(LifeSiteNews) — A recently released document shows a top disease expert warned the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the COVID outbreak that the group’s promotion of masks stemmed from a flawed interpretation of scientific data.
The document’s contents take on new relevance as some U.S. institutions begin to reimpose COVID-19 mask mandates.
The Functional Government Initiative (FGI) recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a letter sent in November 2021 to the CDC by top epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and six colleagues.
In the letter, Osterholm and his fellow professors and researchers exhorted the CDC and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) board members to correct “serious errors” on the webpage “Masks and Face Coverings for the Public” on the COVID-19 Real-Time Learning Network hosted by CDC and IDSA.
“We believe the information and recommendations as provided may actually put an individual at increased risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 and for them to experience a serious or even life-threatening infection,” Osterholm wrote.
Osterholm and his colleagues “strongly urg[ed]” the IDSA to “remove the suggestion that masking prevents severe disease” from its webpage.
They criticized the support for this claim as relying on a “highly questionable and misleading commentary” contradicted by their own “in-depth review” in which they noted that “there is little and conflicting evidence to suggest a link between SARS-CoV-2 inoculum and disease severity,” which is influenced rather by “host factors” like comorbidities.
Osterholm and his colleagues expressed concern that including such unsupported claims on trusted websites such as that of the CDC “not only damage the credibility of science and endanger public trust by misrepresenting the evidence, but also provide false expectations in terms of respiratory protection to the public.”
The group of researchers also disparaged the IDSA’s claim that masks help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, noting that the research IDSA cited, a Nov. 2020 Cochrane review, actually contradicted the organization’s own claim, instead concluding: “Compared with wearing no mask, wearing a mask may make little to no difference in how many people caught a flu-like illness (nine studies; 3,507 people); and probably makes no difference in how many people have flu confirmed by a laboratory test (six studies; 3,005 people),” the letter stated.
They furthermore pointed out that one of the studies cited by the IDSA as evidence for “mask efficacy” was used as an example of an insufficiently rigorous mask study in a commentary published on the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) website.
In addition to Osterholm, the letter was signed by Lisa M. Brosseau, a research consultant for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota (UMN); Kevin Escandon, UMN researcher in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine; Angela Ulrich, UMN Assistant Professor for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy; Gregory Bix, Professor and Vice Chair of the Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology at Tulane University; Angela Rasmussen, research scientist for the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization of the University of Saskatchewan; Chad Roy, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Tulane University; and Saskia Popescu, Assistant Professor in the Biodefense Program at George Mason University.
The letter was sent to CDC officials, the associate medical and digital editors of the COVID-19 Real-Time Learning Network, and IDSA board members, which included Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who was director of the CDC during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The IDSA is partly funded by the CDC and works with a number of medical professional organizations that “make recommendations based on agency guidance,” according to The Epoch Times, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists.
The Epoch Times noted that instead of taking up the researchers on their offer to help correct its review of the science, the IDSA and CDC updated their website to promote masking, stating, “Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask.”
The FGI remarked in a statement that “The story of official masking guidance should trouble the American public,” pointing out that early on during the outbreak, Dr. Anthony Fauci said there was no need for most people to wear masks.
Fauci said at the time, during a March 8, 2020 “60 Minutes” interview, “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks.”
CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook responded, “You’re sure of it? Because people are listening really closely to this.”
Fauci replied, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.”
Fauci’s advice aligned with the CDC’s 2019 website guidance, which advised, “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it.”
FGI noted that the CDC and Fauci then reversed their position, “But as evidence against cloth masks appeared, the premiere scientific health organizations dug in their heels and refused to follow the science or listen to their trusted outside advisors.”
“That Dr. Osterholm and his colleagues felt compelled to raise concerns about cherry-picked data and the danger it presented to the credibility of public health officials and the health of the public says that something was deeply dysfunctional in these agencies,” FGI continued.
In recent days, some schools, hospitals, and businesses have resumed mask mandates, citing rising cases from the EG.5 COVID variant. On August 20, Morris Brown College announced it reinstated its COVID mask mandate “due to reports of positive cases among students in the Atlanta University Center.”
Meanwhile, Bright Light News’ Glen Jung has pointed out that the mask mandates, social distancing, and other measures taken to prevent infection during the COVID-19 outbreak failed to prevent five spikes in COVID-19 cases in Canada from 2020 to 2021.
He presented a video clip showing Dr. Byram Bridle, associate professor of Viral Immunology at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, explaining that surgical and cloth masks have pore sizes that range between 80 microns and 500 microns in size, while the diameter of the COVID-19 virus is only one micron.
“The largest possible small droplet that provides a typical aerosol and viral particles is 62 microns in diameter,” and thus can “pass right through” even the smallest pore in a surgical or cloth mask.
Bridle demonstrated that even when he wears five total three-ply surgical masks layered over each other, aerosols from his breath comes through the masks, as seen in the visible moisture on a pair of glasses held up in front of his mouth.