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CNN host shocks viewers when he confronts Dr. Fauci with study, expert analysis on mask efficacy
Image source: YouTube screenshot

CNN host shocks viewers when he confronts Dr. Fauci with study, expert analysis on mask efficacy

CNN host Michael Smerconish confronted Dr. Anthony Fauci on Saturday over a recent study that questioned the efficacy of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What about the study?

In January, the Cochrane institute released a new systematic review studying the impacts of "physical interventions" to slow the spread of respiratory viruses. The study concluded that wearing masks "probably makes little or no difference to the outcome" on flu-like or COVID-like illness or laboratory-confirmed flu or COVID-19 compared to not wearing masks.

Oxford epidemiologist Tom Jefferson, the study's first author, said after the study was published, "There is just no evidence that [masks] make any difference."

"Makes no difference — none of it," he explained, speaking of N-95 masks. He said policymakers who enacted mask mandates were "convinced by nonrandomized studies, flawed observational studies."

What happened on CNN?

Smerconish confronted Fauci about that study and Jefferson's analysis, introducing it by quoting New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who described the review as the "most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of scientific studies conducted on the efficacy of masks for reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses."

Fauci, however, refused to budge.

"Yes, but there are other studies, Michael, that show at an individual level, for individual, when you're talking about the effect on the epidemic or the pandemic as a whole, the data are less strong," he responded.

"But when you talk about as an individual basis of someone protecting themselves or protecting themselves from spreading it to others, there's no doubt that there are many studies that show that there is an advantage," he continued. "When you [look at] the broad population level like the Cochrane study, the data are less firm with regard to the effect on the overall pandemic. But we're not talking about that, we're talking about an individual's effect on their own safety. That's a bit different than the broad population level."

Dr. Fauci responds to study that says masks didn't workwww.youtube.com

There are several problems with Fauci's response.

First, he cited "other studies," but declined to name a single one. Second, he claimed those "studies" show mask efficacy at the "individual level." But to study the efficacy of masks, participants are placed in two groups — one with masks and another without masks — and the rate of infection between the groups is compared. There is no way to study these outcomes on an "individual level."

And don't forget: while Fauci now claims masks are effective on an "individual level," mask mandates were justified with the reverse logic. Politicians advised people to wear them, even those who did not want or need to wear them, in order to protect others.

Finally, Fauci spoke as though everyone's risk to COVID-19 is the same. Sure, everyone can contract it. But the pandemic proved that not everyone is equally likely to die from it. The people most likely to die from COVID-19 are elderly people and those who are metabolically unhealthy and have multiple comorbidities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in fact, said that just "over 5%" of COVID-19 deaths include people in which COVID-19 "was the only cause mentioned on the death certificate." But for people whose death certificate listed COVID-19 and other conditions, "on average, there were 4.0 additional conditions or causes per death," according to the CDC.

Still, viewers were simply amazed that a CNN host dared to challenge Fauci directly on the efficacy of masks.

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