A 2018 video of public health professional Laurie Garrett resurfaced on May 9 via Twitter showing that health experts were well aware of the ineffectiveness of masks before the Covid outbreak. Despite this knowledge, masks only recently began disappearing. People can now enter grocery stores and fly on planes without their faces half-hidden, after two years of mass mandates and massive public pressure to comply with them.
In the clip, Garrett, author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, announces to the National Academy of Medicine that a large-scale study conducted in Japan found that masks do not help defend against viruses such as the 2009 influenza. Instead, the main advantage of masks is to cause frightened behavior.
“The major efficacy of a mask is that it causes alarm in the other person, so you stay away from each other,” Garrett said.
The clip comes from Garrett’s keynote address for the National Academy of Research entitled “From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic to 2009 H1N1 Pandemic to Now: Is the World Ready to Respond to the Next Outbreak?” In her address, she explained the horrors of these previous pandemics which included quarantines, mask-wearing, and school shutdowns– aspects mirrored in the Covid pandemic. She also pointed out how those pandemics were dealt with and the future of pandemics.
Her comment in the clip answered a question about protecting against viruses, like the 2009 influenza, that are “very efficient at human to human transition.” She used the SARS epidemic as an example, saying, “Did the masks really help them? Did the masks keep the virus out? Almost certainly not.”
A 2020 study from Bangladesh of about 350,000 people in 600 villages research showed an exception to her assertion: surgical masks such as the N95 and KN95 are more successful at protecting their wearers against the virus. However, the research also showed that cloth masks–the masks a majority of Americans wore during Covid– are ineffective.
Despite her opposing claims, Garrett advocated for wearing masks of any kind throughout the Covid pandemic. She used the Bangladesh study to validate mask-wearing without any distinction as to the type of mask a person should wear. On MSNBC in 2020, she encouraged people to continue wearing masks even after they were vaccinated.
“We don’t know really whether you’re still capable of carrying the virus in your body, even though you are not getting severe disease,” Garrett said.
Currently, her profile on Twitter includes a picture of her wearing a mask.