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Mandatory masks and why I am opposed to them

This is a written transcript of a 5-minute speech given by Sonya McLeod (BA, DCH) to the City Councillors at a council meeting on October 22, 2020 in regards to a proposed Mandatory Mask Policy in Vancouver Civic Facilities. References were emailed to councillors before the meeting took place. All speakers were against the policy, and the proposal was later struck down by council members.

Mandatory masking is not based on good science

Randomized double blind placebo controlled trials are the gold standard of science, and we can neither disprove or prove whether a strategy works without doing these studies. There are no randomized controlled trials which prove that masking reduces transmission of viruses, including the COVID-19 virus. A recent analysis published in May 2020 (1) of 14 randomized controlled trials concludes that face masks do not protect against pandemic influenza infection 

Proper scientific studies done on masking so far to date show either that masking makes no difference, or it may actually increase the rate of virus transmission (for further reading, see references 2-5, below). One very recent study that just came out this week (6), for example, reports that 71% of the people studied who became ill with COVID-19 wore a mask in public at all times.

The health authorities, including Vancouver Coastal Health, have spoken out against mandatory masking. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the health authorities, including Bonnie Henry, Theresa Tam, Anthony Fauci, The US Surgeon General, the CDC Director and the World Health Organization, advised against the use of masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. A short time later, they changed their minds, not because the science changed, but because of public pressure, and pressure from various lobby groups.

Mandatory masking can be dangerous. And where there is risk, there must be choice.

Science shows that prolonged mask wearing can cause headaches. A 2009 study done in Japan (7) showed that the use of masks did not prevent the common cold (the common cold is a close relative of COVID-19 because it is a type of coronavirus). But the use of masks was strongly associated with an increase in headaches. Another study done in 2005 (8) on the wearing of N95 masks showed that the wearers were more likely to get headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath, vs non mask wearers. A recent study done in 2020 (9) also reported that a whopping 80% of healthcare workers developed headaches as a direct result of wearing PPE (which included the wearing of N95 face masks).

A 2015 study done in Vietnam (10) compared the use of medical masks, cloth masks, and a control group. The cloth mask group had a higher rate of virus transmission. Scientists concluded that increased risk of infection in the cloth mask users was a result of moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration.

Face masks can give the wearer the illusion of protection, which can be dangerous, according to a scientific study published in June 2020 (11). Also, a pre‐symptomatic or mildly infected person wearing a face mask for hours without changing it and without washing their hands every time they touched the mask could paradoxically increase the risk of infecting others.

Humans are social creatures, and our emotional well-being depends on social interactions with other human beings. A study done in Hong Kong in 2013 (12) showed that doctors’ wearing of face masks reduced patients’ ability to relate to and empathize with their doctors.  

Lawsuits Against Mandatory Masking

Dr. James Meehan MD is part of a group of professionals who are suing the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma for their mandatory mask mandate. (13) Dr. Meehan is seeing patients that have facial rashes, fungal infections, and bacterial infections. Reports coming from his colleagues, all over the world, are suggesting that the bacterial pneumonias are on the rise. “Why might that be? Because untrained members of the public are wearing medical masks, repeatedly… in a non-sterile fashion… They’re becoming contaminated. They’re pulling them off of their car seat, off the rearview mirror, out of their pocket, from their countertop, and they’re reapplying a mask that should be worn fresh and sterile every single time.”

The city of Edmonton is facing a $565 million dollar lawsuit over their mandatory mask bylaw (14). The mask bylaw has led to the discarding of disposable masks on the ground, creating unsanitary conditions, which is a health hazard (as well as a hazard to our environment). 

Disposable masks are terrible for the environment

Mask mandates lead to increased mask use, including the increased use of disposable masks. An article in “The Conversation” says that coronavirus face masks are “an environmental disaster that might last generations” (15). The majority of masks are made with long-lasting plastic materials, and will contribute to plastic pollution of the environment, which was already a huge problem before the pandemic. These disposable masks have now made their way into our oceans, according to an article in “The Guardian” – we now have “more masks than jellyfish” in our oceans these days (16).

In Summary:

Masks have not been proven by science to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and in fact, if used incorrectly by the general public, masks could actually increase the spread of COVID-19 and could encourage complacency when it comes to other preventative measures such as handwashing. Masking for long periods of time also has health risks, and disposable masks are a threat to our natural environment. Instead, let citizens choose whether to mask or not, and encourage other preventative measures, such as handwashing, and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.


  1. Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures
  2. “Masks for prevention of viral respiratory infections among health care workers and the public: PEER umbrella systematic review”, by Dugré et al., Canadian Family Physician (July 2020) 66: 509-517.
  3. “PEER simplified tool: mask use by the general public and by health care workers”, by Moe et al., Canadian Family Physician (July 2020) 66: 505-507. 
  4. “Rapid Expert Consultation on the Effectiveness of Fabric Masks for the COVID-19 Pandemic” (8 April, 2020). By National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.  
  5. “Masking lack of evidence with politics”, by Jefferson and Heneghan, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM), Oxford University (23 July 2020) 
  6. Community and Close Contact Exposures Associated with COVID-19 Among Symptomatic Adults ≥18 Years in 11 Outpatient Health Care Facilities — United States, July 2020,associated%20with%20COVID%2D19%20positivity.
  7. Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial
  8. The Physiological Impact of N95 Masks on Medical Staff
  9. Headaches Associated With Personal Protective Equipment – A Cross-Sectional Study Among Frontline Healthcare Workers During COVID-19
  10. A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers
  11. Do facemasks protect against COVID‐19?
  12. Effect of facemasks on empathy and relational continuity: a randomised controlled trial in primary care
  13. Medical Doctor Warns that “Bacterial Pneumonias Are on the Rise” from Mask Wearing
  14. City of Edmonton facing $565-million lawsuit over COVID-19 mandatory mask bylaw
  15. Coronavirus face masks: an environmental disaster that might last generations
  16. ‘More masks than jellyfish’: coronavirus waste ends up in ocean
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Mandatory masks and why I am opposed to them
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