As winter begins, so does the fearmongering for returning to COVID masking.
For example, the following headlines appeared just on Thursday: “You really should mask up again, says infectious disease expert: The tripledemic is hitting ‘too fast and too furious’” (CNBC); “Mask mandates fail to make a comeback, despite pleas from public health experts” (Yahoo News); “Mask mandates are dead even though they could help fight ‘tripledemic’” (The Washington Post).
Apparently, these outlets missed the moment when the White House’s chief COVID expert acknowledged that masking, by and large, does not work all that well, and there is little science to support the idea they do.
In an interview last week with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dr. Ashish Jha, the Biden administration’s COVID response coordinator, called for more improvements to indoor filtration systems, calling that step far more effective and easier to do than mandatory masking.
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The Inquirer reported that Jha believes that “the evidence that a high-quality, well-fitted mask reduces transmission is clear.” Yet he also thinks “policy decisions should be up to local governments.”
But CBS News reporter Alexander Tin also covered the Inquirer’s session with Jha.
According to Tin, Jha also observed, “You know, in terms of other investments, there are a lot of dollars that came out of the American Rescue Plan given to cities and states for investments in improving indoor air quality. I actually think this is probably the most important long-term thing we can be doing for schools or office buildings or nursing homes.”
“Indoor air quality,” he continued, “has just not got the level of attention it deserves. Most experts believe that, if we make some basic investments in indoor air quality, we can reduce, in fact, all respiratory infections by 30 or 60 or even 80%.”
“I mean, the notion that you could cut respiratory infections — there is no study in the world that shows that masks work that well. So you’re never going to get the kind of benefit from mandatory year round masking as you would from making substantial improvements in indoor air quality, plus it’s a lot easier to implement as well.”
“So this is an area where we’re doing a lot and trying to really encourage people to use the resources they have to make those investments and start really improving ventilation filtration,” Jha concluded.
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To his credit, Tin seems to be the only reporter from the prominent national media to pick up on Jha’s remarks.
The Inquirer conveniently left Jha’s comment about the lack of studies supporting mandatory asking out of its coverage. And a search of the term “Jha COVID mask” revealed no hits about the Inquirer interview in, for example, The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News or NBC News.
One person who did pick it up was Christina Pushaw, campaign spokeswoman for Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Biden’s Covid Response Coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, FINALLY admits what we already knew: ‘there is no study in the world that shows masks work that well,’” Pushaw tweeted. “I’m SURE all the media activists who ‘fact checked’ @GovRonDeSantis on this factual statement will follow up.”