There was good discussion at my Liberty Alliance post, and bsking was her usual statistical self. It is a more useful skill than what I provide, but I hope I can still be of service. After a few days has gone by, I tend to move discussions to a new post rather than write something long under the old one - as I used to in the old days.
How can it be that there are studies showing masks provide some group protection and other studies that show they don't make any difference? The first thing I notice is that they are usually measuring different things. Sometimes what is being measured is how much people are wearing masks. Sometimes what is being measured is whether masks are mandated are not. Those seem the same at first, but a second glance shows they are quite different. One is a more hard science look, the other is more of a sociological take. We can see this if we compare it to gun control laws. Chicago has lots of gun control laws - mandates, if you will - while New Hampshire has few. But that doesn't tell us much about whether people are obeying those laws or not and whether they are being generally safe with guns, does it? So too with masks. Just because they are being mandated does not necessarily mean any increase in the actual behavior.
I am pretty annoyed at sites that should notice the difference but either don't see it, or worse, don't mention it because it doesn't fit their aims. A couple of Insty writers trumpet studies that show mandates don't help, and the takeaway that a lot of people have, judging from the comments, is that masks don't do any good. It is an advocacy site and can print what it wants, but insofar as it purports to be publishing news and promoting intelligent discussion, they should be more evenhanded - or at least keep reminding people what they really are. There is secondly a months long quiet dishonesty, in that right from the beginning they have been insisting "People won't put up with these restrictions. Real Americans aren't like that." Then when people resist wearing masks, and the numbers go down and the disease keeps spreading they say "See? Masks don't work."
Similar discussions about restaurant closings, school attendance, distancing and other measures flow from this, but I am just sticking with masks at present for simplicity, and because it is the easiest of measures to follow through with. While they are a genuine hardship for some*, they generally aren't.
It is very possible from this disparity to take the view "Well fine then. Mask mandates are no more effective than gun control, so we shouldn't have them." I have a general sympathy with the idea that restrictions on freedoms, even small ones, should show some use or they should not even be considered. But there is a difference here, and perhaps a crucial one. No one is claiming that gunshot wounds don't hurt people. There aren't comment boards angrily pointing out that lots of ammo is used without anyone getting shot, so this whole gun safety idea is ridiculous. Gun owners are often the first to tell you "Dude, get some training." People acknowledge the danger but insist it can be managed, and that it actually reduces danger in other directions. If the people of an area were insisting that a gun can't hurt you, even I might reluctantly conclude some sort of restriction should be in place until we could smack some sense into them.
And yes, there are plenty of people saying exactly that about masks, without making any distinctions of masks properly made and properly worn, or particular circumstances. I have heard them live and so have you, usually males being dismissive and implying that you are being a bit of a coward for buying into that nonsense. This is usually accompanied by some very bad extra reasoning, such as "this is mostly a hoax, which I can tell because I don't know anyone who has gotten this," or assertions that the deaths aren't really Covid or aren't any more than usual, or are fewer than the number of people who die from x, y, or z. Dude, don't help any schoolchildren with their science homework, okay?
While I am on a rant, I will revert to my usual rants as well. Not all of the disruption is because of the government, but lots of people are focusing on the government actions as a synecdoche for all the misery in their lives. With this many deaths, restaurant attendance was going to go down anyway, and restaurants are notoriously fragile. Also, many businesses concluded they don't want the risk for staff, vendors, and customers regardless of what the government was mandating - and liability questions are also looming an uncertain. Next, I keep hearing "They told us this was supposed to only be two weeks to flatten the curve." That's a fully reasonable complaint. The rug was pulled and the various reasons why are fair game for discussion. But you know what else they said back in March? "They" said it was "just the flu," which would be 23K deaths in a year, and then "a bad flu," which would be 60K. "They" said that Florida was handling things much better, Texas had very few cases, California had way fewer cases than New York, and why couldn't we all be more like South Dakota? "They" said that the US wasn't going to get hit as hard as Italy or France because...something. Except the "they" in those previous statements are not the "experts" (always in quotes) but the self-appointed experts who were critics, who no longer mention what they used to claim.
As I have said before - with lower numbers - you can make the argument that 400,000 deaths isn't a lot, especially when it's mostly old people who were going to die in 1-24 months anyway. That is a seismic shift in American culture to regard the elderly that way, and it has been predicted over the last few decades because of how expensive we are getting to be. But you could make that claim, yes. I don't like a culture taking that attitude toward life, but many tribes have done even worse - think ice floes and seal blubber. Just admit what you said, and what you are saying, or you haven't got the right to criticise what others said and are saying.
*As noted in comments under a previous post, people who can't have glasses fogging up when they are working and people who have hearing deficits have real hardships.