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Officials Sent Mixed Messages on Masking, Sowing Public Confusion

Masking policies can provide psychological and scientific benefits, but only when officials explain them coherently.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at San Francisco General Hospital, tells Roundtable’s Rob Nelson that masking was never a black-and-white issue, and that the complexities were often oversimplified by organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The failure of officials to be consistent in their guidelines resulted in public confusion and uncertainty, she says. 

While citing studies that prove the effectiveness of masks against spreading COVID, she believes that politics ultimately trumped science in setting masking policies in the U.S. and elsewhere.

This issue was most sensitive with regard to masking mandates in schools. While she believes such policies can provide some protection, she suggests that the main benefit may be psychological. Although these benefits must be weighed against the psychological and development costs to children, Gandhi concludes that masking kids was a significant factor in getting them back into schools, which she considers a positive. Her recommended metric for an “end point” to masking is 5-10 adults hospitalized for COVID per hundred thousand.

Dr. Gandhi is a professor of medicine at UC-San Francisco Medical School, a member of the COVID Collaborative, and a regular contributor to the opinion pages of leading newspapers, including the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. See her Washington Post article about why COVID is here to stay.

Watch the full interview: