International News Nov 23, 2020 10:36 PM EST

5 takeaways from the Danish study on face mask effectiveness

Here's what you need to know about the Danish study on mask effectiveness and why it has become a flash point for controversy.

5 takeaways from the Danish study on face mask effectiveness
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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Here's what you need to know about the Danish study on mask effectiveness and why it has become a flash point for controversy.

1. Limited protection

The study found that face masks provide the wearer with limited protection against COVID-19 infection. The findings are consistent with previous research. Health experts have long said a mask provides only limited protection for the person wearing it, but can reduce the risk to others if the wearer is infected, even when showing no symptoms. Masks “…are not a magic bullet” said Dr. Christine Laine, Editor-in-Chief of the Annals of Internal Medicine where the study was posted. “There are people who say, ‘I’m fine, I’m wearing a mask.’ They need to realize they are not invulnerable to infection.” Lane also described previous evidence that masks protect wearers as weak. “These studies cannot differentiate between source control and personal protection of the mask wearer,” she said.

2. 1.8 percent of mask-wearers contracted Covid, 2.1 percent of non-mask wearers

From early April to early June, out of the 4,860 participants who completed the study from the original 6,000 recruited, antibody testing revealed that COVID-19 occurred in 42 participants (1.8 percent) who wore masks, and in 53 participants (2.1 percent) who did not wear masks. At that time, 2 percent of the Danish population was infected. Social distancing and frequent hand washing were common, but masks were not.

3. Cloth masks do not have the same protective quality as N-95 masks

This echoes the CDC website, before they altered their position on universal mask wearing and previously cited 10 randomized, controlled trials that showed "…no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks." It has long been the policy of OSHA that respirators, such as an N-95s, are the minimum standard for personal protective equipment, yet most people wear cloth or surgical masks.

4. Study did not test the effect of masks in preventing infection to others

Even in light of these conclusions, the study still said that these findings should not be used to argue against mask use to prevent infecting others noting the study "…should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections, because the trial did not test the role of masks in source control of SARS-CoV-2 infection."

5. Mainstream media did not want you to see this study

Mask mandated opponents have celebrated the study while mask mandate supporters have criticized it, so much so that the study was buried by the mainstream media. In October, Berlingske, Denmark's oldest daily newspaper, published an article titled "Large Danish mask study rejected by three top journals," explaining why the Danish mask study disappeared.


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