A former neurosurgeon wrote an op-ed published Thursday warning that face masks are not only ineffective against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, but they can be potentially dangerous in some circumstances.
Dr. Russell Blaylock wrote for Technocracy that people who aren't sick should not wear a face mask. The publication of his opinion piece comes as more businesses and locales make masks a requirement, such as in Los Angeles where residents are now required to wear a mask when they leave their homes.
Blaylock said that since there have not yet been any studies of the effectiveness of masks in slowing or preventing COVID-19 transmission, the best thing that can be done is to look at what impact masks have been proven to have against the flu. He cited a 2012 analysis on this point:
As for the scientific support for the use of face mask, a recent careful examination of the literature, in which 17 of the best studies were analyzed, concluded that, "None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection."
Blaylock noted that people wearing the most effective masks, N95 respirators, are at risk of negative effects of having their oxygen intake limited for extended periods of time.
It is known that the N95 mask, if worn for hours, can reduce blood oxygenation as much as 20%, which can lead to a loss of consciousness, as happened to the hapless fellow driving around alone in his car wearing an N95 mask, causing him to pass out, and to crash his car and sustain injuries. I am sure that we have several cases of elderly individuals or any person with poor lung function passing out, hitting their head. This, of course, can lead to death.
Blaylock wrote that lower blood-oxygen levels can impair a person's immunity, potentially increasing their risk of contracting infections, including COVID-19. Also, a person who has a respiratory infection and wears a mask is expelling some of that virus with each breath and rebreathing it in, potentially leading to higher concentrations of the virus in the lungs and nasal passages, or even the brain — which that can make COVID-19 more dangerous.
"One should not attack and insult those who have chosen not to wear a mask, as these studies suggest that is the wise choice to make," Blaylock concluded.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the use of cloth face coverings, not surgical masks or N95 respirators, for people in public settings where social distancing is difficult or impossible.
In February, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a public statement telling people to "STOP BUYING MASKS" because "They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus."
In March, Adams stood by the stance that healthy people should not wear masks, saying they cause people to touch their faces more and provide a false sense of security.