If Masks Don’t Work, Why Do We Keep Wearing Them?

According to a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70 percent of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 wore masks regularly. By contrast, under 4 percent of those testing positive never wore masks.

Coupled with this was an extensive review of mask studies worldwide in which the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) determined that typical cloth masks did little to stop the transmission of COVID-19. Although experts like to claim that cloth masks will prevent droplets carrying the virus from reaching others when a person sneezes or coughs, the reality is that most people are probably better off using their elbow and turning away from others. Moreover, the virus can still pass through a cloth mask, and the eyes, which aren’t covered, can act as “a portal of entry.”

The scientific evidence here strongly suggests that masks do nothing at best, and may actually increase the spread of infection at worst. This is probably why countries that haven’t imposed mask mandates do just as well or better than those that have required them.

And yet, the symbolism behind masks is significant enough for mask mandates and mask-shaming to continue. 

Despite the rhetoric, the science was always secondary—as the AAPS writers note, this is shown in the fact that “The recommendation [for universal masking] was published without a single scientific paper or other information provided to support that cloth masks actually provide any respiratory protection.” 

Rather, masks were a tool for spreading awareness and keeping Americans in fear of a virus that posed minimal risk to the great majority of the population. And in an election year, such an environment could turn Americans against Trump and the Republican Party. That’s why the masks mandates likely will only end after the election.

In light of the evolving narrative and multiplying meanings behind masks, however, there is reason to think that masking will continue for a much longer time. It has become bigger than politics. 

Masks may not be able to block COVID-19, but increasingly they have blocked common sense from the wearers. After so many months of mandates and propaganda, people have a lot invested in their understanding of what it means to be a good faithful American embodied in the face mask.

It wasn’t this way at first. In May and June, soon after states were reopening from their lockdowns, masks were an extra precaution taken by people simply being courteous towards others. The idea wasn’t to prevent one from being infected, but from infecting others. At that time, the mask conferred easy moral superiority to the wearer who could claim he was doing his part to help others.

Soon enough, governors and mayors mandated masking. Businesses and churches that failed to turn out customers without masks would be subject to heavy fines along with the individual offenders themselves. Even though masks were intended to enable safe reopening for states, most governments maintained closures of public areas and tight restrictions on building capacity. It was not enough to stand 6+ feet apart; people had to wear a mask now, too.

This was when masks became a partisan issue. Conservatives mainly saw them as yet more proof of a busybody government exploiting a crisis. Progressives saw them as badges of civic duty, and many were willing to go even further, wearing their masks outdoors, at home, and alone in their cars.

In its final phase the mask’s symbolism has now taken on spiritual and psychological dimensions. While some advocates of masking might insist on the science or the expert testimonials behind masking, most of them now treat it as an unquestionable article of faith. Like the Christian cross representing Christ’s overcoming sin, the mask represents mankind overcoming the virus. It is like the Muslim hijab or Catholic veil indicating modesty and reverence before God. The mask indicates modesty and reverence before the virus. Like the yin-yang circle reflecting the cosmic forces of light and dark in harmony with one another, the mask reflects the life forces of infection and recovery in harmony with one another.

The mask doesn’t just signal virtue to others, it is a transcendent union with other people who treat the virus with sufficient seriousness. Whereas church services are unsafe for communities of believers to meet, people can form a community of COVID-19 believers by wearing their masks and nodding at one another from a safe distance. They can share in the feeling that they are saving lives, respecting science, and taking concrete action against the virus.

No one should underestimate how strong and widespread the belief in masks is. For many, they are a source of profound security. They are secure from the virus, immorality, and in the promise of societal approval. Their masks even empower them to become puritanical and judgmental. With full-throated conviction, they will blame victims of COVID-19 for not wearing masks and for lacking sufficient faith in the mask. They will insist on quarantining them and their family members for two-weeks no matter what. In most cases, it’s difficult to determine whether this is a health precaution designed to mitigate spread or a punishment for being near the virus in the first place.

