That, of course, never stops people from deliberately misrepresenting the findings of a research paper most people will never actually read.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, everyone who knows what the hell they’re talking about has been hammering the message into the heads of those who do not, that wearing face coverings is about protecting other people from your respiratory droplets, much more than protecting you from the respiratory droplets of other people. This message has been all but dropped on major cities in the form of leaflets by public health communicators, and yet, bad faith operators more beholden to the bafflingly-politicized movement against giving a shit about other people still persist to focus on what the masks do or do not do for them.
The implications of this are, of course, obvious to the point of not needing to be stated. So here’s a meme, because frankly, an explanation for the benefit of those who don’t immediately grasp it is not worth typing.
The Danish Study
It took less than an hour from the time “Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers – A Randomized Controlled Trial” was published for the Pro-Virus constituency to descend on social media like the plague rats they are, infested with a misunderstanding of the paper and a desire to infect others with their stupidity.
Bullshit Bullet Point Breakdown
1. The study was ridiculously underpowered
Without getting into statistical concepts like β or Cohen’s D that will make the average person zone out and go back to watching videos of people kicking each other in the heads, note that the researchers themselves observe that of the people in the treatment group (ie. the people who wore masks, as opposed to those who didn’t in the control group) only 46% of them actually wore the mask as instructed.
This would be like testing whether drinking water can quench thirst and having half of the “water drinking” group dump said water onto their heads instead of into their mouths.
2. The study only focused on the effectiveness of masks to protect the wearer from others
We’re going to keep beating this dead horse until it’s a nice puree fit for children’s arts and crafts projects. The people trying to promote this study as vindicating their refusal to wear masks are, again, misdirecting everyone from the fact that masks aren’t about protecting you from others, they’re about protecting others from you.
Science, however, isn’t as concerned with the petty battles being waged in the public discourse (don’t go there, we know), so all too often well-meaning researchers are completely obvious to such things pursue an understanding of a subject without any consideration for how it may be misinterpreted or abused. In this case, barring any forthcoming evidence to suggest otherwise, these researchers simply wanted to get a better handle on whether or not masks protect you from others. And that’s how it should be, but the works of people acting in good faith will never not be exploited by those operating in bad. So here we are.
3. The study reinforces the damn point that you can’t protect yourself from anti-maskers by wearing a mask
Did I mention we were going to keep beating that dead horse enough yet? There is missing the point deliberately for a host of reasons, including and especially out of fears of a loss of status and/or followers over bucking a narrative and putting yourself in the out-group by calibrating your grasp of a subject more towards objective reality. Then there’s just being a mark for those whose livelihoods are made playing that game. Both are taking place here, but the critical takeaway is this:
The study actually reinforces the urgency with which everyone needs to be wearing masks to prevent infecting others by making it clear how easy it is for a small group of recalcitrant quarter-wits to infect those who actually give a crap about other people. If this disease only affected the idiots who refuse to take it seriously, it would be a self-correcting problem. But the universe is arbitrary rather than just.
4. Don’t take ANYONE’S word for it (even ours): read the study yourself
Science is like playing that old game of “telephone” where by even the second iteration the message can get garbled. And science in the modern age of weaponized bullshit is like playing the telephone game with that one kid whose parents never loved them so they seek to ruin any game they mistakenly get invited to participate in by otherwise well-meaning people who don’t know better.