News 4 Investigates Missouri AG’s claims that masks are ineffective, but doctors disagree

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 7:27 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The fight over school mask mandates in Missouri heads to court this week, with the first hearing scheduled for one of the districts being sued by Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Schmitt claims masks are ineffective, something he’s stated for months.

“You still have school districts now in the face of science and data that are forcing the masking of 5-year-olds,” Schmitt said when questioned about the lawsuits last week.

News 4 Investigates asked Schmitt for the science and data that he referenced. Schmitt’s office sent News 4 a list of 18 articles. Several of the articles are by Dr. Vinay Prasad, a hematologist-oncologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco. Some of the articles are co-authored by Leslie Bienen, a Community Health and Public Health Studies teacher at Portland State University who holds a degree in veterinary medicine.

The majority of articles Schmitt’s office cited are opinion pieces, including one written by a political scientist.

Several articles were critical of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research. Several articles claim a study from October 2021 where the CDC recommended “universal indoor masking by students” had flawed data. In one of the articles, Dr. Prasad wrote the CDC studies “appear more as propaganda than as science.”

“Undoubtedly masks work in terms of preventing infections,” said Dr. Farrin Manian, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

Manian says the effectiveness of masks shouldn’t be a debate. He points to studies by hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s in Boston and from counties across the country that show masks can help prevent COVID from spreading.

“COVID is not gone yet and we are also worried about waning immunity from the vaccination, so we don’t want to let our guards down too quickly,” Manian said. “We need to make sure that we really are in a safe place before we get rid of masks completely.”

Manian acknowledges not all masks are made equal and that n95 and kn95 masks work better. Manian also noted that to be effective, masks have to be worn the right way.

“The main thing to emphasize is that you got to wear the masks appropriately, it’s got to fit right and you’re going to have to wear it consistently, make sure your nose is covered,” Manian added.

News 4 Investigates did reach back out to Attorney General Schmitt’s office to see if there are any articles from established medical journals or researchers that he’s pulling information from.

Schmitt’s office sent two more sources, one is a study from Denmark that’s limitations included “inconclusive results.” The full study can be found by clicking here.

The other was a World Health Organization study from 2019 looking at influenza. Researchers noted that more studies were needed but ultimately recommended people wearing masks.

Face masks worn by asymptomatic people are conditionally recommended in severe epidemics or pandemics, to reduce transmission in the community. Disposable, surgical masks are recommended to be worn at all times by symptomatic individuals when in contact with other individuals. Although there is no evidence that this is effective in reducing transmission, there is mechanistic plausibility for the potential effectiveness of this measure recommended people wearing masks -- and noted that more studies were needed.

The full study can be found by clicking here.