Many people who are frustrated with the masking simply want to return to mask-free normality. It isn’t so simple anymore. Asking a person to take off his mask now means asking him to take off all that the masking has come to mean. Removing it means removing one’s safety, one’s sense of belonging, and one’s values. This is probably why face mask-wearing has even become an addiction in a developed country like Japan. They were originally used to help with hay fever, but are now used all year round for whatever reason.

Facts or even a Republican victory in November won’t be enough in the fights against masks. Maskers need to be constantly yet gently reminded of the reality that masks took away: real community, real science, real safety, and real meaning. The goal should be not revenge, but rather a release from a symbol that hides people from one another and perpetuates fear.

Many people were wrong about the masks, even the experts. This is forgivable, and therefore forgiveness is offered. Once Americans come to terms with masks, they will be able to clear the air both figuratively and literally and finally make it past the pandemic nightmare. 

About Auguste Meyrat

Auguste Meyrat is an English teacher in the Dallas area. He holds an M.A. in Humanities and an M.Ed in Educational Leadership. He is the senior editor of The Everyman and has written for The Federalist, The American Thinker, and The American Conservative as well as the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter: @MeyratAuguste

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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54 responses to “If Masks Don’t Work, Why Do We Keep Wearing Them?”

  1. Let’s just rip the proverbial mask off our faces and be done with it. It’s been proven that they do not prevent microscopic viruses from infecting a person, so why are we all still walking around with them on? To me, masks are a constant reminder of the total political fraud this pandemic has become, so their use needs to end now.

    • This is great news, next time you have surgery I hope the staff takes your advice and don’t wear masks, the paper masks they wear are there to stop particles and organisms much smaller than SARS-Covid 2, but what do they know. All Drs. must be Democrats..from a Repulican that hasn’t been brainwashed by a lifelong con man that has paid out over 25 million dollars in damages to the people he conned with Trump University, while he has been in office no less. I hope the 1% drop in unemployment and the 2% reduction in your personal income tax is worth the long term damage he has done to this country.. not all people that wave flags are patriots my dear.. unity for all the people

      • Physicians originally wore masks to stop Bacteria, much LARGER particles than Covid . All masks have a much larger micron opening than COVID or any virus, that is why the package that they come in clearly indicates “Does NOT protect against viruses”. Once antibiotics came along to fight bacterial infections, the main reason physicians continued to wear masks in the operating room was to prevent back-splash of fluid from the patient. I know several physicians who do not wear masks even in surgery. I myself have stood at the head of cardiac bypass patient during surgery, with no mask. 70% of physicians I know, on both sides of the political spectrum, say that masks (for the masses) give a false sense of security and can even contribute to the mask wearer getting sick; dental issues, sinus infections, lung infections, migraines. You are better off holding your breath and vacating the area if someone coughs or sneezes around you, even if they have a mask on or sneeze into a tissue/elbow. We have done this for years (in conjunction with strengthening our immune system) and have not had a cold or flu in years. But the bigger reason for not wearing a mask during this “pandemic” is the 99.98% survival rate and the fact that 80 % who get the virus will have mild symptoms- mild like a little cold.

      • Some advice: swallow before you type.

        Second part: you’re wrong, and it’s delightful to read your screed because it highlights the truth of the article.

        Your face diaper does nothing but make you feel like you’re smarter and better than people who know better. Do you know why surgeons wear the diaper during surgery? So they don’t cough into the wound. Same with nurses sewing up a cut–that’s all, child. That’s the reason.

        So swallow first, then think. If your hatred for one man and his followers has warped your bodily fluids into believing a piece of paper prevents a virus from traveling…. just swallow. Then try again.

      • Not many organisms are smaller than the Chinese Communist Virus. Certainly not bacteria.
        I’d bet you are a Bidet voter. Go get yourself some real scientific education, Karen.

