The partisan divide over mandatory face coverings is one of the more interesting, if sad, twists of the Chinese coronavirus era. On the one hand, the mask police insist that not wearing one is equivalent to being a literal Typhoid Mary and trying to purposefully kill everyone’s grandma. On the other, many conservatives, including this one, see it as yet another unnecessary and overblown reaction to what has been a pandemic defined by unnecessary and overblown reactions, and a particularly unsightly one at that.
Regardless of how you come down on the issue, nobody should condemn anyone for their choice of wearing or not wearing a mask. That’s my position, but sadly it’s not shared by mask-shamer Karens and would-be tin-pot dictator Democratic governors who revel in their newfound godlike power to order citizens around like peasants. Now that they’ve lost the war on staying locked down forever, they now seem to think everyone, everywhere, should be masked from now until the Wuhan virus disappears from the planet. Of course, they didn’t think this when the pandemic was going full-steam and hundreds of people were breathing each other’s fumes in Walmarts and grocery stores all across the country, but that’s beside the point. They think it now, and you’d better obey or be mask-shamed for the non-conforming cretin you are. This is the “new normal,” don’t you know, and you’d best get used to it.
Well I, for one, do not intend to conform, or at least I intend to conform as little as possible. No, I’m not going to be the guy who makes it into some viral video for making a scene if asked to mask-up in order to go into a private business, but I WILL definitely be one of doubtless many who makes a mental note to absolutely not return to that private business unless there is no viable alternative.
Granted, there are certain situations where it may be smart to wear a mask for a while, such as airplanes and crowded busses, places where you are stuck close to non-moving groups of people indoors for extended periods of time. But most of the time, in most situations, I’m convinced that mask-wearing does more harm to society than good. Here are a few reasons why:
Mask wearing probably doesn’t make much of a difference, if any
First of all, let’s abandon any sort of absolute certainty about the scientific efficacy of mask-wearing. The maskers can show scientific studies to ‘prove’ their side, and I can show others to bolster mine. For example, did you know that the widely held assumption that asymptomatic coronavirus carriers are insanely contagious might not even be true? Did you also know that the CDC says the disease “spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period”? That’s why we initially banned large gatherings which, despite my sadness about seeing sports disappear, was one of the depressingly few wise things we’ve done this entire pandemic. It’s also probably why it didn’t keep spreading significantly even though people were crowding maskless inside grocery and home improvement stores due to the fact that our wise and all-knowing overlords deemed those the only places anyone could go to get out of the house.
In other words, the evidence suggests you typically won’t get coronavirus from simply passing someone in a store aisle. It takes close contact with an infected person for several minutes to get infected yourself, a take agreed-upon by none other than the New England Journal of Medicine, which covered both sides in the debate over the use of universal masking in hospitals early on in the pandemic:
“We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection,” the article reads. “Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”
Mask wearing could be dangerous
I would be remiss not to mention the strong case made by Dr. Russell Blaylock in this article for Technocracy, contending that mask-wearing is not only useless but possibly even dangerous over the long-haul. It’s worth a read, even if you’re skeptical. Just from a common-sense perspective it definitely doesn’t seem wise to breathe one’s own breath for long periods of time. The pushback against the piece - and there has been a lot - seems mostly to be focused on Blaylock himself rather than the specific evidence he brings up. So make of that what you will.
It’s about social control
In an article for The Federalist that ended up being shared via Twitter by President Trump himself, Molly McCann argued that the mandatory masking isn’t about safety, but about social control.
“To those looking to benefit politically from emergencies, COVID presents an opportunity to advance plans targeted to transform American freedom and the American way of life,” McCann writes. “Mandatory-masking policies provide a valuable foundation to weaponize the virus against American liberty—now and in the future.”
Ask yourself this: do societies that accept mass-mask-wearing tend to be free and open ones?
