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Oops: Education Secretary’s Claim Defending School Masking Refuted By Author of Study He Cited


It’s time, once again, to revisit the issue of mask mandates in schools – which we’ve covered rather heavily in recent months. As we’ve stated before, our interest in the matter is more about an underlying principle than the substance of the controversy itself. That underlying principle is whether data and evidence actually matter in our COVID policy-making, or whether elite conventional wisdom and superstition can win the day. On forcing children to mask up in classrooms, it’s looking like the latter scenario is prevailing, with the former taking a backseat. As we’ve previously noted, other countries have leaned on data and lived experience to eliminate or reduce required masking in schools.  The results have been just fine, a far cry from the hysteria surrounding such decisions here in the US. This is not what we should have in mind when it comes to American exceptionalism:

US mask guidance for kids is the strictest across the world

— New York Post (@nypost)

We’ve highlighted these vast discrepancies between policies in Europe and our own requirements before. It really does seem like this battle has become something of a tribal proxy fight, in which the “good” and “bad” sides are determined by signaling, regardless of the relevant facts. See, for instance, this tweet from a leftist activist in media (she did much of the leg work for an infamously shoddy hit piece on Brett Kavanaugh), which raises the “Koch!” bogey man to preemptively delegitimize an organization that opposes masks for children.  My retort was an easy layup, though it won’t change the perspective of those whose minds are already made up. For that anti-empiricism contingent, countervailing data is simply ignored:

My god, the Kochs must have gotten to the UK government & EU CDC on school mask mandates, too!

— Guy Benson (@guypbenson)

Meanwhile, a medical expert – a Harvard Medical School professor – who has opposed forced masking in schools based on the data (or lack thereof) watched a recent debate on the subject and observed an interesting dynamic that played out:

Fascinating debate on masks on children. Pro-maskers @IrwinRedlenerMD, @PatriceHarrisMD and @rweingarten claim belief in science, but ignore scientific evidence, while anti-maskers @TracyBethHoeg and @DrJBhattacharya quote study after study.

— Martin Kulldorff (@MartinKulldorff)

Anecdotally, the professor pointed out that all of the anti-child-mask participants shared the link to the event, while none of the pro-maskers did, which he suggested is one heuristic “to judge who won a debate.”  I’d be curious to know how Team Child Mask might explain this, out of Florida:

Per Florida Depts of Health & Education data: During September — school underway — juvenile COVID cases & positivity rates plummeted.

*No statistical differences* between counties without school mask requirements/offering opt-outs & counties imposing mask mandates on students.

— Guy Benson (@guypbenson)

Ignoring inconvenient data, pro-kid-mask advocates have recently taken to citing a handful of studies that they claim vindicate their perspective, with President Biden’s Secretary of Education embracing the talking point. The problem is that said studies aren’t what they’re chalked up to be:

Education Secretary Cardona cited 4 studies to conclude “the evidence is clear” on masking kids in schools

3 of the studies did not have a control group.

The 4th study was just a simulation.

— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey)

This is not scientific, data-based rigor. This is cherry-picking a conclusion that isn’t supported by actual evidence and citing it to claim “victory.” A simulation is not real data, obviously, and we’ve seen COVID-related projections and models misfire repeatedly throughout the pandemic. As for the other studies that lacked a control group, which could have isolated factors and therefore achieved some sort of meaningful analysis on the question at hand, some of the researchers themselves have pushed back on the politicized narrative that has sprung up around their work:

The senior author of the Wisconsin-based study called out Cardona’s misinformation:

“We had no control group”

— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey)

The same critique applied to the North Carolina study:

On June 30 the collaborative shared findings in a report and news conference touting the effectiveness of masks. The impression was that the data from schools led them to this conclusion, though the way North Carolina chose to reopen did not allow for a control group. The report nonetheless declared wearing masks “an effective strategy to prevent in-school COVID-19 transmission.”…The collaborative also determined that social distancing, the only intervention that did have something close to a control group, had no measurable impact on transmission…All schools showed low degrees of transmission, for which the report credited the only unstudied pillar, the masking policy. Because it applied everywhere in the state, there was no control group. But they could have compared transmission rates with school districts in other states and in Europe that didn’t mandate masks. Rather than study all the key components of the Covid-19 school strategy, the researchers baselessly touted masks.

If mandating children to wear masks in schools is a successful policy that prevents the spread of COVID and saves lives, why must people like Sec. Cardona resort to sharing weak and unsupported “evidence” to justify their views? Also, why aren’t foreign nations whose policies on this front differ sharply from the “correct” and supposedly pro-science US consensus overrun with misery and suffering caused by school super spreaders? Will the Powers That Be ever grapple seriously with these questions, or do they simply make declarations? Speaking of lazy, agenda-driven analysis and media coverage, I’ll leave you with this:

They told us — in spite of loads of data from UK/EU — that opening maskless FL schools would put kids at terrible risk. Schools opened, many maskless, and statewide cases have plummeted. By their lazy standards, DeSantis decisions deserve full credit for these outcomes.

— Guy Benson (@guypbenson)

And on a mandate-related note involving kids and schools, can this be explained by anything other than power politics?

Newsom will not as yet require CA teachers and staff to get vaccine even though their students will have to get the jab.

— Jill Tucker (@jilltucker)

This content was originally published here.

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