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Masks haven’t worked for a ‘wide population’ – but on an individual basis ‘there is a benefit’

Former NIAID director and White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN’s “Smerconish” Saturday that studies showing masks are not effective in the “general population do not affect their “advantage” on an individual basis.

Partial transcript as follows:

FAUCI: So I’m hoping that if in fact we get to the point where the volume of cases is such that an organization like the CDC is recommending, the CDC is not mandating anything, I mean, recommending people wear masks, I hope they respect the recommendation and take into account the risk for themselves and their families. And again, we’re not talking about forcing anyone to do anything.

SMERCONISH: Absolutely understood. A lot of people, how many, I don’t know, feel like they don’t work and the data concludes they didn’t work the first time around. Answer that on the masks.

FAUCI: Yeah, well, it’s not. I mean, when you’re talking at the population level, the data is less solid than knowing that if you look at a situation as an individual protecting themselves or protecting themselves from the spread, there’s no doubt that masks work . Different studies give different percentages of benefits to wearing it. But there is no doubt that the weight of studies, and many studies, point to the benefit of wearing masks.

Mr. SMERCONISH: I will refer to one of them. You’ve heard of it before, I’ve heard of it from a number of callers on the radio. Bret Stephens in the “Times” spoke about Cochrane. Put that on screen. “The most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of scientific studies conducted on the effectiveness of masks in reducing the spread of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19, was published last month, its findings, said Tom Jefferson , the Oxford epidemiologist who is the lead author, were unambiguous.

There’s just no evidence masks make a difference,” he told reporter Maryanne Demasi. “Complete stop.” But wait, what about N-95 masks, as opposed to lesser quality surgical or cloth masks? Doesn’t it make any difference? None of that, he said. Well, what about the studies that initially persuaded policymakers to impose mask-wearing mandates? They were convinced by non-randomized studies, flawed observational studies. How can we move beyond the findings of this particular review?

FAUCI: Yes, but there are other studies, Michael, that show that at the individual level, when you’re talking about the effect on the epidemic or the pandemic as a whole, the data is less robust. But when we talk individually about someone protecting themselves or themselves from spreading the virus to others, there is no doubt that there are many studies that show that there is a benefit.

When considering the whole population, as in the Cochrane review, the data is less firm regarding the effect on the overall pandemic. But we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about an individual’s effect on their own security. This is a bit different from the level of the general population.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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