The Face Mask Folly in Retrospect

Posted by Ed 36 days ago
It has been known for decades that face masks don’t work against respiratory virus epidemics. Why has much of the world nonetheless fallen for the face mask folly?
Ten reasons:

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Ed 30 days ago

Don’t “Masks” Make A Difference?

Roger W. Koops holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Riverside as well as Master and Bachelor degrees from Western Washington University. He worked in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industry for over 25 years. Before retiring in 2017, he spent 12 years as a Consultant focused on Quality Assurance/Control and issues related to Regulatory Compliance


Before going into that question, I want to provide both some personal background and maybe a little comic relief.

The photo below was taken about 30 years ago, and yes, that is me. I was being fit tested for my own respirator. In my first position after the Ph.D., I was given charge of developing a molecule that was so lethal (yes, it is used medicinally but in very dilute solutions and under strict controls) that even the tiniest of amount contacting my skin, nose, eyes, etc., could knock me out and kill without my ever knowing it; the risks I faced were far greater than any coronavirus.
I had to undergo serious Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training as a result. When your life hangs in the balance, you learn all that you can. I was also a member of an isolator design team to develop a manufacturing unit to contain the production process.

Yes, I do know something about PPE.

The type of respirator that I am wearing in the photo is designed to protect the wearer from chemical agents, mostly, although there are biological filters available. It has unidirectional airflow. That means that the air that I would breathe in would be pulled through a series of filter cartridges (the round canisters on the sides) in order to remove the potentially offending compounds. After inhalation, a valve would close off the incoming air (ingress) and my exhaled breath would exit via another one way valve (egress), which you cannot see but it is located in the middle of the canisters directly in front of my mouth. Of course, this was used with other head and body protection since ALL physical contamination had to be guarded against.

This kind of respirator required both fit and physical certification. I had to be certified on an annual basis to show that my lungs were capable of breathing with this apparatus since the pressure differential was great. That means, I had to be able to suck in the air through the filters as well as deliver out through the valve. Lung capacity was very important; it was NOT a normal breathing experience. You also had to take periodic breaks, as well as a thorough and careful decontamination after each use. The respirator worked only as long as the filter cartridges were effective. They could reach a saturation point or a point where the cartridge was spent and beyond that there would be no protection.

The idea of “masks” on people did not suddenly appear in March of 2020. The usage of face protection with infectious diseases has been well studied, especially with influenza. Do not forget, the mechanics of these two viruses (CV/IF) are essentially the same so what works or doesn’t work for one is the same for the other.

The understanding has been that a “mask,” and that term usually refers to either a SURGICAL mask or N95 mask, has no benefit in the general population and is only useful in controlled clinical settings. Further, it has been considered a greater transmission risk than a benefit in the general population. If people still have a memory, you may recall that this was still the advice in February 2020. That understanding has not changed and I will explain why.

The term “mask” by itself means nothing. It is like saying “car.” You have to identify it more specifically because there are many different types and varieties, just like cars. So, for this essay, I will use two terms as follows:

  1. Face Coverings: In this category I will include homemade cloth, dust, non-fitted utility, custom stylish, and any other common “mask,” i.e. something that is intended to cover your mouth and nose and that is by and large used in the general population (because they are cheap and inexpensive).
  2. Mask: In this category, I am referring specifically to the SURGICAL mask and N95 mask (which is recommended for use in clinical settings by health care workers). If necessary, I will specify between them.


One of the big mistakes by modelers is the concept of a face covering or mask as a “barrier.” I see many references to so-called “experts” who make this claim. This is completely false. No face covering or mask is a barrier. Either they do not know what they are talking about or they are misleading people.

Masks and “Face Coverings” ARE: 


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