Please see the disclaimer.


If someone came to you and claimed that the healthcare of some poor country was the worst in the world because they have the highest number of deaths per capita, you would do well to be skeptical.

Why? Why is skepticism good in that case?

Because the person is claiming something based on only one factor.

Surely, there are other factors that matter. How about factoring cost? How about factoring the amount of resources the country has? How about the general health of the population?


I was in a debate on Twitter recently, a debate about whether masks should be mandatory. The point I was trying to make was not that masks did not work, but that we don’t know what other factors masks affect, so not only should we not mandate their use, but we may not ethically be able to recommend their use.

You see, we only have observational studies, and it could be argued that we do not even have that. But even if we do, the most we can ethically do, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is recommend their use, and definitely not mandate them.

“But Gavin! The virus is more important! Two hundred thousand people are dead!”

Yeah, and how much have suicides gone up? How much have people been disconnected from their social circles because they can’t see their faces in person?

Virus transmission is NOT the only factor that matters.

We need to care about their effects on mental health. We need to care about their effect on community. We need to care about their effect on allowing bad actors to roam the streets with an excuse to use a mask and not be identifiable. And maybe masks give a false sense of security and don’t work when people touch them.

Of course, 161,392 people have died. (Oh whoops! It turns out that only 6% of those people died from COVID-19 alone, so it’s really 9,700 deaths.) That doesn’t mean that virus transmission is more important if suicides and domestic violence incidents have jumped by 300,000!

But there are also hidden effects. What about the breakdown of society because people feel more anonymous? On the Internet, people are toxic because they are anonymous; if they wear a mask, they may feel the same, causing them to go out, riot, and burn down people’s livelihoods or execute them on the street.


If you hear someone say that masks should be mandated because they reduce virus transmission, ask them if they know what else masks affect. If they say, “nothing,” they are ignorant, and you can ignore them. If they say, “It doesn’t matter,” they are lying, and you should make others aware. If they say, “I don’t know,” send them a link to this post. Maybe they will learn.

But most of all, for yourself, NEVER assume that just one factor is all that matters.