous scientific research we can rely on, the evidence shows that wearing masks in the community does not significantly reduce the rates of infection.
Which is what the paper shows

This is a study with many weaknesses, that in no way meets the randomised control standard, yet is now being claimed to be proof that they do not work in the way that we are being advised to wear them.

I'm curious as to what ways it doesn't meet randomised control standards?
 

35B

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Could you point out where he says this? Nowhere in the spectator article can I find any comments along the lines of what you've claimed Heneghan has said.
That quote is precisely my point, as is the whole presentation of the article - his argument is that mask wearing doesn't prevent spread of disease, yet the study (as he does acknowledge in passing) is of the effect of the risk to mask wearers of wearing masks. Heneghan is taking research that demonstrates one outcome, and using it to argue a different case.
I've not read the full study, but yet again it needs to be reiterated that the burden of proof should be on those who claim they work, not on trying to prove a negative.
That may or may not be, but Heneghan chose to misrepresent the conclusions in his argument. The logic behind the policy of mask wearing is that my wearing a mask protects others; the study results were that my wearing a mask has a limited impact on the probability that I will catch Covid (specifically, 1.8% of mask wearers rather than 2.1% of the control group caught Covid, so an apparent 10% reduction in risk of catching Covid if mask wearing).

The abstract also portrays a significant list of weaknesses in the survey:
Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others.
That doesn't really support Heneghan's contention "that we have properly rigorous scientific research we can rely on". So I find it quite concerning from the Professor of Evidence Based Medicine; it suggests either that he isn't very good at reading evidence, or that he is prone to personal bias in his interpretation and presentation of it. Or, to put it another way for those on here so keen to dismiss the work of the likes of Tricia Greenhalgh, he looks like just another unscientific hack using whatever comes to hand.

I therefore stand by my view that I struggle with the willingness of those opposed to mask wearing on the basis of the evidence for it being thin to then use this study to "prove" the case that mask wearing doesn't work.
 

initiation

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use this study to "prove" the case that mask wearing doesn't work.

Please enlighten us then with your gold standard studies showing that mask wearing does have a significant effect....

The following edited statement would also be accurate for myself and many others here:
I therefore stand by my view that I struggle with the willingness of those who want mandatory mask wearing on the basis of the evidence for it being thin...

Finally, if people are arguing that this article should be flagged as false information then logically all pro mask articles proclaiming they do work and save lives should also be flagged as false. The evidence for that statement is significantly poorer.
 

35B

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Please enlighten us then with your gold standard studies showing that mask wearing does have a significant effect....

The following edited statement would also be accurate for myself and many others here:


Finally, if people are arguing that this article should be flagged as false information then logically all pro mask articles proclaiming they do work and save lives should also be flagged as false. The evidence for that statement is significantly poorer.
That may be, and may be reasonable. But it doesn't alter the reality that Heneghan/the Spectator (being charitable, an editing error could have crept in) were caught out in a misrepresentation, and are presenting something that says one thing as something else entirely.
 

big_rig

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That may be, and may be reasonable. But it doesn't alter the reality that Heneghan/the Spectator (being charitable, an editing error could have crept in) were caught out in a misrepresentation, and are presenting something that says one thing as something else entirely.
Are you ever going to present any evidence? There must have been at least a dozen posts specifically asking you for it which you ignore time and time again, but keep on popping up pretending to be some kind of neutral observer who is mildly convinced of mask science. Put up or shut up as they say :!:
 

yorkie

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I've not read the full study, but yet again it needs to be reiterated that the burden of proof should be on those who claim they work, not on trying to prove a negative.
Exactly.

The pro-mask lobby don't want to answer this point.
Given that many people won't know they have it, and in most countries those who do know will be expected to stay at home, it would be interesting to hear how you think any real-world experiment could be carried out into the effect masks have on transmission?
Look at the graphs showing rates of transmission in any country that has mandated masks and the conclusions are pretty obvious anyway!
I find it strange that people complain about be stared at by others for not wearing a mask when the mantra of "Just say you are exempt" seems so prevalent on here.
I don't understand what you are saying. Can you clarify?
I wonder if people blatantly ignore other laws that they may not like, speed limits, drink driving limits etc?
Can you again explain what you are referring to exactly? As for your comparisons, what have they got to do with anything?

I really have no idea what you are trying to say!
 

