Masks Will Not Slow Transmission in Los Angeles County
The death rate from Covid is now near that of the common flu
July 13, 2022
July 7, 2022 For many weeks now, Los Angeles County Health officials have warned that a health order requiring masks at indoor public places will be re-instituted when there are 10 admissions or more of "Covid" patients per 100,000 residents for two weeks in a row. The cutoff is a guideline from the Centers for Disease Control. It is designed to reduce the stress on the hospital system.
Two questions require to be answered for one to consider this guideline and its implementation to have the slightest bit of use.
1. Will an indoor mask requirement reduce the number of people in the hospital who have Covid?
2. Do hospitals need to take all the precautions they do around patients who test positive for Covid? This need for extra precautions is the actual "stress" on the hospital system, not the sheer number of Covid-positive patients, only 40% of whom are actually suffering from Covid, according to LADPH Director Barbara Ferrer in her media briefing today.
The answer to the first question has been answered by over two years of data from the County Health Department: No.
The answer to the second question is either "No" right now or heading quickly in that direction.
Masks will not reduce transmission nor reduce the number of Covid-positive patients in the hospital. Masks have been required indoors for nearly the entire period of the pandemic, from March 2020 through March 4, 2022. The rise and fall of the various Covid-19 surges in terms of cases have proceeded without any influence from the use of masks - or even from the use of vaccines. Vaccines have done almost nothing to reduce transmission. (That's another story.)
A proof of mask ineffectiveness can be drawn from a short period of time last spring when the county health department allowed the vaccinated to remove their masks. When cases began to rise (because that's apparently what happens every summer), masks were reinstated on July 14, 2021. In looking at a graph of the number of cases from that time period, there is absolutely no change in the rate of transmission from when masks were not required to when they were again required. None. The surge proceeded as it was going to proceed regardless of the use of masks.
In the winter of both 2020 and 2021 there were enormous spikes in cases. In both cases, masks were universally required in public spaces. The use of masks made no dent in the number of cases or the rate of transmission.
But is it even terribly important to reduce transmission of the current Omicron sub-variants of Covid-19 if we could? The public is not given the case fatality rates, but a gross death per case shows that the current virus is far, far less deadly than in its original form - or even from the form of the Delta variant. During a 30-day period during the Delta surge (Aug 10 - Sep 7, 2021), the overall death/case ratio was .00844. During a similar time period this spring (May 19 - June 23), the overall death/case ratio was .00146. The death rate is approximately 6 times lower now than last year.
Such a low death rate is no longer outside our comfort range. The death rate from the common influenza is considered to be .001. So today's Covid-19 is only slightly more deadly than the common flu. Is there a reason hospitals need to take such elaborate precautions for patients who happen to test positive for Covid-19? Could not they rely on similar precautions to those they would take for a patient who had the flu?
If public officials reinstitute a universal indoor mask mandate they are doing so to shift blame, not to achieve any measurable public health goal.