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Why I don’t wear a mask

Silver here.  Claire encourages me to post on her blog from time to time.

I don’t wear masks when I’m out and about, unless I absolutely have to.  More on why below.   When I’m in the grocery store or gas station, I often get glares from people who do wear masks.  Sooner or later some sanctimonious busybody will challenge me face to face.  I don’t want to lose my temper so I’ve been rehearsing a little speech. Here it is:

I’m a scientist.  I earned 3 degrees in the physical sciences from a prestigious university. I’ve published more than 30 papers in scientific and technical journals.  I began reading medical journals 13 years ago.   I am invited to sit on boards reviewing medical research grant proposals.

I’ve read several medical journal articles on the use of fabric face masks.  The best study was published in 2011.  It involved 16 hospitals that had specialized facilities for treating patients with highly infectious diseases.  Over 1600 health care workers who treated patients in these special wards were followed for 30 days.  They were divided into 3 groups: fabric masks, surgical masks, and no masks.

The no-mask group was free to wear a disposable surgical mask whenever necessary, but they did not wear them continuously as the surgical mask group did.  The cloth mask users were instructed to wash their masks with soap and water every day.

They monitored these workers for respiratory illness, influenza-like illness, and laboratory confirmed respiratory virus infection.

The workers who wore cloth masks were 13 times as likely to become infected than the ones who wore surgical masks.  Cloth masks users were roughly 7 times as likely to get an infection as those who wore no masks.

That’s why I don’t wear a mask.

End of speech.

The authors concluded that “the results caution against the use of cloth masks. … Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection. … Cloth masks should not be recommended for Health Care Workers, particularly in high-risk situations, and guidelines need to be updated.”

This paper has been cited 13 times by other medical authors, and none of them disagreed or even strongly criticized the findings.  This is the real deal, a large, randomized clinical trial, and the results are very strong.

The talking heads and politicians are constantly prattling about “It’s all about the data,” or “We must use science!”  But they are ignoring data and science whenever it disproves their preconceived notions.  This is the antithesis of science.

The same thing is happening with “social distancing.”  I’m not aware of any quality research that supports the notion that staying 6 feet away from someone does any good at all.  What little published literature there is suggests just the opposite – the virus can travel much greater distances.  The paper I linked noted that “Laboratory tests showed the penetration of particles through the cloth masks to be very high (97%) compared with medical masks (44%) (used in trial) and 3M 9320 N95 (<0.01%), 3M Vflex 9105 N95 (0.1%).”

Fresh air and sunshine are good for people, and especially helpful against respiratory viruses. Yet politicians are destroying parks and forbidding people to exercise, play sports, or even relax on sunny beaches.

Locking down an entire planet flies in face of 475 years of epidemiology.  John Snow, who is credited with stopping a cholera epidemic in nineteenth-century London by removing the pump handle from a contaminated well, must be spinning in his grave.

The “models” that were used to provoke these extreme responses have been proven wrong in every single aspect.  Predictions for total infections, hospital admissions, ventilator use, and deaths have been 20 or 30 times higher than what has occurred.  Yet these same models and the people who were so incredibly wrong before are still providing shrill, constantly shifting advice to politicians and MSM, who accept it without question and decree still more authoritarian responses.

Now I then I must don a mask, when a store decrees that everyone wear masks. Here’s what I wear:

The reaction is always positive.  Laughter and compliments are common, and some people ask to take my picture.





  1. Just Waiting
    Just Waiting May 5, 2020 8:25 am

    Thanks Silver. I saw a comment earlier that broke it down in layman’s terms – You can still smell a fart when it comes through underwear and pants, why would you think a cloth face covering is protecting you from anything?

  2. Noah Moeron
    Noah Moeron May 5, 2020 12:03 pm

    My understanding for wearing masks in public spaces was to reduce the “output” from an infected person…

  3. larryarnold
    larryarnold May 5, 2020 1:01 pm

    I have an N-95 I wear when made to. A guy wanted to know why I was hoarding medical-grade PPE when I should be donating it to “First Responders.”

    I explained I had one (1) mask, and that I sweated in it while chainsawing, long before covid, and didn’t think any real first responder would be interested. Then I told him as a CERT member I could be called out as a first responder, and asked him what he was contributing, besides aggravation.

    I got applause.

    I’d ask Silver what he thinks of the “tipping your mask” thing, bit I don’t want to add aggravation.–569907021.html
    And yes, apparently “The Village of a Thousand Elders” is a thing.

  4. Claire
    Claire May 5, 2020 1:17 pm

    Applause from here, too, larryarnold. Gooooood smackdown.

