White House COVID coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, who previously touted wearing masks to prevent COVID-19, admitted during a discussion with the Philadelphia Inquirer that the science doesn’t support the mask-wearing narrative.
“There is no study in the world that shows that masks work that well,” Jha said during the discussion, which included Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole and several journalists.
Jha made the comments in reference to a sharp spike in COVID cases and hospitalization in recent weeks, although numbers are still lower than last year.
Air quality a larger concern
The larger point Jha made with the comments was that a focus on better ventilation and air quality would reduce transmission of COVID and other respiratory illnesses far more than masks.
“So you’re never going to get the kind of benefit from mandatory year-round masking as you would from making substantial improvements in indoor air quality, plus it’s a lot easier to implement as well,” Jha added. “So this is an area where we’re doing a lot and trying to really encourage people to use the resources they have to make those investments and start really improving ventilation filtration in buildings.”
Jha clarified that high-quality masks probably do reduce COVID transmission to an extent, but the cloth and disposable masks most people routinely wear do not do much to deter COVID spread.
What he said before
It’s a shift for Jha, who spent much of the pandemic pushing mask-wearing and even supported mandates in some cases.
“Masks dramatically reduce droplet and aerosolized transmission. When everyone in a setting is wearing a mask, the spread of the virus, even in close contact, is very low,” Jha, then the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said to a congressional panel in September 2020.
As recently as July, Jha said from the White House podium, “So, I think the science on masks is actually quite clear. And there is broad agreement among public health and science experts that masks work.”
Jha’s statements on other COVID issues have not always been trustworthy either. For instance, he had claimed that COVID vaccines don’t have any side effects when other officials have admitted that side effects like heart inflammation do exist in a small number of cases.
Biden still wants masks
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is trying to get masks on airplanes and airports reinstated, and is fighting to keep vaccine mandates in place in some areas.
Most mask and vaccine mandates have been blocked by courts. A vocal minority have refused to be vaccinated, leading to declines in military recruitment and other negative consequences.