35B

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Are you ever going to present any evidence? There must have been at least a dozen posts specifically asking you for it which you ignore time and time again, but keep on popping up pretending to be some kind of neutral observer who is mildly convinced of mask science. Put up or shut up as they say :!:
I find that post very interesting, as I've made no comment for or against mask wearing today; just an observation on the hypocrisy of those who demand evidence in favour of mask wearing, yet proclaim that this study "proves" the inefficacy of something it doesn't actually measure or test.

Oh, and by the way, I don't call the 10% reduction in risk that this study has reported trivial. Not earth shattering, but not non-existent either.
 

jtuk

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I find that post very interesting, as I've made no comment for or against mask wearing today; just an observation on the hypocrisy of those who demand evidence in favour of mask wearing, yet proclaim that this study "proves" the inefficacy of something it doesn't actually measure or test.

Oh, and by the way, I don't call the 10% reduction in risk that this study has reported trivial. Not earth shattering, but not non-existent either.
It is trivial when you consider the near complete absence of risk where masks are required
 

DavidB

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I find that post very interesting, as I've made no comment for or against mask wearing today; just an observation on the hypocrisy of those who demand evidence in favour of mask wearing, yet proclaim that this study "proves" the inefficacy of something it doesn't actually measure or test.

Oh, and by the way, I don't call the 10% reduction in risk that this study has reported trivial. Not earth shattering, but not non-existent either.

Has it actually reported a 10% reduction? I.e. is the difference statistically significant?

And as I asked you earlier, how would you design a real world experiment to prove whether masks have any effect on transmission?

Is there actually any real evidence anyway for the claim that it protects others from the wearer, rather than the wearer from others? Is this another of those much claimed 'facts' which has been invented to suit the narrative? Given that it's probably impossible to test in a real world situation, and allows people to be demonised, it is exactly the sort of claim which would fit the Project Fear narrative.
 
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big_rig

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I find that post very interesting, as I've made no comment for or against mask wearing today; just an observation on the hypocrisy of those who demand evidence in favour of mask wearing, yet proclaim that this study "proves" the inefficacy of something it doesn't actually measure or test.

Oh, and by the way, I don't call the 10% reduction in risk that this study has reported trivial. Not earth shattering, but not non-existent either.

Your ongoing commentary in this thread. It’s like whack a mole. When people ask for evidence (as I myself have done previously) you ignore it and disappear, and re-engage later on with more concern trolling.

It’s like this latest commentary on a supposed 10% reduction. Can you point us to the bit which says it’s statistically significant (hint: it doesn’t, so I don’t know why you claim it)? Can you point to any evidence about masks at all, as you’ve been repeatedly asked for? Save the infographics of people peeing their pants, or the rest of the nonsense, just some evidence. Won’t hold my breath.
 

farleigh

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I find that post very interesting, as I've made no comment for or against mask wearing today; just an observation on the hypocrisy of those who demand evidence in favour of mask wearing, yet proclaim that this study "proves" the inefficacy of something it doesn't actually measure or test.

Oh, and by the way, I don't call the 10% reduction in risk that this study has reported trivial. Not earth shattering, but not non-existent either.
I don't understand why you never respond to people when they request evidence to back up your points.
 

Yew

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I find that post very interesting, as I've made no comment for or against mask wearing today; just an observation on the hypocrisy of those who demand evidence in favour of mask wearing, yet proclaim that this study "proves" the inefficacy of something it doesn't actually measure or test.

Oh, and by the way, I don't call the 10% reduction in risk that this study has reported trivial. Not earth shattering, but not non-existent either.
It's called the null hypothesis, it's the fundamental basis of science.

And about the supposed 10%, it's not statistically significant, which means that the level of difference is below the level of 'noise' in the signal; ergo it does not exist.
 

35B

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It's called the null hypothesis, it's the fundamental basis of science.

And about the supposed 10%, it's not statistically significant, which means that the level of difference is below the level of 'noise' in the signal; ergo it does not exist.
I can respect that argument around the null hypothesis. Likewise, I lack the statistical knowledge to comment on whether that 10% is or is not noise, though in a world of marginal gains, I’m instinctively surprised that it should be irrelevant What I don’t respect, and where Heneghan fell significantly in my estimation, is the attempt to argue that this study of one scenario is proof that a wholly different scenario is false. That argument is not about science, but dogma.
 