    “Tipping your mask”??? Seriously? OMG. And I see the “elders” then say to sanitize your hands as soon as possible — but completely disregard whatever viral or bacterial gunk you may have already transferred from your hands to your face or mask during the ridiculous tipping.

    The world has truly gone nuts, and it seems “elders” are as dimwitted as anybody.

  5. Silver
    Silver May 5, 2020 3:47 pm

    In reply to Noah Moeron,

    The CLAIM is that the masks reduce output from an infected person. The FACTS, as presented in the paper and mentioned in my post, is that 97% of particles go right though fabric masks. Virus particles are incredibly small, this result is hardly surprising.

    The claim is a sham and disproved. I didn’t mention other studies that showed that fabric masks got progressively worse at stopping particles after repeated washing. Worse than letting 97% through.

  6. Furry Doc
    Furry Doc May 5, 2020 8:51 pm

    The point to wearing a cloth mask is not to protect yourself but to reduce shedding of virus from infected individuals, thus reducing viral load in the environment. The study sited involves wearing of masks in viral saturated environment. When everyone is wearing masks the viral load in the environment is much less. Since viruses can reside on cloth surfaces longer, any handling of masks for breaks and meals would directly inoculate the wearer. Care must be taken to remove masks without contaminating one’s hands. Cloth masks would require frequent disinfection.

  7. larryarnold
    larryarnold May 5, 2020 11:15 pm

    any handling of masks for breaks and meals would directly inoculate the wearer

    If the purpose of the mask is to keep infected wearers from shedding, aren’t the wearers already directly inoculated?

  8. Jolly
    Jolly May 6, 2020 7:20 am

    When I am in public, and I see somebody else sans mask, I say aloud, “Unbeliever!” And, smile.
    Since I don’t wear a mask, they understand instantly, and usually smile. People around us – not so much.

  9. Comrade X
    Comrade X May 6, 2020 8:09 am

    What I put here yesterday has been censured by youtube now, it covers why you should not wear a mask for this disease, here is a new link;

    For my doctor friends; forgive your selves!

  10. Dorvann Malachi
    Dorvann Malachi May 6, 2020 8:54 am

    I am still skeptical about whether that study has any validity about the effectiveness of people wearing masks when out in public. I strongly suspect the real issue is that wearing a mask gives people a false sense of security and they take risks they really shouldn’t if they want to remain uninfected.

    Also it’s remarkable to me what studies and data people choose to believe just happen to conveniently coincide with what their political beliefs are. I admit my nature is to be critical and skeptical of everything so I tend to disbelieve everything and not take any one study at face value.

  11. Silver
    Silver May 6, 2020 10:27 am

    Furry Doc makes several interesting points.

    The study sited involves wearing of masks in viral saturated environment I’m not certain this is correct. The study didn’t mention that. The study was conducted in specialized facilities, secondary-level/tertiary-level hospitals. While the health care workers in this study were certainly at high risk of exposure from infected patients, it seems likely that these hospitals would sanitize and sterilize as part of routine operations. It serves neither patient nor health care worker to work in an environment saturated with viruses.

    When everyone is wearing masks the viral load in the environment is much less. That is the contention that is used to justify compulsory use of masks, but this study does not support it. A factor of 13 or 7 difference in the risk of infection for cloth mask users is a strong effect. As the authors note, “the finding of a much higher rate of infection in the cloth mask arm could be interpreted as harm caused by cloth masks, efficacy of medical masks, or most likely a combination of both.”

    This study also tested the penetration of particles through fabric, surgical, and N95 respirator-type masks. The penetration of particles through the cloth masks was 97%. That suggests that cloth masks are unlikely to be effective at reducing viral shedding from infected individuals.

    A key point: in any intervention, medical or otherwise, if one only tallies the desired effects, the answer is invariably wrong. There are always undesired effects as well as the desired ones. These must be identified, weighed, and if possible balanced when making important policy decisions. Wearing cloths masks from prolonged periods definitely causes harms due to increased CO2, altered respiratory pressures, and very high humidity in the re-breathed air. Those are in addition to the important hazards Furry Doc identifies in donning, handling, and disinfection. A careful study of those hazards has yet to be performed. Until those studies are conducted, forcing large segments of the population to wear fabric masks is an uncontrolled public health experiment with potentially disastrous consequences.

  12. Bob
    Bob May 6, 2020 10:36 am

    Wow, Silver. Five paragraphs to let us know you’re a really literate guy. You’ve taken, “Blow my own horn” to a whole new level. My take from your rant was, just another “expert” on why I should or shouldn’t wear a mask.
    Thanks, anyway, for your point-of- view.

