On Saturday night, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) tweeted that “the data shows masks don’t work.” But a few things didn’t really agree with him. Namely the dates and the grammar. Yes, studies and the data have actually shown the opposite: that face masks can significantly reduce the transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Since data is plural, the data showed that masks actually work.
Why the hell did Massie tweet that about the dates in the first place? What data was Massie referring to when he created this Twitter post? Well, here’s Massie’s tweet, which sounded very confident:
As you can see, Massie pointed out that “the Biden administration is still fighting in federal courts to reinstate the airplane mask mandate.” That’s because the number of daily new reported Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions have risen by 24% and 26% respectively over the past fortnight, the authorities said New York Times. The weather has become colder and drier and activities have moved indoors, which could increase the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
Massie then claimed: “The data shows masks don’t work. The constitution states that POTUS does not have that power. And the American people have moved on.” Well, it’s up to the courts to decide if the POTUS has that power, not Massie. That’s the whole executive, legislative, and judicial separation of powers that everyone learned in elementary school, right? And does Massie really speak for the American people? He didn’t actually cite any data, polls, or surveys of the American people. Maybe instead he should ask public health experts and other relevant scientists and, you know, the American people before he speaks for them. After all, the hashtag #CovidisNotover is trending on Twitter with tweets like this one from @catladyactivist:
It’s trending because Covid isn’t over yet. No real expert or relevant organization has declared the pandemic over. The Covid-19 coronavirus certainly hasn’t decided it’s time to move on, because the virus has spread and spread and infected and infected. That’s what viruses do if you don’t actually do enough to stop their spread.
And study after study has shown that face masks stop the spread of the virus. For example, a study published in February 2022 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) showed that wearing a cloth mask indoors in public facilities reduced the risk of becoming Covid-19 positive by 56 % decreased. . Wearing a surgical mask reduced this risk by 66% and wearing an N95 mask by 83%.
This certainly wasn’t the only study published in a respected journal that provides evidence that strongly supports face mask wearing. A review of existing studies, published in PNAS on January 11, 2021 stated that “the overwhelming body of evidence indicates that wearing a mask reduces transmissibility per contact by reducing the transmission of infected airway particles in both laboratory and clinical contexts. Wearing masks in public is most effective in reducing the spread of the virus when compliance is high.”
Since then, even more studies have appeared supporting the use of face masks. For example on November 24, 2022 the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that, in the authors’ words, found that “in the Boston-area school districts, mask-removal was associated with an additional 44.9 Covid-19 cases per 1,000 students and staff in the 15 weeks after the statewide masking policy became effective.” lifted.” Again, these are just a few examples of the vast body of evidence showing that face masks do indeed work.
Contrast that with the fact that when Massie said “the data shows,” he didn’t even mention what data he was talking about in his tweet. Isn’t that a bit like saying that model Adriana Lima thinks you’re hot without actually asking Adriana Lima? Or insisting that actor Jason Mamoa will have dinner with you without actually speaking to Jason Mamoa?
Sure, Massie may not be a “Maskie,” and he’s entitled to speak his mind. But shouldn’t he then make it clear that it’s his opinion and not what the data actually shows? Massie has “MIT 93 BS EE, MIT 96 Master of Science” on his Twitter profile, but to truly master the science, know not to say the “data shows” without being able to be to produce the data. And that means showing the body of evidence, which is what peer-reviewed studies have generally shown, and not picking out individual data that may not have been peer-reviewed.
It may be tempting to try to win arguments by making very confident and definitive statements. For example, on your dating profile, you can say, “The data shows I’m awesome,” or tell your crush, “The data shows that the letters ‘U’ and ‘I’ in the alphabet go together, or whatever letter you choose you write want to hit together. But it’s not a successful strategy in the long run if you don’t actually produce that data and the data actually shows the opposite. In other words, the data may actually show that the letter “F” matches the letter “U” instead of “I”.