    • If the mask makes you comfortable, wear it.

      I hate the stoopid things because “cloth face coverings” are considered compliance to this requirement. The ones I wear you can see light through, they do NOTHING. Now, if you wear an N95 and change it for a fresh one about once an hour you may gain some protection but otherwise they are BS.

  2. Who should I believe about masks, expert scientists, or an M.A. English teacher with a wannabe literary/poetic/religious theory?

    • The petition of 32,000 docs worldwide who signed that this is a polictical farse and the CDC and CID who admitted they incorrectly exploited the information.

    • Since the “expert scientists” have themselves been all over the map on the issue of mask efficacy in real life as opposed to laboratory conditions, your question is moot. There is no infallible Grand Poobah of
      Science who has been correct on every aspect of this pandemic.

      But your delusion that there is an expert class to whom you should genuflect is a very left wing mentality. Some people just want to be told what to do and delegate thinking to what they see as their superiors – either “experts” or even more foolishly, career politicians.

    • John, you should believe facts. You can read them without a medical professional. The author did, and came to the factually correct conclusion.

      Do you understand money, John? Medical bureaucrats who are paid to be medical bureaucrats, and who get money for saying the proper things will always, always say the proper things. Always in their white coats so their gibberish appears reasonable. Because all medical people are experts, right, John?

  3. The push for mask wear will magically subside after the American Presidential election, as will most talk of deaths and second waves. COVID-19 has been the most politicized pandemic in history, a disease with a mortality rate likely lesser than that of seasonal flu that has been painted The Red Death in the hope of making Americans feel under siege, and blaming the bad times on President Trump.

  4. Facebook will not permit posting a link to the AAPS Face mask report without adding that their fact checkers find the article (which is a purely scientific review of scientific studies) is partially false. As a result, after repeated attempts to post a link to the report, I have decided to delete the posts. My reasoning is that I would be complicit in Facebook’s deception if I allowed them to add this spurious and ignorant “fact check” to my post.

    • Try posting websiteDOTcom instead of website.com. I know that works on other websites.

      Why are you still using Facebook? Try Parler.

      • Not sure why there is such a fuss about wearing a mask… experts who have credited, peer reviewed studies, have concluded that it helps to mitigate the spread of COVID to some degree. It is not a political issue its an ignorance issue. Wearing a mask is simple and easy, its not that hard. Trust the science and not unsupported opinions of people who have a problem being told what to do.

  5. Time to start pushing back folks. Went to 3 different retail outlets the last 2 days and didn’t wear a mask, no one said a work.

    • I do as you, Susan, and have this entire pandemic.

      I live is a democrat-led state. Small towns for the near 60 miles have been crushed by the mask and 25%capacity laws. These businesses will never return.

      I feel certain some people think i am “selfish” “evil” and have many other negative traits. I dont see that i am “pushing back” so much as being strong and setting a example of confidence in the healing treatments of our medical professionals.

      I dont shop for fun or impulse buy anymore, though – the politicians took the fun out of it and the business owner complied to quickly and thoroughly for me to reward them. I get what i need and leave for the most part. Although, to be fair, i only had one young 20-something at TJMaxx refuse to handle my purchase. Most are genuinely sweet.

  6. People keep wearing him because they are sheep they cannot think for themselves they like being allied and controlled it is all about controlled front to these politicians

    • Actually I wear one so that I can get into the grocery store. No mask, no service.

      • yes, it is much easier to put on a mask (I wear a bandana) to get into the grocery than to fight off the feeling of throat-punching everyone who gives you the stink-eye for not complying.

    • We are now living in the real Orwell 1984.The Ministry of Truth is in full view. I took a road trip from here in Fl to Michigan and over many interstates electric signs blared. “wear a mask, wash your hands (like I never do) and social distance”. Past bizarre! It was totally 1984! I refuse to wear a piehole thong and only did for a total of 45 seconds the whole ten days when I ordered breakfast from a little mask tyrant!. But there is a ray of hope. At Shoney’s in Tenn. I actually didn’t see one server. cook or anyone wearing a mask in the place, and they actually had a full BUFFETT!!! Just dang!! We can beat these tin horn tyrants if we just refuse to obey!!!!!