  13. JR
    JR May 6, 2020 11:20 am

    There was an even larger experiment conducted with two different countries but on a national level and with Covid specifically.
    The results are not fully in but the preliminary data is compelling.

    Singapore mandated masks in public (mostly procedure type masks) and Sweden did not mandate masks.

    In Singapore, one of the most densely populated places, they had had less than 3 deaths per million population.

    In Sweden, they have had 291 deaths per million population.

    Obvioulsy correlation is not causation, but with a 100 time difference in the fatality rate, I’m going to take the risk of wearing a mask.

  14. Silver
    Silver May 6, 2020 12:44 pm

    Taking that risk is your right JR. Compelling other to wear masks is a very different matter.

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 6, 2020 1:55 pm

    Never let a crisis go to waste. That said, I don’t think covid was a deliberate release to create a buffalo jump, because the death rate is too small. Consider how much more political consolidation could be sold if the disease killed 10% of everybody?

  16. Claire
    Claire May 6, 2020 2:39 pm

    Wow, Silver. Five paragraphs to let us know you’re a really literate guy. You’ve taken, “Blow my own horn” to a whole new level.

    Keep in mind that “the speech” is to be given only to busybodies who approach him in public to demand he conform. I don’t think Silver is trying to impress blog readers. More like he’s “rehearsing” so if the situation arises in real life he won’t blow his response by blowing his cool.

  17. Silver
    Silver May 6, 2020 2:46 pm


    There was no experiment, which is a controlled test. It’s perfectly reasonable to compare experiences in different places, but the mask study was a carefully designed and controlled experiment. Sweden and Singapore are both diverse nations and there was no experiment, no randomization of subjects, no control groups.

    When comparing Singapore to Sweden you need to account for the effects of climate. Sweden is cold, Singapore is quite warm. In general, colds, influenza-type illnesses (ILIs), and the coronaviruses cause more fatalities in colder climates. It might be more time indoors, less sunlight and vitamin D to boost the immune system, any number of factors.

    There are also complicating factors such as age distribution, general health, and a variety of other factors.

    The difficulties with these kinds of comparisons is illustrated by the gross death rate. Sweden has a gross death rate of 917 per million. In Singapore, the gross death rate is 460 per million, half of Sweden’s. There are clearly significant differences between the health and mortality of the two populations that have nothing to do with covid.

  18. Claire
    Claire May 6, 2020 3:00 pm

    Thanks for the observation, JR.

    Silver and I were posting more or less at the same time, but I hope there’s not too much redundancy between us.

    It’s true about the differences in mask wearing, but Singapore and Sweden had a lot of other differences in their approach to the pandemic, as well. Although both countries strove to keep their societies as open as possible, Singapore began its response about two months earlier than Sweden, with a rigorous program of testing, quarantining the infected, and contact tracing, in addition to mandating masks.

  19. Steve Watt
    Steve Watt May 7, 2020 4:27 am

    maybe the reason a mask COULD help is when you exhale through it it doesn’t STOP a virus but it slows it down, something like Newtons Third Law of Motion? Simple experiment, put on a mask, try to blow out a candle.

  20. northstar65
    northstar65 May 7, 2020 5:41 am

    As a highly educated person, to not site your sources is ignorance multiplied. You know better.

  21. E. Garrett Perry
    E. Garrett Perry May 7, 2020 6:28 am

    Here in the Czech Republic people have been wearing masks since the beginning. We have 745 confirmed cases per million people, and 25 fatalities per million. Sweden has 2438 confirmed cases and 301 fatailties per million. Seems pretty decisive to me, especially since the CR and Sweden have nearly the same populations and our epidemics began within a day of each other. Oh, and the Czechs have a vastly less healthy diet and lifestyle by just about every measure imaginable.

    Despite this they’ve managed some of the lowest infection/fatality numbers in Europe and are in the process of reopening their economy, manufacturing sector included, and have had no panic buying or shortages of consumer goods or foodstuffs.

    Also, Just Waiting: The reason you can smell a fart after it passes through cloth is that gas molecules (what a fart is made of) are several orders of magnitude smaller than even virii, let alone the droplets which are the primary vectors of SARS-2. Even a couple of layers of old T-shirt material catches 50% or more of droplets, and slows the “muzzle velocity” of the ones that escape by around 80%, reducing the range to which they can be projected and the number of people they can contaminate or surfaces they can infect.


    Masks work. Period. Those people are right to be stink-eyeing you. If you’re asymptomatic, as about 50% of infected people are, you’re just spreading this Cold From Hell all over God’s acre. It’s not about keeping you from getting infected, it’s about keeping you from infecting your neighbors if you’re pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic.

