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No Studies Showing ‘Masks Work That Well’ Against COVID-19: White House Health Official

No studies show masks work well against respiratory infections like COVID-19, a top White House health official has acknowledged.

“There is no study in the world that shows that masks work that well,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator, said during a recent discussion with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Jha made the statement as he promoted the investments that have been made in improving air quality as a way to cut down on COVID-19 infections.

“So you’re never going to get the kind of benefit from mandatory year-round masking as you would from making substantial improvements in indoor air quality, plus it’s a lot easier to implement as well,” Jha added. “So this is an area where we’re doing a lot and trying to really encourage people to use the resources they have to make those investments and start really improving ventilation filtration in buildings.”

Jha’s admission is unusual for him as he frequently advised people to wear masks during the pandemic and hyped their effectiveness.

“Masks dramatically reduce droplet and aerosolized transmission. When everyone in a setting is wearing a mask, the spread of the virus, even in close contact, is very low,” Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health at the time, told a congressional panel in September 2020.

“So, I think the science on masks is actually quite clear. And there is broad agreement among public health and science experts that masks work,” Jha said from the White House podium in July.

“Another thing that helps both prevent infections and spread is masks,” Jha said that same month during a different White House briefing.

Even during the recent discussion, Jha said that “my view on this is really quite clear, which is, the evidence suggests that if you were high quality masks it clearly makes a difference, both in preventing spread to others; poor quality masks, cloth masks that don’t fit well, just, especially against Omicron, probably don’t do that much.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Jha has made a number of unsupported or false statements since assuming the White House position, including falsely claiming that none of the COVID-19 vaccines have serious side effects.

Experts around the world, including other U.S. government officials, have said since 2021 that there are serious side effects from the vaccines, including heart inflammation.

On Twitter, Jha boosted a post that said Jha, while talking about mask studies, was making a point “that cleaning indoor air can have a huge overall effect on public health in terms of reducing all respiratory diseases.”

“Masks are still a key added layer of protection but no way around cleaning/filtering indoor air as essential step to protect all,” the post, from Kimberly Prather, director of the National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation, stated.

The only randomized, controlled trials on masks against COVID-19 showed little to no benefit in wearing them. Based on the results, it is “astonishing that some public health officials still impose mask mandates,” Martin Kulldorff, a senior scholar at the Brownstone Institute, recently wrote on Twitter.

President Joe Biden’s administration is fighting to have a mask mandate for airplanes and airports reinstated, and has also kept in place vaccine mandates for various sectors. The mask mandate and most of the vaccine mandates have been struck down or otherwise blocked by courts.

Epoch Times Photo
A discarded face mask is pictured on the sidewalk in Long Beach, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2020. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

Mask Study

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends masks in indoor public transportation settings regardless of the COVID-19 levels in the surrounding community, and advises masking in other indoor settings when the levels are high.

An observational CDC study in 2021 (pdf) concluded that masking requirements cut infections in schools.

Researchers examined the case rates in an Arizona county that had mask mandates and compared the rates in another Arizona county that did not have mandates and found the rates were higher in the latter.

Researchers said that “universal masking, in addition to vaccination of all eligible students, staff members, and faculty and implementation of other prevention measures, remains essential to COVID-19 prevention in K–12 settings.”

The period of time studied was July 15 to Aug. 31, 2021.

Another observational CDC study also backed masking, finding that masks lowered the odds of testing positive.

Outside researchers, though, expanded on the first study and concluded there was no association between mask mandates and lower levels of pediatric COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Tracy Høeg and Ambarish Chandra examined data from 565 counties. They found counties without mask mandates had additional cases after two weeks of schools reopening, but after nine weeks, the difference was not statistically significant.

“The association between school mask mandates and cases did not persist in the extended sample,” the authors wrote in the paper, which was published by the Journal of Infection in December. “Observational studies of interventions are prone to multiple biases and provide insufficient evidence for recommending mask mandates.”

Zachary Stieber

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.

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