Yew

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I can respect that argument around the null hypothesis. Likewise, I lack the statistical knowledge to comment on whether that 10% is or is not noise, though in a world of marginal gains, I’m instinctively surprised that it should be irrelevant What I don’t respect, and where Heneghan fell significantly in my estimation, is the attempt to argue that this study of one scenario is proof that a wholly different scenario is false. That argument is not about science, but dogma.
It's more to do with the precision of the experiment, we can't tell whether it is a real phenomenon, or randomness in the sampling. 10% sounds good on it's own, when the percentage of infections was (from memory) around 2/3%, it becomes a couple of people's worth of difference.
 

big_rig

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I can respect that argument around the null hypothesis. Likewise, I lack the statistical knowledge to comment on whether that 10% is or is not noise, though in a world of marginal gains, I’m instinctively surprised that it should be irrelevant What I don’t respect, and where Heneghan fell significantly in my estimation, is the attempt to argue that this study of one scenario is proof that a wholly different scenario is false. That argument is not about science, but dogma.

May I suggest reading the study, which says that it is not statistically significant, instead of playing dumb with the continued intellectual dishonesty and refusal to provide any evidence?
 

initiation

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I lack the statistical knowledge to comment on whether that 10% is or is not noise

Clearly. Yet you were the one who raised the difference in the first place...


I fear nothing will please the maskavists. A RCT will come out at some point for source control in public settings and show no significant benefit, the message will then switch to viral load or some other random assertion.
 

bramling

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Clearly. Yet you were the one who raised the difference in the first place...


I fear nothing will please the maskavists. A RCT will come out at some point for source control in public settings and show no significant benefit, the message will then switch to viral load or some other random assertion.

We really need to move on from masks. Things have got to the disturbing point where people now post rubbish on social media like how terrible it was that they were on a train and someone at the other end of the carriage didn’t have a mask over their nose. Such people should take a step back and look at themselves - it’s completely hysterical to be angered by people merely breathing.
 

farleigh

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I can respect that argument around the null hypothesis. Likewise, I lack the statistical knowledge to comment on whether that 10% is or is not noise, though in a world of marginal gains, I’m instinctively surprised that it should be irrelevant What I don’t respect, and where Heneghan fell significantly in my estimation, is the attempt to argue that this study of one scenario is proof that a wholly different scenario is false. That argument is not about science, but dogma.
Please supply some evidence
 

Reliablebeam

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I see Jim Naismith is mouthing off about masks in the media in light of the Danish study -

'I will continue to wear a mask to protect others, and I would ask those who can, to do so too. If I am wrong, the cost to me has been virtually zero. If I’m right, then maybe someone avoided a serious illness.’

Ok Jim, top banana for you. But he was a big factor in my campus moving to compulsory masking everywhere. But you're not 'asking', you're forcing a lot of us to wear masks in chemical and radiological environments. I felt physically sick trying to do wet chemistry wearing these things the other day.
 

Bantamzen

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Indeed. Heneghan states that the study does not support mask wearing to prevent spread, when the study only assessed the protective effect of masks on wearers. Heneghan’s credibility has just fallen dramatically in my eyes having read that claim, to the level where he appears to be an activist, not the neutral observer he portrays himself as.

I find the way that those opposed to masks, who challenge studies quoted by those in favour of mask wearing for being insufficiently robustly scientific, then leap behind this study as proving their contentions very revealing.

This is a study with many weaknesses, that in no way meets the randomised control standard, yet is now being claimed to be proof that they do not work in the way that we are being advised to wear them.
Just out of curiosity why would a professor posting about a scientific study make them less credible in your eyes? Is there some information you have yet to reveal that undermines the study's conclusion, or is it just you don't like what it did conclude?
 

The Ham

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The biggest flaw with the latest study is that it noted less than 50% compliance in mask wearing. Unless the results ignored those who failed to wear their masks when they had been advised to, then the results are always going to show limited benefits.

If those who didn't adhere to mask guidance were infected at the same rate as the control group but weren't excluded from the data that's going to change the numbers.

Let's say there's 4,000 in each group, 2.1% of non mask wearers are infected then that's 84 from the control group, but also 42 from the 50% who didn't wear masks when they were told to. That then means that to get to 72 (1.8% of the masked group) you need 30 from the other 50%. However if you look at the percentage infection rate for that (30/2000) then it falls to 1.5%. Not a big fall in it's own right, but probably enough to mean that statistically there's some protection even allowing for margin of error, even though it's just for those wearing a mask and the infection coming from others.

Although by excluding half your group by then not wearing masks you make your sample size quite a bit smaller.