  7. “Superstition” is sometimes a very real thing. It gives people the [false] sense that they are doing something about a threat they can do nothing about. Historically, we had all of the behaviors described here during both the Spanish Flu and the Black Death. But, these things too shall pass with time and be forgotten.

    • Mike, I think your comment hits the nail on the head. At our founding, American thinking was based on “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”* Today, because of over 1/2 a century of leftist brainwashing in media and public education, American society has reverted to ancient pre-Socratic myth as the way to perceive reality.

      What Meyrat describes in this op-ed is the Myth of the Mask.

      And I, who hate the clown mask of fear and submission, am forced by government and my employer and my church to live the Myth of the Mask whenever I interact with my fellow man in public.

      The Myth of the Mask is so deeply embedded in American society that if anyone takes a stand against it agents of the American police state haul them off to jail, or fine them or fire them.

      Americans needs leaders in the halls of power who still view reality through “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” and who can right this ship of state** before it destroys itself on the rocky shore of myth.

      *The Declaration of Independence
      **Plato’s Republic, Book VI

  8. This upcoming Election,among other things, is going to be an Unofficial public referendum on this whole masking Farce.
    And make no mistake, Farce it is and always has been.

  9. Why? Virtue signaling to their culture of common values. The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.

    I bicycle six hours per week and often see discarded masks. If they are effective blocking the virus then aren’t they discarded hazardous waste? Should I call 911 and guard the area – as I was required to do for radioactive waste adrift?

  10. Masks are interesting both from a rhetorical and from a religious standpoint.

    From a rhetorical standpoint, masks illustrate a common propaganda tactic. To discourage beliefs, demand absolute proof of them. HCQ is an example. To demand beliefs, require no proof at all, merely the thinnest of guesses. Masks are an example.

    From a religious standpoint, masks are a talisman of the state religion. Having all but forbidden true Biblically-based religion, our self-styled betters impose a new faith of unquestioning obedience lest the terrors of their hyped pandemic afflict us for our sins. The basic technique has been around a long time:

    https://the-1000-year-view.com/2020/10/19/a-moment-from-the-middle-ages/

  11. Saxon soldiers went into battle wearing a specially-knotted rope around their necks, which was supposed to stop or deflect the sword of the enemy. Nowadays our business warriors go into their battles using that same knot on their neckwear–neckties–to make themselves invincible.

    Masks serve the same purpose; they won’t ward off the infection and may even cause it–but you feel invincible.

  12. I don’t know about others, but I miss seeing a human face in public anymore. Do you think we will all forget how to smile?
    You can make a small statement by wearing a MAGA mask or, better, one that says THIS IS BULLSHIT. I’ve worn this one for a couple of months and have gotten nothing but positive remarks about it. Not one negative (which surprises me). You can find them online, at last you used to be able to. Google may have taken them all off by now.

  13. Repetition to superstitious rituals is part and parcel to human behaviour. No different than the social welfare programs (a/k/a, the “single mother State), not only does it not work but it actually makes things worse; yet we still fund these programs out of habit. Why should mask-wearing differ.

  14. We must all push our political leaders to pass a federal law that will prohibit any authorities, private or public, from issuing and enforcing any future mask mandates. This would stop the madness. Fools who wanted to wear face diapers could do so, but they would not be able to force the rest of us to follow suit.

  15. Great article. What frightens me is that young people appear to be the strongest adherents to the mask policies. I think it makes them feel grown up.

