Dishonesty about masking kids results in insanity
We taught people bio-plausibility (not RCTs) was enough; now it bites us in the ass
For months, I have been saying that we lack credible data that masking children in school or daycare slows sars-cov-2 spread. I even wrote about it for the Atlantic. The standard of evidence to show masking kids works is to randomly assign groups of kids masking or no masking, and follow cases over time (a cluster RCT). We never did that study. We literally ran ZERO randomized trials of masking kids this entire pandemic. So we don’t know anything about it with confidence.
But that didn’t stop us from doing it. The USA was particularly delusional on this issue. Our American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC directly contradicted the World Health Organization, and said kids as young as 2 should wear masks. There was never any data to support this, and, imagine if in 2015, someone at a scientific meeting said we would be soon be masking 2 year olds for hours on end, we all would have assumed that person was crazy.
To justify masking kids, proponents relied on bio-plausibility, and cited filtration studies, often performed on mannequins. Of course, the physical properties of a mask on a dummy are not the same as asking a child to wear it for prolonged periods of time. If a cloth mask captures 70% of particles or 80%; you still have no idea whether asking a child to wear that fabric mask (and accepting that use will be imperfect) has a net health benefit to that child or others around them.
Just like chemists don’t tell us that drugs work; we run trials in people; physicists can’t tell us if masking policies are salutatory. They must be tested directly.
Well, our obsession with reductionist thinking has come back to bite us in the ass. Several private schools in San Francisco, and even pre-schools in New York City are now mandating kids wear kf94s or n95s.
Here is the NYTimes’ education reporter asking for these masks for a 4 year old:
What have we done? We have lost our minds. But false scientific ideas did it to us.
When you teach the public that filtration properties directly predict real-work efficacy; rather than the truth: only cluster RCTs of policies can determine if they work, then, don’t be surprised the public takes your logic to the limit, and makes 4 year olds wear kn94s.
By the way; I am not even sure an n95 even exists for kids; it must be counterfeit. I am not aware of anyone who has validated that when kids wear such a mask, it actually results in that degree of particulate filtration. A reader can help me if I am mistaken.
When adults have a generalized anxiety disorder, they ought to seek appropriate medical care. The wrong answer is to channel that energy into draconian restrictions on children, which have no credible data they help, and are far more likely to inflict misery and suffering for no gain.
In addition to the COVID19 pandemic; we have had a second plague adult fear and anxiety used to punish those too young to fight for themselves.