Other limiting factors on the benefits:
- it appears that not everyone from a household were advised to wear a mask
- the study was looking for people who were out of their home for over 3 hours a day, with the average within the study being 4.5 hours, that would imply some going to work and mask wearing. Well if they are doing that but not in a well ventilated area then masks do have limited benefits after several hours in those settings.
- out of the home for over the hours, could include someone doing dog walking as a job and so maybe outside a lot with little personal contact with others, or a delivery driver in their own van. Dependent on how the groups were considered with such people it could result in skewing of the results

Having said that, it's likely to be that any such study is going to have problems with determining if masks do provide much protection.

Also whilst it should be accepted that there's a risk that there could be a small increase in risk from mask wearing, this is still within settings where people are likely to be exposed for hours at a time and so the benefit is likely to be small.

However the likelihood of all the studies to date all being "unlucky" with their data showing lower than expected figures for those wearing masks and higher for those not then it could be argued that there's starting to be a case that mask wearing at worse is unlikely to be any worse than not wearing one but with the potential for it providing (especially in settings where time is limited) some limited benefits. That is unless there's any studies which shows otherwise then risk in advising mask wearing is likely to be small and probably has some limited benefits.

The problem is that even within the body of evidence that masks are statistically insignificant in providing protection or that they do is that neither those who strongly oppose mask wearing our strongly support mask wearing there's no killer evidence to conclude either way. Mostly because to ensure that the risk of infection is high enough that there's got to be long duration of exposure.

As the risk to someone who goes to the shops once a week for 20 minutes is always going to be very low regardless of if they do or don't wear a mask, even if there's several other shoppers who are infected. Likewise working in an office with 3 other people for a 7 hour working day then wearing a mask is going to provide limited benefits of the air circulation is poor.

Therefore, whilst there's no evidence that those who support mask wearing can provide that mask wearing is 95% certain that it provides benefits, likewise there's no evidence that those who oppose masks which is 95% certain that it does cause harm.

As I've said before high and growing case numbers could be down to other factors and if mask wearing is brought in because cases are rising then the impact on total numbers is likely to be small but important to those who (if there's a small benefit) who would otherwise have died.

Yes other factors are likely to have a bigger impact (such as not mixing with several different people, working from home, closing schools, closing pubs and the like), however such interventions are likely to harm more people's mental health and/or the economy.

Unless there's evidence that there's 95% certainty that masks cause harm, then it's probably best to try mask wearing where there's the most chance of benefit (i.e. those inside settings where there's likely to be limited time duration) alongside keeping of the other best practice measures.
 

35B

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Please supply some evidence
I can’t help those who won’t actually read the words written by Heneghan and compare them to the abstract of the research that he links to in his article.

As a (postgraduat) degree educated non scientis, I respect the judgment of @Yew as a scientific researcher on statistical relevancy, even while he and I come at this particular issue from different perspectives. I completely agree that 10% of a small number is a much smaller number, and that it’s relevance needs to be checked; as a layman, I’d read it one way and I take correction.

More generally, and for clarity, I am not arguing here that mask wearing is of value in preventing community spread (i have previously made my views clear and you may read up thread to check them). I am objecting, strongly, to the hypothesis that this study proves that mask wearing does not prevent community spread when it doesn’t even attempt to measure that, but only the protective effect of masks on the wearer. And in that context, the spectacle of a professor of evidence based medicine misrepresenting evidence is a grotesque example of the abuse of evidence.

As an exercise in pop psychology (and I’m not qualified for any more than that), I find it deeply interesting that those opposed to mask wearing (who, by the way, are frequently as obsessive as the “maskivists“ they deride) leap upon research like this despite its limitations while simultaneously insisting on very high levels of proof for what they oppose. It is the same as their “proof” that masks do not work in these circumstances generated by simplistic graphs that do not consider the possibility of alternate scenarios, or the way that some leap on a blip in a run of statistics to “prove” that a measure is unnecessary, but then go silent when time demonstrates that it was a blip, not a change of trend. That is not about science, but about dogmatic belief using science as a shield against what they already dislike and are predisposed to disagree with.

Just out of curiosity why would a professor posting about a scientific study make them less credible in your eyes? Is there some information you have yet to reveal that undermines the study's conclusion, or is it just you don't like what it did conclude?
His credibility falls when he misrepresents what the study studied. And when his credibility rests on being evidence based, that becomes rather more fundamental.

I am now can’t be sure whether Heneghan is a scientist, or a campaigner masquerading as a scientist.
 
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