Mask Headlines Mask Lack Of Science In Arizona Health Policies

The CDC recommends wearing masks to protect yourself from COVID-19. [Photo courtesy CDC]

News outlets across the country are claiming that a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that masks have slowed the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona.

From The Hill to Arizona outlets, the reports implied a causality between a drop in COVID-19 cases and a mask mandate:

COVID-19 cases in Arizona dropped 75% after mask mandates began, report says
Stephanie Innes | Arizona Republic

CDC: Masks, business limits helped curb spread of COVID-19 in Arizona
Joycelyn Cabrera | Cronkite News

Amid rise in cases, CDC study shows masks cut Arizona COVID-19 cases by 75%
Briana Whitney | azfamily.com

Wurman, a law professor at ASU, who is representing small businesses shut down by Governor Doug Ducey, notes correctly that the study was in fact written by mostly Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and found no causal relationship between the reduction of cases and the mask mandate.

The study reads in part:

The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, the relationship between mitigation measures and changes in case counts are temporal correlations and should not be interpreted to infer causality. Other factors that might have influenced the rate of change (e.g., travel restrictions, neighboring state mitigation measures, and individual choices to reduce movement before implementation of mandates) cannot be ruled out… Third, adherence to mitigation measures was not assessed, nor could the extent to which each individual measure affected the number of incident COVID-19 cases be established. Finally, Arizona might not be representative of other U.S. states, and community mitigation measures might have a different impact in more populous or densely populated states; thus, these findings are not necessarily generalizable to other settings.

However, the inaccurate headlines bolster the position taken by presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has promised to mandate masks across the country.

While the study might be politically helpful to both Biden and Ducey, its lack of science is not helpful to public health officials who are counted on to make informed decisions. It is the apparent uninformed decision-making that is driving discontent and uncertainty especially in the business community.

In his tweet, Wurman referenced his cross-examination of Dr. Christ last week. Under questioning by Wurman, according to an ADI report by Terri Jo Neff, Christ admitted that she had no knowledge of any COVID-19 infections being tracked back to businesses that remain shut down under Ducey’s executive order.

Wurman is suing the state for $12.5 million on behalf of those devastated businesses.

Wurman also questioned Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Clinical Officer for Banner Health. Bessel has been a critic of the governor’s decision to partially open the state. In June, she claimed that Arizonans must change their habits after a spike in infections following Ducey’s decision to lift his stay-at-home order.

Bessel testified as an advocate for the continued shut down of the Series 6 and 7 liquor licensed businesses.

When asked if she had considered the impact of the Black Lives Matter protests on the spike, she said she had not placed it into her timeline.

Had Bessel taken the time to place the protests into her timeline, she might have drawn a different conclusion.

* Issue dates are the dates the issuing official signed the order implementing the mandatory mitigation measure. In some instances, mitigation measures were effective either immediately or within 1 to 3 days of issue. https://www.azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/infectious-disease-epidemiology/index.php#novel-coronavirus-admin-ordersexternal icon; https://azgovernor.gov/executive-ordersexternal icon.

“So, after masks became required in about 85 to 90% of the population, and then the closure of some of those high-risk activities or establishments, we did see a significant reduction,” Christ told Cronkite News on Friday. She made no mention of the protests.

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Related article: After Spending $3 Million On “Mask Up Arizona,” Ducey Caught With His Mask Down

Governor Doug Ducey did not mandate masks. That political move was left to the leaders of localities. He did however allocate $3 million on marketing aimed at convincing Arizonans that masks provide protection.