Excellent talk on science communication with lessons for everyone on all sides of the political spectrum

Contains a lot of nice fat pills everyone will have to swallow around Covid misinformation spread by both democrats and republicans, and the politicization of things like masks and vaccination.


I’ve been watching it as time allows, and I quite agree!

Yes. I was very surprised to learn that masks had pretty much no effect, considering all the various demonstrations I saw early in the pandemic that they stop a substantial fraction of spittle and aerosols that all presumably can contain virus by an infected person that’s shedding virus. That’s a very counterintuitive result.
I can’t help but wonder what the problem then is. Is the fraction of material that does go through the mask enough that whatever is withheld basically makes no difference (that it only takes a small amount to make the environment contagious enough for efficient transmission?), or is the problem behavioral (that people who wear masks eventually go home and take them off, and then get infected by a family member or something?).

However I also recently read that handwashing actually has been shown to have had a measurable effect. That seems to me to indicate that a substantial fraction of infections actually came from people touching stuff that had virus on it?

I don’t know if I caught the part about it being definitive that masks were not effective. Just that there was back and forth on it. I could be fairly accused of protecting my base by saying that masks are helpful at mitigating the spread of Covid, but there are a number of caveats. A lot of IFs.
Masks have to be of high filtration quality.
Masks have to be fitted tightly.
Social distancing needs to still apply .
Time spent mingling with others has to be limited.

But the way so many people handled the method, then yes masks should be worthless. Loose-fitting, bandannas, with the nose peaking out? Worthless!

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Yeah I couldn’t help but think similar things.

This is the study purported to show masks don’t work, but I see it doesn’t really say that because all sorts of confounding factors weren’t really controlled for, so the data is very likely totally polluted by people’s idiot behavior:

There is a need for large, well‐designed RCTs addressing the effectiveness of many of these interventions in multiple settings and populations, as well as the impact of adherence on effectiveness, especially in those most at risk of ARIs.

Of course an elephant in the room is there are strong parallels of the major talking points to how discussions on this site often go. On this page we regularly see cases of motivated reasoning (biased assimilation, identity protection), and so on.

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I like this quip from an episode of Vincent Racaniello’s This Week in Virology…

When you mix politics with science, you get politics.


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