Millions upon millions of U.S. children have been fully masked up at school this year after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited, in part, a study out of Arizona that appeared to demonstrate the need for, and effectiveness of, masking among schoolchildren.
Yet, at least according to multiple experts, that study should not have been cited as evidence in favor of universal masking:
[T]he Arizona study at the center of the CDC’s back-to-school blitz turns out to have been profoundly misleading. “You can’t learn anything about the effects of school mask mandates from this study,” Jonathan Ketcham, a public-health economist at Arizona State University, told me. His view echoed the assessment of eight other experts who reviewed the research, and with whom I spoke for this article. Masks may well help prevent the spread of COVID, some of these experts told me, and there may well be contexts in which they should be required in schools. But the data being touted by the CDC—which showed a dramatic more-than-tripling of risk for unmasked students—ought to be excluded from this debate. The Arizona study’s lead authors stand by their work, and so does the CDC. But the critics were forthright in their harsh assessments. Noah Haber, an interdisciplinary scientist and a co-author of a systematic review of COVID-19 mitigation policies, called the research “so unreliable that it probably should not have been entered into the public discourse.”
Okay, um, it’s great that we’re learning this now—better late than never—but, you know, the CDC cited this study three months ago. Why are we just learning about its apparently glaring flaws now?
The data were all there. It should not have taken this long for experts to have examined this study and journalists to report on it.
We deserve better than this—better scientists, better media, a better public debate, better civic leaders.