  16. This is an excellent piece, despite more research coming out about how masks truly lack efficacy, more so how they might actually help to spread the virus more, because of constant touching, as well as reuse, but here we are a half a year later or more and people still are mandated to wear masks. I personally refuse to wear a mask and most businesses, thankfully in the great state of Arizona, nobody has ever yet to call me out. I get a lot of dirty looks, but I am always ready to give an answer as to why. Because I am self educated that they do not help as much as people think and may have contributed to spreading this disease more. It is simply a virtue signal. that’s not to say that this is not a real virus or that people haven’t really died, but like many scientist have said, despite being ridiculed or shadow banned from social media, we need to get back to living. A virus is going to do what a virus is going to do. Watch the movie plandemic 2, and ask yourself, why does the CDC hold patents on coronavirus is? Not only the virus itself, but also any testing to it? To me, all of this seems awfully manufactured, a virus that easily transmits, and is extremely difficult to pinpoint and detect, The fact that the narrative is that anyone can have it and not know it, meanwhile, we are also afraid of getting close to one another at one of the most important and divisive elections since I’ve been alive. Isn’t it ironic how we are all isolated and stuck at home with nothing to do but consume media 24 seven? No ability to gather with others and share stories or opinions? Lastly, everyone is looking forward to a vaccine like it’s the holy Grail of getting life back to so-called normal, well life is normal for me right now, I don’t have it, I may have had it, I don’t know anyone who has had it, you may have and have had family members passed away, and it’s unfortunate, but there are plenty of people who are also dying from suicide, people who are having their livelihood stripped. How much longer will be act in obedience despite the other side effects of lockdown and distancing??

  17. One addition. Requiring school children to wear masks is by definition counterproductive. Children don’t die from this disease–even the CDC shows that their death rate is effectively zero–not do they tend to suffer much from getting it (which is actually true of most of us). On the other hand, masks are socially and physically detrimental in a school setting, something that nobody should have to be convinced of. At the very least, spare our children from this horrid mask-shaming.

  18. THE WORLD IS FLAT , CALIFORNIA will fall into the Sea, global warming ,global cooling , Manmade Pollution cause’s Everything , The ICE caps are melting the sea is rising to the sea is sinking ,A Refrigerant called R12 is melting the polar ice caps add in The Masks an the Mask Nazi’s to this list endless an the Pictures of a Indian crying at the river of filth is for the left the Cause that has come in form of their END game for their followers to succumb to Madness , add Trump an his Americans to the mix an we have the Evil they have wanted to unleash
    The Dark Winter .
    The Dark Winter is the Donkeys informing We The People that they do intent to turn out the Lights
    Literally and if thats not enough maybe bring Life Liberty an the Pursuit of Happiness to a very ugly end.

    • Way back in March/April, Ohio shut down for all but essential workers. I could easily have worked from home, but my daughter had to work on site. We work together and I honestly didn’t know how people would react to the situation unfolding, so I worked on site too. Actually, quite a few of us worked on site without masks for at least a month. The the mask mandate was birthed and others came back to work. It was then that I got most upset because those “sheltering in place” for the past month came back as “Karens” insisting that they were protecting we the previously “unmasked” who braved the lightly trafficked streets to work on site.

      Do masks work? I don’t know! But our society has been cowed by this Pandemic and it’s quite scary to think how easy it would be to take us down as a nation. Release a biological weapon and our nation would become a country of “bubble” people whilst a foreign enemy took control. Without people doing their jobs, the water would stop flowing to our homes, toilets would not work, excrement would pile in the streets as would other garbage and dead bodies, vermin and the disease they carry would multiply and spread long controlled diseases amongst us. Hunger and starvation would become the norm as crops would rot in the fields or never be planted and the supply chain would simply disappear overnight with no hope of looted grocery stores ever being filled again. The enemy could simply wait it out until all Americans died of the infection, starvation, disease, mob violence or the lack of affordable housing, health care, abortion or a living wage.

