Mask Mandates and the Seatbelt Interlock: You Don’t Want to Be Thrown from the Wreck

By Jonathan Spira on 27 February 2023
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Why is it that the topic of mask mandates attracts so much controversy?  After all, the masks aren’t even injecting something into the body, they can be fashion accessories, and putting one on becomes part of one’s routine and muscle memory quite easily. Yet people carry on that mask mandates impinge on personal liberties and some Covid deniers have even attacked retail shop staff for trying to enforce mask rules.

A new study – technically a meta study – is being touted by mask critics as evidence that mask mandates don’t work.  The study, a compilation of physical interventions on the spread of respiratory viruses, looks at studies of different types of masks as well as hand-washing.

Published by the usually trustworthy Cochrane Library, an organization I personally hold in high regard, the study says the opposite of what mask skeptics are claiming, were they only to read the entire piece.

In particular, most seem to have missed a key admonition, namely, “[T]he high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions.”

More significantly, at least to me, is that one of the two studies having to do with masking and the pandemic  – this one from Bangladesh– measured the effect and effectiveness of mask mandates during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and demonstrated that mask mandates reduced the number of infections and the spread of the virus.  The other 77 studies compiled in the Cochrane paper did not, although the second study covering masking and the pandemic attempts to do so, albeit with a tin sample group.  Moreover, the two didn’t actually examine mask-wearing, but only addressed the question of whether mask mandates were in place.

Let’s run through the actual data in the two studies.  In the first, a study of more than 340,000 Bangladeshis found that mask programs that promoted but didn’t actually mandate face masks “increased mask usage and reduced symptomatic SARS-CoV-2infections, demonstrating that promoting community mask-wearing can improve public health,” and that the use of masks trebled within the test group.

The second, and far smaller, study, which looked at 6,000 Danes, found a modest difference between those who donned face masks and those who did not.

My stint as chief analyst at the think tank Basex studying the impact of Information Overload on people’s comprehension levels explains why so many people missed the key points here, which were of course hidden in plain sight.  But the findings are indisputably the opposite of a conclusion that masking and mask mandates did absolutely nothing, which is what so many people now claim.

Meanwhile, outside of the compiled studies, a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined a coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an environment where sailors live and work in close quarters.  Masking reduced the risk of infection by 70%, the researchers found.

But let’s look back for a moment to the 1970s, a time when consumers fought to make their automobiles less safe. Today, if you drive off without fastening your seatbelt, people will look at you as if you just chugged Clorox bleach to ward off the coronavirus.  Given a desire to prevent people from being thrown through the windscreen in the event of a high-impact collision, Congress in 1973 mandated the seatbelt interlock.  The law mandated that the seatbelt be fastened before one could actually start the engine.

Studies found that drivers of the interlock-equipped 1974s were 41% more likely to use lap and shoulder safety belts, up from 7% in the 1973 cars to 48% in 1974.

While protests from constituents resulted in Congress removing the requirement by the end of 1974, the seatbelt use became widespread

Today, when nearly everyone wears a seat belt, it’s hard to imagine how affronted some people were at the idea of having to use safety equipment.  Instead, and this has been echoed by some prospective winners of the 2022 and 2023 Darwin Awards, they would cite folk wisdom such as “you want to be thrown from the wreck.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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