Masks and Covid: The Mystery of the Missing RCTs

By | 28th October 2022

Inspector Gregory: Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?

Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.

Inspector Gregory: The dog did nothing in the night-time.

Holmes: That was the curious incident.

The Adventure of Silver Blaze (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

…The lack of RCTs on Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) during the Covid pandemic has been particularly lamented. We have been left with arguments over observational studies, with the protagonists accusing each other of cherry-picking or ignoring confounding variables, or laboratory studies from physics and engineering, whose applicability beyond the artificial conditions of the experiments is uncertain…This makes it all the more notable that the findings of two other trials of masks in the time of Covid have not been published – the dogs that have not barked…

What is going on here?

The answer to that question requires a consulting detective rather than a consulting sociologist. There are, though, rumours circulating widely within the academic public health community that both trials came up with the ‘wrong’ answer, that masks made little or no difference to transmission in either context…

A Social Science Space blog


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