Can Masks Replace Social Distancing?


Martin Kulldorff, PhD, explains that masks can't replace social distancing for those at highest risk for severe COVID-19.

Masks have been a subject of controversy and debate during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: should they be mandated? Where are they most effective? How much do they help exactly?

Regardless of how much masks work, Dr. Martin Kulldorff argues, they can't replace targeted social distancing for the highest risk groups.

Dr. Kulldorff encourages optimism and courage in the face of the pandemic, noting that many Americans are unaware of how age stratified severe disease outcomes are, but explains that masks should not give people a false sense of security if they are among higher risk groups like the elderly.

Martin Kulldorff, PhD, is a biostatistician in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital + Harvard Medical School. He has long been working in infectious disease outbreaks, detection of new disease outbreaks, and developing novel epidemiological methods.

He has developed new sequential statistical methods for near real-time post-market drug and vaccine safety surveillance, where the purpose is to use weekly, monthly or other frequent data feeds to find potential safety problems as soon as possible.

As a biostatistician, Dr. Kulldorff also does collaborative and consulting work with epidemiologists and clinicians, using a wide variety of study designs and methods for many different types of diseases.

Dr. Kulldorff received his bachelor’s degree in mathematical statistics from Umeå University in Sweden, and his doctorate in operations research from Cornell University.

[Bio courtesy of Harvard Medical School]

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