FRIDAY, June 19, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A study on the use of masks to protect against the new coronavirus should be retracted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences because it contains "egregious errors" and "verifiably false" statements, a group of scientists say in a letter to the journal's editors.
The study was published June 11 and claims that wearing a mask "significantly reduces the number of infections" with the new coronavirus and that "other mitigation measures, such as social distancing implemented in the United States, are insufficient by themselves in protecting the public," The New York Times reported. The study also said that airborne transmission is the main way the virus spreads.
The scientists who want the study retracted say that while the study supports others that have concluded that masks help protect against the new coronavirus, the methodology of the study is deeply flawed, The Times reported. For example, the authors assumed that people's behavior shifted immediately after policy changes and did not take into account the huge societal changes that may have affected the reported incidence of COVID-19 infection.
"There is evidence from other studies that masks help reduce transmission of COVID-19, but this paper does not add to that evidence," said Linsey Marr, Ph.D., an expert on airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech, The Times reported. The scientists asked the journal to retract the study immediately "given the scope and severity of the issues we present, and the paper's outsized and immediate public impact."
The study's lead author, Mario Molina, Ph.D., was postdoctoral adviser to Marr. For his part, Molina defended the research. "We show in the paper itself that we know things are complicated, we know that there's social distancing, we know that it's sometimes perfect, sometimes not," Molina told The Times. "They just didn't understand our paper." Molina won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.
"The journal is aware of concerns raised about this article and is looking into the matter," according to a journal spokeswoman, The Times reported.