When hospitals dropped masking requirements in 2023, Covid cases and hospitalizations did NOT predict policy changes; But, more Democrat votes predicted more masking!
Politics drives masking-- not COVID19 rates | Masking is a religious belief on the left
Just out, a preprint by Sarah Miller and I. We ask what predicted dropping masking rules in health care facilities in first quarter 2023.
This spring, many hospitals in the US finally relaxed COVID19 mask requirements, and doctors and staff celebrated. Of course, they should have dropped the policy long before because it had never shown it improved any long term outcome meaningfully, and made little sense, as I argued last fall in Sensible Medicine.
Eventually, however, the rules were relaxed at many hospitals and clinics around the country, but not all. We asked whether the rules were more likely to be relaxed in places with fewer covid cases, fewer covid hospitalization, or finally, if instead, the % voting Republican in the 2020 election in the local county predicted the policy change.
We examined 316 hospitals from 36 states and 193 counties reporting masking policy updates in healthcare settings, and this is what we found. Higher values mean that is associated with lifting requirements.
As you can see, the only thing that predicted relaxing mask policies was voting Republican. Cases and Hospitalizations have nothing to do with it. Democratic strongholds were more likely to continue mask policies.
Making all hospital visitors and staff mask is an intervention that lacks any robust randomized data of benefit. Making people do this in a world where masking is almost entirely gone elsewhere seems implausible and bizarre. Masks interfere with communication, and the benefit in hospitals remains theoretical not real. Moreover, real world compliance appears poor, and likely wanes with time.
We find that mask mandates are correlated only with politics, and has no connection to COVID.
At this point, it is clear that masking is a religion embraced by Democrats. It lacks robust evidence, has real tradeoffs, and makes little sense. Why democrats have chosen to remain ignorant to the best available data remains unclear, but perhaps is motivated in response to Donald Trump’s reluctance to wear a mask himself.
Hospital policy is set by administrators who seem more interested to cater to the whims of the local population than to make policies that are rationally based.
Anyone who believes in rational policy should be concerned with these findings. Public health and hospital policy appears politically polarized— a dangerous precedent going forward.