‘Gold Standard’ Scientific Trial Deals Massive Blow to N95 and Surgical Masks as Way to ‘Stop Covid’

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by Kyle Becker, Becker News:

A Randomized Control Trial (RCT), the gold standard for scientific evidence in the medical community, was released on Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The results from the RCT study deal a major blow to advocates of N95 and surgical masks as effective means to “stop Covid.”

As the study details, 1009 health care workers in four countries who provided direct care to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 were given either N95 respirators or medical masks and tracked over the course of 9 weeks. The study was not able to “blind” the participants due to the visible differences in the masks.

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It should be noted that two of these medical settings experienced no major reported outbreaks of Covid-19, which may skew the perceived efficacy of the masks.

The most critical and surprising finding from the study is that N95 respirators did not significantly outperform “medical masks.” The results were based on PCR test for Covid-19 infection and testing for nucleocapsid antibodies (which reveals exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus). This is a vital point for reasons that will be discussed below.

In this chart of “cumulative hazard,” which is based on a Cox Proportional-Hazards model that displays calculated risk over time, the masks performed similarly.

Beyond the cumulative hazard model, a statistical breakdown of the results are provided below.

The RT-PCR confirmed Covid-19 infections are charted above. Canada: 6.1% with medical mask, 2.2% with N95. Israel: 35.3% with Medical Mask, 23.5% with N95. Pakistan: 3.2% with medical mask, 2.1% with N95. Egypt: 35% with medical mask, 38% with N95. All sites: 10.46% with medical mask, 9.27% with N95. The disparity in reported cumulative hazard rates can be visualized below.

Beyond the results showing no substantial difference between medical masks and N95 masks, there are a few confounding issues. First, there is tremendous variation in reported Covid outbreaks at the sites, which throws into question the perception of overall reduction in hazard from wearing either medical masks or N95 respirators.

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