Unmasking the Controversy: Are COVID Protocols and Masks Effective?

In recent weeks, two pressing issues have resurfaced in the public discourse regarding the ongoing battle against COVID-19. First, there is a resurgence of COVID protocols such as mask mandates and social distancing in various institutions and hospitals. Second, a secret letter to the CDC from top epidemiologists has raised questions about the effectiveness of masks in preventing virus transmission. Let’s delve into these two current news pieces and explore the complexities surrounding them.

The Return of COVID Protocols

Many institutions, including a university in Atlanta and several hospitals, have recently reinstated COVID protocols, even in the absence of confirmed COVID cases on their campuses. This raises the question: why are these measures being reintroduced? The primary concern seems to be the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant known as “EG.5” or “Eris,” labeled a “variant of interest” by the WHO due to potential mutations that could increase contagion or severity. While “Eris” has been detected in numerous countries and accounts for a significant portion of cases in the U.S., another variant called “Pirola” (BA.2.86) has garnered even more attention. Though it has relatively few infections worldwide, “Pirola” boasts over 35 mutations, sparking concern among health authorities.

However, it is important to note that there is currently no evidence suggesting “Eris” spreads faster or causes more severe illness than previous variants. The situation with “Pirola” remains uncertain. Despite these concerns, it appears that the response to these variants does not warrant the drastic measures and lockdowns seen in the past.

The Controversy Surrounding Mask Efficacy

In parallel with the resurgence of COVID protocols is a controversy surrounding the effectiveness of masks. A letter sent in November 2021 to the CDC by epidemiologist Michael Osterholm and his colleagues has brought this issue to the forefront. They raised concerns that the CDC was misrepresenting data and excluding contradictory information in support of the idea that masks effectively prevent severe COVID-19 and virus transmission.

The controversy extends to the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), which collaborates with the CDC and influences the recommendations of other medical professional organizations. Osterholm and his colleagues called for a comprehensive scientific review of the available data on mask efficacy to determine their true role in preventing COVID transmission. However, instead of addressing these concerns, the CDC and IDSA reportedly doubled down on their promotion of masking.

Examining the Evidence on Mask Efficacy

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, studies on mask usage for protection against viral infections did not consistently show significant benefits, and in some cases, masks were even associated with harm. For instance, a 2015 study on healthcare workers wearing cloth and medical-grade masks indicated a high risk of infection among cloth mask wearers. While a 44% contraction rate was observed among those wearing medical-grade masks, it’s essential to consider that these masks were single-use, unlike the prolonged use during the pandemic.

Furthermore, recent studies have cast doubt on the effectiveness of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reanalysis of certain studies have suggested that districts dropping mask mandates experienced decreased COVID cases. A review of 78 studies in 2023 found no evidence supporting the efficacy of masking.

Perhaps the most concerning revelation comes from a 2022 study suggesting that mask mandates may have led to 50% more deaths compared to regions without such mandates. This phenomenon, referred to as “The Foegen effect,” theorizes that masks may trap viral particles, leading to higher viral loads and increased mortality.


As the debate over COVID protocols and mask efficacy continues, it is crucial to critically evaluate the available evidence. While new variants of the virus pose challenges, history and recent studies suggest that lockdowns and mask mandates are not the most effective solutions. It is essential to consider individual health choices, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and stay informed about the evolving science behind COVID-19. Ultimately, the responsibility for health and well-being lies with individuals, and informed decisions are key to navigating these complex times.