  22. Greg
    Greg May 9, 2020 9:08 pm

    Silver, thanks for your thought-provoking article. The city where I do all of my shopping is one that has mandated that people wear masks in various public places like grocery stores, and I’m considering participating in their Town Hall next week to complain about it.

    Here’s a study that basically favors mask use.
    The study itself is flawed, and there are lots of comments about how stopping the virus is of paramount importance and people who refuse are just being selfish and short-sighted. But there are also lots of good solid comments pointing out some of the study deficiencies on technical grounds and conflicts of interest in the study.

    Here are some of things I gleaned from the comments:
    1) Any evidence supporting the idea that mask-wearing by the public inhibits the spread of the disease is very weak, especially for cloth masks. When someone is coughing or sneezing that’s a different matter, and it can help if the sneezer wears a mask.
    2) They don’t definitely don’t help the wearer and whether they help protect anyone else is controversial, except for cases of coughers and sneezers.
    3) Almost all studies of effective mask results have confounding variables involved like hand-washing.
    4) Mask wearing by the public can be counterproductive and harmful as people do things like touching their face more often to adjust the mask, reusing or even sharing the masks, or failing to dispose of them properly. Moisture from normal breathing can create a fertile environment for various contaminants when masks are re-used.
    5) There is a big difference between surgical masks as they are used in hospitals and cloth masks.
    5) As recently as January 2020, WHO’s advice on the use of masks said:
    “Cloth (e.g. cotton or gauze) masks are not recommended under any circumstance.”
    6) Even if it were proven that mask-use by the public did help stop the spread of the disease, there are costs involved such as various impairments to quality of life. There is more to life than stopping the virus and if the costs are not important than why stop with masks, why not require everyone to wear a full hazmat suit.

    Good controlled studies are very scarce. At best, the data supporting mask-use by the public is weak and controversial and there are trade-offs, and the burden of proof should be on those that want to use force to impose their solution.

  23. Tionico
    Tionico May 11, 2020 10:39 pm

    Out for a nice long bike ride Sunday, I stopped by a Trader Joe’s on the way.. I had run out of their chocolate, so made my route include the place. OH SO CORRECT, that place.. and its patrons. There were one couple in theree, NOT native to this coutry(eastern Europe?) who were naked faced. And yself On a bike ride, of COURSE no mask. I don’t wear them anyway. I’d use the “things over my mouth traunatise me, and ADA demands you accomodate my disability ” meme. “I can always report yuor refusl to accomdoate…..”. Nearly everyone wore a simple cloth mask, more than half of which did NOT fit or seal anywhere near effecively. Watching folks come across the car park, fumbling wiht putting their face rag on as tey approached the entrey door provided for some cheap entertainment. May had looks of mild fear, nicely covered by those masks. I did get some harsh glares, to which I responded with oblivion. WHat are you staring at me> Whatever FOR? I sat ona bench out front eating some of what I had bought fuel for he remaining ten miiles or so. People were acting SO strange.. no one would talk to anyone, blank stares, deer in the headlamps mode for may of them.

    Silver, I appreciate te studies you reported above. Now I have some genuine stats to rattle off when folks try and tell me I MUST wear my mask. Mask? WHAT mask? The only one I have is the one I use for painting cars and such.. traps for Volatile Organic Cpmpunds.. the solvents in autoaotve and inudstrial paint,s which are likely a far greater hazerd to myself than this silly virus.

  24. JS
    JS May 15, 2020 7:57 am

    If I’m ever confronted in public about not wearing a mask, I’m just going to ignore them. Complete ghost like they don’t exist and just go on about my business.

    I found this simple question intriguing: If masks work, why shutdown the economy? If they don’t work, then why are we wearing them?

  25. DH Young
    DH Young May 20, 2020 1:10 pm

    Huh. I read that study a while back. I noticed that the control group wasn’t the same as “unmasked”…in fact they had no idea how often, or under what circumstances, masks were worn. So I pretty much discarded the study from consideration.

    Doesn’t change my conclusion: no science behind the must-wear-mask thing at all. And I have plenty of other thoughts on related topics.

    But I’ll stop.

  26. Summer Adams
    Summer Adams May 21, 2020 9:07 pm

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!!! 👏🏼💞

  27. Richard Camerino
    Richard Camerino May 31, 2020 7:54 pm

    I like what you are using as a mask, where did you get it?

  28. Claire
    Claire May 31, 2020 8:17 pm

    You can buy that mask on Amazon (among other places). There are lots of variations, with the least expensive running around $7. Have fun.

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