‘I Support Wearing Cloth Face Coverings’

Dr. Osterholm says good science should precede policy, not vice versa
woman with a cloth mask on

‘Science, when done well, can be messy, imperfect, and slower than we wish. And it's ever-evolving. Unfortunately, in the time of a pandemic, we wish this weren't the case, as we all want and need immediate answers, said Michael T. Osterholm, Ph.D., MPH.

On July 22, 2020, Dr. Osterholm’s new editorial stated that ‘public health policy—including COVID-19 response—should always be informed by the best data available and should evolve with scientific knowledge.’

But it should not be based on popular opinion or even well-meaning movements within the scientific community. Good science should precede policy, not vice versa.

At the outset of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic in late 2019, I want to make several points crystal clear:

  • I support the wearing of cloth face coverings (masks) by the general public.
  • Stop citing CIDRAP and me as grounds to not wear masks, whether mandated or not.
  • Don't, however, use the wearing of cloth face coverings as an excuse to decrease other crucial, likely more effective, protective steps, like physical distancing
  • Also, don't use poorly conducted studies to support a contention that wearing cloth face coverings will drive the pandemic into the ground. But even if they reduce infection risk somewhat, wearing them can be important.

‘I've received increasing criticism in recent weeks because I've offered more nuanced messaging on whether everyone should wear cloth face coverings in public to protect against COVID-19 transmission—messaging that some view as unacceptable.’ 

The criticism has included a recent commentary by Masks4All proponents Jeremy Howard and Vincent Rajkumar, MD, that mischaracterizes my position on cloth face coverings and misrepresents the science of personal protection for COVID-19.’

‘Again, I want to make it very clear that I support the use of cloth face coverings by the general public.’

‘I wear one myself on the limited occasions I'm out in public. In areas where face coverings are mandated, I expect the public to follow the mandate and wear them,’ concluded this editorial.

Dr. Osterholm is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota.

Pandemic news published by CoronavirusToday.