NOTE: The following shall fully supersede any positions taken or advice given prior to December 1, 2020, and shall remain in effect until further notice.
With the CDC doubling down on universal face mask use 11 months into the pandemic, and President-Elect Joe Biden wanting Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office (which will not even start until January 20, 2021, thus lasting until April 30, 2021), it is time for a fresh review of the TSAP's position on face masks and any mandates thereof.
From April/May until August 2020, the TSAP had enthusiastically supported broad but nuanced, relatively short-term mask mandates, primarily as a safe pathway out of lockdown. Since then, in light of recent evidence, our position has gradually shifted.
A cursory review of the empirical evidence so far reveals that while masks may very well be marginally effective at the micro level, they apparently are practically insignificant at the macro level, at least in the long run. To wit, as the charts here so clearly show, broad mask mandates do not appear to have had any noticeable impact on the course of a country, state, or locality's epidemic curve. To name a few, Hawaii, Illinois, LA, Miami, Kansas, Wisconsin, Israel, Japan, Spain, Argentina, and most notoriously Peru all have seen no beneficial long-run impact on cases (which actually increased at some point after implementation, even in conjunction with strict lockdowns in some cases), and the same was ultimately true for deaths and hospitalizations as well, except for Hawaii and Japan whose death rates remain unusually low for reasons not yet fully understood. As for Czechia, the crown jewel of early mask mandates, it appears to have only worked the first time in conjunction with their early suppression strategy in the spring, but not the second time around when the virus came roaring back in the fall. Ditto for Slovenia, a fortiori in fact. France and Italy's second waves were also a milder version of this phenomenon. Meanwhile, mandate-free Sweden, Denmark, Norway, North and South Dakota, Georgia, and the parts of Florida without local mandates don't seem to have had worse trends overall compared to many places that have such mandates. And until very recently, The Netherlands as well, having gone until December without a broad mask mandate.