Back in the mundane and familiar world of COVID totalitarianism, here’s a graphic that more or less sums up the real-world uselessness of face masks.
It shows the daily case situation in Germany, and in one of its constituent states, Bavaria. You’ll see that a general mask mandate, with fines, was instituted back in April 2020, as the initial epidemic had almost ended, and altered the curve not one jot. Nor did it prevent the much larger surge of cases over the autumn and winter. That phenomenon is pretty much universal across the world.
The more interesting thing is that almost simultaneously this January, Germany mandated the use of surgical masks (presumably at the expense of the cloth masks and visors that remain most commonly seen in the UK), whilst Bavaria went the whole hog and mandated N95 masks, the gold-standard hospital type masks that cost a lot more and form the basis for the only hospital studies that show any significant protection from viral infections.
As before, the epidemic was already in precipitous decline, to which neither mandate appears to have made the slightest difference, and neither mandate prevented another big surge in cases just one month later, either.
Most significant of all is that Bavaria tracks the wider German picture almost exactly after the divergence in mask mandates, and in fact does slightly worse in the subsequent surge. In practice on the ground, then, which is the only thing that matters when laws are passed, there is no benefit whatsoever from using N95 masks over surgical masks. And there is no indication that in Germany either is superior to generic masks, or that generic masks are any better than no masks at all.
Now, some additional context is provided by this recent study, which showed a 50% reduction in aerosol transmission from N95-equivalent masks (the other 50% dispersing mainly upwards above the wearer’s head), and a mere 12% reduction for blue surgical masks, and 10% for cloth masks. But the researchers also found that even moderate room-ventilation out-performed the best masks.
It is important to note, though, that this study was performed under laboratory conditions, using seated manikins and, presumably, fresh masks properly applied and not fingered, dropped to the neck to speak or kept in pockets whilst people move around. This is not how things are in public life, and so it is no real surprise that the benefits of N95 masks over surgical masks are not seen in the German case numbers. And quite apart from the lack of any visible effects when mask mandates were first imposed in Germany (or anywhere else in the world), one can say that if N95 masks, which are in theory five times better, are in practice the same, then it is highly unlikely that the near-negligible 10% advantage of masks over no-masks will be seen in the real world.
A useful little graphic, that.