Former Biden COVID adviser concedes cloth masks 'are not very effective'
As Delta variant surges, Michael Osterholm says emphasis should be on vaccines, better masks.
A key SARS-Cov-2 expert acknowledged this week that a mainstay of the global coronavirus response — the use of cloth masks — does little to stop the spread of the virus.
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and an adviser on President Joe Biden's transitional COVID-19 advisory board, made the stunning claim on CNN this week amid escalating worldwide fears and concerns over the "Delta variant" of COVID-19.
"We know today that many of the face cloth coverings that people wear are not very effective in reducing any of the virus movement in or out," Osterholm said during the interview.
"We need to talk about better masking," he said. "We need to talk about N-95 respirators, which would do a lot for both people who are not yet vaccinated or not previously infected."
Osterholm told Just the News he was unavailable for comment regarding his remarks.
The apparent admission comes after well over a year of public health officials insisting that cloth masks are among the most vital and lifesaving tools in the fight against SARS-Cov-2.
Osterholm himself acknowledged last year that the effectiveness of cloth masks was likely to be "limited," though he himself unequivocally affirmed his support for wearing them in public spaces.
Robert Cook, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of South Florida, admitted that he was "not up to date with the latest, most specific data on cloth masks vs. other types of masks," but he argued that it "makes common sense to me that someone wearing a cloth mask would block larger respiratory particles and these in turn would block at least some of the smaller viral particles."
"I would be very surprised if they did 'little' to stop the amount of virus in the air around someone," he continued. "Even if they reduce the number of virus particles by 10%, it could have a significant impact at the community level compared to nothing."
Other health officials, meanwhile, have been emphatic about the alleged benefits of cloth masking.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins wrote last August that "even if a community universally adopted a crude cloth covering that's far less than 100 percent protective against the virus, this measure alone could significantly help to reduce deaths."
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, meanwhile, argued last July that "cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus."
A model developed by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, meanwhile, projected last July that wearing cloth masks could save as many as nearly 30,000 lives in less than three months.