  19. Its goal is just to make us a faceless society that will me easily dominated by the Marxist ruling class.

  20. If masks DID work, there would be guidelines on what type of mask MUST be worn. Since anything covering the mouth and nose is deemed a mask, this is proof there is no science supporting the wearing of masks.

  21. Why do people line up at McDonald’s when it isn’t real food? People just do dumb stuff sometimes.

  22. The first paragraph is misleading; the study doesn’t warrant the conclusions that are being propagated. The primary purpose of the survey was designed to identify the risks of going out in public: shopping, dining, drinking, etc.
    This statement from the study must be what the paragraph was based on:
    “In the 14 days before illness onset, 71% of case-patients and 74% of control- participants reported always using cloth face coverings or other mask types when in public.” And, “Close contact with one or more persons with known COVID-19 was reported by 42% of case- patients compared with 14% of control-participants (p<0.01), and most (51%) close contacts were family members.
    “When in public” is the key phrase.
    So many of the cases came from individuals who were exposed to a family member, where mask wearing is not going to be happening in households. While the study can't pinpoint time of infection, you do see more cases reporting they were at PUBLIC restaurants where there were few to no mask coverings or social distancing.

    • This really is excellent. Nobody else I’ve seen had correctly interpreted that study as I think you have.

      We really need a proper study. Perfectly do-able, maybe even from the same data set.

  23. … the sentiments expressed in your article have been mine since the COVID scare emerged; what is interesting is that you too surmise it will be next to impossible for the mask wearers to give it up. Keep up the good work …

  24. A few weeks ago one of the mask Nazis told me that I should quit complaining because Muslim women wear face coverings all the time. He was not pleased when I said “Yes, as a sign of submission, just like yours.”

  25. You are all morons and sheep. I went and read the CDC report. It said the opposite of what is reported here.

  26. I wear a mask when I’m going to be in close quarters with people such as in a store, mainly as a short cut to being left in peace because mask martinets can and do make life very unpleasant and in my left wing city, I’m outnumbered. I do not wear one outdoors in the suburbs where I can distance myself from those sharing the sidewalk by crossing the street or ducking into a driveway but am puzzled by those wearing a mask in the middle of a park walking their dog etc. They’re complying with no possible science so they are in fact genuflecting to the “religion” of leftism. Yet I do not harass them as idiots like the masked harass the non-masked.

    Similarly, I seldom point out to a masked stranger that they’ve fiddled with their face countless times in the few minutes I’ve observed them, adjusting the nose piece or ear loops, de-fogging their glasses etc. thus defeating the purpose of the mask by spreading droplets to whatever they touch next.

    Religious fanatics of all types are difficult people with whom to deal while the rest of us are more live and let live.

  27. No one is saying anything about the quality of the masks and that is what counts. If everyone could access N95 masks, it would be the solution. These masks would be the answer. But they aren’t readily available for whatever the reason is??

    • They are available at Lowes, but honestly I purchased them for cutting flooring, not Covid-19. They fit much better than the cheap blue paper ones, however, wearing them long term in a grocery store, for example, is a chore as they are difficult to breathe thru and make your face feel as if it’s in a sauna.

  28. If the air vents in a mask are 10 microns (medical grade) and the virus is 0.126 microns, that’s like trying to filter marbles using hula hoops. it’s all for show by those wearing them and a power play by those mandating the masks.

  29. Why do people keep wearing them? Simple, because these people vote. Who honestly shouldn’t be allow to vote in the first place. The majority of people are too stupid to think logically. Because the media spreads this propaganda, they’re able to control the people. If we had a republic instead of a democracy. This whole comic fear would have never occurred.

  30. Some say the masks are intrusion into our liberty and freedoms. Wearing requirements are in force when in or on someone else’s property. Mostly likely it is a business. The business is the mask gatekeeper because their existence is tied to their license. Their government controls the license. Reality is that long ago liberty and freedom was handed over to government when licenses came into existence. The mask wearing of today is actually a test of how far the government can intrude.