They cave to irrational fear
Our overlords told us this virus would kill, at the very least, one to two percent of those it infected. Some predictions even approached five. In reality, the rate is well under half of one percent and declining rapidly as antibody tests reveal the extent of the original infection. We were told we must shut everything down or millions would die. First, it was two weeks to “slow the spread.” Next, it was another month. Then, states that began opening things up were told blood would be literally running down the streets. None of this happened, obviously. Instead, in order to scrape together a death count even approaching 100,000 they had to count everyone who died WITH coronavirus, not OF it, as well as “probable” cases who hadn’t even been tested. Get shot in a back alley? Die of stage four lung cancer or a car accident? Have two weeks to live because YOU’RE 95 and your systems are shutting down? Guess what, if you had the ‘rona’ in your system, you’re part of their grim statistic now.
In truth, the average age of death of a coronavirus victim, even assuming all the deaths actually occurred because of coronavirus, is higher than the average human lifespan, and many if not most deaths have occurred in nursing homes thanks to the shoddy decisions of a few blue-state governors. For the vast majority of people, the risk is about like that of the flu. The fear, and the overbearing response, to this virus has been completely irrational and unwarranted. Wearing a mask tells them they have a point when they don’t.
They give legitimacy to an illegitimate response
All of the fearmongering, obviously, was to keep people compliant and afraid in their homes in an ill-conceived lockdown that has done far more long-term harm than short-term good. They destroyed our life-sustaining economy for nothing, but now we’re told we must all wear masks forevermore or this ‘dread’ disease is going to wreak havoc again. No, there is nothing, absolutely nothing about our government’s response to this pandemic that has made any sense, so why should we believe them on masks? The answer, obviously, is we shouldn’t believe them, because they are liars, con artists, and control freaks. Wearing a mask in public in anything but an indoor, crowded, long-term situation in areas where the virus is still prevalent gives them credibility they haven’t earned and certainly don’t deserve.
They are the equivalent of a comfort blanket
Do the scientific studies that support mask wearing point out the fact that the things are, by everyone’s admission, petri dishes? I doubt it. Read this HuffPost piece about effective mask wearing and ask yourself if you ever do any of those things. No? Of course you don’t, because you aren’t a trained medical professional and you have a life to live. Try and go two minutes, much less two hours, without adjusting it on your face. You’re also likely getting closer to people and taking more risks than you otherwise would because of the false sense of security that masks give you.
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Don’t get me wrong. Reasonable social distancing, masks indoors in certain situations, and basic sanitation can go a long way. But universal masking all the time is nothing more than a comfort blanket. Don’t argue with me, argue with the above-cited New England Journal of Medicine, which also wrote about the “symbolic roles” masks play in healthcare:
“It is also clear that masks serve symbolic roles,” the NEJM writes. “Masks are not only tools, they are also talismans that may help increase health care workers’ perceived sense of safety, well-being, and trust in their hospitals. Although such reactions may not be strictly logical, we are all subject to fear and anxiety, especially during times of crisis. One might argue that fear and anxiety are better countered with data and education than with a marginally beneficial mask, particularly in light of the worldwide mask shortage, but it is difficult to get clinicians to hear this message in the heat of the current crisis.”
So, we’ve got to have a “talisman” to go out? What is this, some dystopian medieval nightmare we’re living in?
They allow criminals to get away with crimes
We once decried Klan members and Antifa types for covering their faces while doing their violent deeds. Now we’re requiring masks of everyone, even outside where the risks are next to nil. Combine that with a racially charged police killing and mass joblessness among lower-income wage earners and you’ve got, well, what we’re getting right now. I’m not blaming the violence on masks alone, of course, but to say people whose faces are covered aren’t emboldened is to deny human nature. Remember the days when a masked person walking into a gas station caused alarm? If this continues much longer, crime will spike. Worse, unsolved crime will spike too.
They look ridiculous
C'mon, Man! Of course they do, and you know it. Enough said.
Even if mask wearing could be proven to make some slight difference in the transmission of coronavirus, all the other factors included here, and more, lean against it for most in most situations, in my opinion. For context, ask yourself if you’d wear a HAZMAT suit from here to eternity to guarantee against getting the virus. To put it bluntly, living life has always come with risks. I’d rather take a little more risk and live in a free society than live in a tyrannical one with slightly less risk.
Follow Scott on Twitter@SKMorefield