WHO Reverses Course, Endorses Masks to Fight COVID-19

6 min

The World Health Organization now supports the public wearing of masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. That’s a reversal of its earlier position, reports the South China Morning Post:

The World Health Organisation says it supports government initiatives that require or encourage the public wearing of masks, marking a major shift from previous advice amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO added that surgical masks should be reserved for medical professionals, while the public should use mainly cloth or home-made face coverings.

The updated stance comes as more scientific research points to the positive effect of wearing masks in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, with more governments in Europe requiring people to cover their noses and mouths in public….Previously the WHO advised that only individuals with symptoms or those taking care of at-risk people should use masks. …

Only in the last week or so did Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic introduce public requirements for people to wear masks in places such as supermarkets.

Last month, I recommended that people wear masks when they go outside, to protect against COVID-19. At that time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was still recommending that the general public not wear masks, but last week it finally changed position to endorse mask-wearing by the general public. As The Antioch Press notes:

In a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending the use of cloth face masks while in public, a reversal of its prior position in which masks were only recommended for confirmed COVID-19 patients, medical workers and first responders. … [P]eople are advised to wear a mask in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. …

Guidelines issued by CDC state that surgical masks or N-95 respirators should not be used in these circumstances.

“Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders as recommended by current CDC guidance,” said the CDC.

Cloth face masks that can be made from common household materials are recommended.

Mask-wearing by the general public is one reason why the coronavirus infected fewer people in East Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea than in Western countries like Italy and Spain. Research shows wearers get some protection from masks, even when they are not medical-grade. More importantly, if you wear a mask, people around you are protected from germs you may be carrying. That includes the coronavirus, which you can be carrying without knowing it.

Some journalists uncritically reported and amplified the false claim that masks do no good. One example was a CNN article last month that trumpeted a government official’s illogical claim that wearing “masks may actually increase your coronavirus risk.” That official simultaneously claimed masks are critical protection for doctors and other “healthcare providers.” How can a mask protect a doctor if it won’t protect an ordinary person? Do masks magically change their protective properties depending on who wears them? But CNN simply parroted the illogical claim, without questioning it, or citing critics who had publicly noted that such claims were logically inconsistent.

Other journalists mistakenly claimed COVID-19 was less serious than the flu. On March 4, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said“If you’re freaked out about the coronavirus you should be more concerned about the flu.” CNN depicted “fears” of the coronavirus as being “misguided” because “it’s caused far fewer deaths than the flu.” A Washington Post article in February advised readers, “Get a grippe, America. The flu is a much bigger threat than coronavirus.” The Daily Beast wrote that “coronavirus, with zero American fatalities, is dominating headlines, while the flu is the real threat.” Similarly, Vox dismissed the risks posed by coronavirus. “Is this going to be a deadly pandemic? No,” it said. “For most people in the US, though, there’s really no reason to worry,” Vox said.

Federal bureaucrats at the CDC and FDA thwarted efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The FDA’s red tape spawned a surgical mask shortage, as Paul Matzko explains in the New York Daily News.

These bureaucrats also slowed testing for COVID-19, which left America in the dark about how much it had already spread in our country. For weeks, the CDC required that people use only the coronavirus test designed by the CDC itself, not alternative tests, such as those approved by European regulators. The CDC’s own test turned out to be badly flawed. The CDC’s demand for control over testing greatly slowed down detection of the disease. Meanwhile, the CDC and FDA were preventing infectious disease expert Helen Chu from testing samples from many people with symptoms. The FDA refused to approve Chu’s test on the grounds that her lab “was not certified as a clinical laboratory under regulations established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a process that could take months.”

The World Health Organization also bungled its response to the coronavirus. Initially, it suggested there was no “evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the virus, relying on false claims made by China’s communist government. Later, it erroneously suggested that transmission from asymptomatic people was “rare,” when in fact it is quite common, as the WHO now admits.

UPDATE, April 7, 4:44 p.m.:

Now, the WHO seems to once again be questioning the value of masks. The WHO was quoted as changing its position in an April 4 news article in the South China Morning Post.

The South China Morning Post quoted this April 3 statement by WHO's Dr. Michael Ryan, approving of mask use, which was a departure from its past position:

“We can certainly see circumstances on which the use of masks, both home-made and cloth masks, at the community level may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease,” Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said on Friday.

But on April 6, the WHO issued updated "interim guidance," containing this statement:

"The use of masks made of other materials (e.g., cotton fabric), also known as nonmedical masks, in the community setting has not been well evaluated. There is no current evidence to make a recommendation for or against their use in this setting."

The WHO does admit that medical masks protect against coronavirus:

"Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19."


This article has been republished with permission from Liberty Unyielding.

[Image Credit: Pixabay]

Image Credit: [Image Credit: Pixabay]
Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the U.S. Department of Education. Hans writes for CNS News and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

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Stephen Shive
The reality is that no one knows what to do. So as also has been reported wear cloth masks in public as a way to feel better about yourself. Dealing with an invisible enemy plus conflicting insufficient data is quite the challenge.


Stephen Shive
I left a comment once. Where did it go? When I follow the news, read commentaries such as this, and ponder it all I shake my head. No one really knows much at all. Or so it seems. It is kind of a postmodern perspective that what is true today doesn't have to be tomorrow. We are after all still learning and perfecting our models. Some say. But, the data is conflicting, incomplete, and suspect. Opinion writers at times criticize decision makers and their policies. And at other times they use these policies to show how they, the leaders, actually support an author’s opinions. Changing positions also fall under this rubric. And it seems so does this piece. Mr Bader evidently was prescient, called for masks in public and now, FINALLY, WHO has realized their error and has reversed their policy. But curiously in the court of public opinion and with policies from political and ruling agencies one must always ask the question, "Who is following and who is leading?" And, "Does anyone really have the foggiest idea what they are talking or writing about?"


April Rain
Homemade masks were studied for effectiveness back in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak. For 1 micron particles, surgical masks caught 96% while the homemade ones from ordinary cotton fabric caught 64%. https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/diy-homemade-mask-protect-virus-coronavirus/ WHO is clearly full of shit and can't be trusted.