Rigorous Int’l Study Of N95 Masks Upends Federal COVID Narrative

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 07: Charge nurse Liliana Palacios carefully removes her mask and PPE after tending to a patient with COVID-19 in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Today there are 25 patients at Harborview Medical Center, 10 of whom are on this floor. Currently in the UW Medicine System, 66 patients testing positive for COVID-19 are receiving care, around half of what it was at its peak. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

At a glance

  • A new peer-reviewed, randomized controlled trial (RCT) of N95s versus surgical masks, considered the midrange of protection, is undermining the late federal pivot to higher-quality masks and calls to reimpose mask mandates in schools, among other settings.
  • Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM) this week and led by researchers at Canada’s McMaster University, the study found no statistically significant difference in protection between the two kinds of masks in healthcare facilities in Canada, Israel, Pakistan and Egypt.
  • Funders included the Canadian government and World Health Organization, which unlike the U.S. opposes masking young children and also found “no evidence” face coverings made a difference against influenza in a 2019 study.

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