“A waste of time” is putting things too politely. Masks did more harm than good, unless you believe mask meshes 100 to 1000 times the size of a virus can actually stop the virus, or that breathing your own respiratory waste is good for you. From Geoff Shullenberger at unherd.com:
Experts advocated an intervention they once thought useless
Last summer, as the Delta wave was upending hopes that widespread vaccination would end the pandemic, several Democratic-run cities and states in America reintroduced the mask mandates they had ditched earlier in the year. A few other blue states and cities, notably New York, as well as many Republican-led states and municipalities, opted not to require masking again at that point.
This policy divergence created an opportunity to examine the impact of mask mandates. Those areas that rescinded their mandates could function as control groups for evaluating the effect of the policy on cases and mortality. But neither public health experts nor any of the major media outlets took up this opportunity. The reason, most of them would likely have said if pressed on the subject, was there was nothing to learn: “the science” was settled.
For their part, critics of masking and other Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) typically relied on principled assertions of freedom. This gave them little reason to examine the evidentiary basis of these policies, since they would have rejected them on moral grounds even if they worked. Only a few sceptical observers drilled into the data that could be found on sites such as the New York Times — even if the paper’s own reporters made little of it. The most prolific of these was Ian Miller, who over the past two years has published copious data-driven commentary on the track record of various Covid public health interventions.