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Social media was flooded with takes after a Cochrane review was published. First, it’s important to note that the source is legit. Cochrane reviews are meta-analyses of many different studies to try to find patterns or answers. This particular review (found here) included 12 studies on masks. Katelyn Jetelina from YLE points out a few important facts about the review. It only includes randomized control trials, which don’t include some of the best real-world examples of studies on masks. It combines flu and COVID, even though COVID is far more transmissible. Basically, the study found that there wasn’t clear evidence that masks protect the individual, but in the wise words of YLE, “‘no evidence of difference’ is different from ‘evidence of no difference.” This review was inconclusive about the effectiveness of masks for respiratory viruses, which is NOT the same as proof that masks don’t work to protect individuals against COVID.
The short story is that masks can protect you individually, but how much protection you get depends on if you wear it properly and often. The more that people wear masks in indoor public places, the less likely they are to get infected in those places. It’s not a guarantee, but it will reduce the likelihood because it reduces the amount of particles that you inhale. The type of mask matters - an N95 or KN95 is by far the best option and works much better than surgical or cloth masks. It’s not black and white, either. Do you have a big event coming up that you don’t want to miss? You can reduce your chances of getting sick by more consistently wearing an N95 mask in the week or two before the event.
The US still has roughly 400 COVID deaths per day. Most of those who are dying daily are elderly with underlying health issues, like heart or lung problems. It still ranks in the top 4 causes of death along with cancer and heart disease, so it’s still killing more people than would normally die each day. Increasing booster rates and access to treatment with Paxlovid for those 65+ would likely reduce these deaths, though it won’t eliminate them entirely.
Yes, we think that’s your best bet right now. The FDA and CDC expect to recommend once-yearly shots in the fall, just like the flu shot. Boosters will likely be recommended for everyone, and will probably have similar insurance coverage to flu shots, though Moderna just announced that they’ll offer their COVID shots for free to uninsured Americans. Until we know more about the specific cost of boosters, and barring any major new variant surges, we expect that annual flu and COVID immunization budgets will look very similar.
How Bad of a Norovirus Wave Are We In For? -Vox