Apparently, reporters and analysts are unaware that masks are already mandated in 37 states and many additional counties
On Thursday, presumed President-elect Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, appeared with CNN’s Jake Tapper for their first joint interview since the election. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic dominated the conversation. As one of his key initiatives, Biden said he would ask Americans to wear a mask for his first hundred days in office, “Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction.”
The reaction from the media was uniformly glowing. CNN’s Stephen Collinson and Maeve Reston immediately proclaimed that “The President-elect revealed the galvanizing, altruistic, first national rallying call of his administration,” comparing it to John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” speech.
The Associated Press even found time to criticize President Trump, noting in a supposed fact-based news article that the “move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue.” They continued to claim that Trump and others have “made many people reticent to embrace a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic.”
Apparently, the experts in the media are completely unaware that masks are already mandated in 37 states and many additional counties. In my home state of New Jersey for example, there’s been a mask mandate in place since April 10, almost 8 months.
Nor has this long term mandate appeared to have helped New Jersey cope with the pandemic better than anyone else. New Jersey, in fact, has the ignominious honor of the highest deaths per capita in the entire country at 194 per 100,000 people.
Rounding out the top 5 are New York (179), Massachusetts (158), Connecticut (143), and Louisiana (140), all states with a mask mandate. Of the top ten death per capita states, only Mississippi and South Dakota do not have a mask mandate, though North Dakota’s mandate was only effective in mid-November.
To be sure, the Centers for Disease Control reported that a study conducted in Kansas revealed 24 counties with a mask mandate effective July 3 saw decreasing case numbers compared to 81 counties that had increasing numbers without the mandate. They concluded “countywide mask mandates appear to have contributed to the mitigation of COVID-19 transmission in mandated counties. Community-level mitigation strategies emphasizing use of masks, physical distancing, staying at home when ill, and enhanced hygiene practices can help reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”
At the same time, state-by-state comparisons during the fall COVID-19 surge are much less conclusive.
Florida, for example, has no mask mandate. Over the past two weeks, the Sunshine State has recorded 115,789 total cases. New York, another state with a long-term mask mandate, has recorded 100,538. Accounting for population, it’s a net difference of 334 cases per day over the two week period, not even taking into account that Florida has less restrictions on restaurants and other gatherings in general than New York.
The story is the same if you compare Florida to California. California, a masked-up and partially locked down state like New York, notched 221,738 cases over two weeks. Adjusting for population, California has 625 more cases per day than Florida despite the masks and additional restrictions.
Lest you fear I’m cherry-picking data from Florida, Arizona also has no mask mandate. They’ve recorded 62,174 cases over the past 14 days. Illinois with a mask mandate has recorded 135,873. Accounting for population, that’s 1,986 more cases per day in Illinois.
Of course, there are other factors in play.
Florida and Arizona are southern states with warmer climates. We can assume the fairer weather make outdoor events easier, thereby reducing the spread. New York and Illinois are much harsher in the fall and winter when people are prone to gather inside, but this alone wouldn’t explain California, a much more temperate state than either that still has a high degree of infection.
Of course, it’s also possible that the masked-up states would be performing much worse without the mandates. I’m not suggesting that wearing a mask is necessarily a bad idea or that masks offer no protection.
Instead, I am stating what should be obvious to anyone.
First, the data isn’t nearly as conclusive as advertised. States with long term mask mandates and other restrictions have not necessarily fared better than their non-mask counterparts. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea why this is the case. It could be the climate, it could be population density, it could be a host of other factors.
At the same time, one would think the experts would want to figure out why these mask mandates aren’t predictive of better outcomes, either short or long term. If masks are so effective, why did New York and New Jersey suffer so much? Is anyone even attempting to answer that question?
Second, the idea that we’re not going to wear masks until Joe Biden asks us to is absurd. We’re already wearing them in 37 states and many other counties. Furthermore, requests from the President will be non-binding on the 13 states in question, meaning Biden’s plan is unlikely to make the slightest difference no matter what he or the media claims.
Instead, journalists might want to ask him how he arrived at a nice round figure of 100 days.
Is that really what the science says, not 99 days or 101 days, 98 or 102, but a perfect 100 days? Or is he just making it up?
Sadly, we have a pretty good idea that he is indeed just making it up. On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the soon-to-promoted head of the whole Federal coronavirus operation, was asked if Biden’s proposal would impose an “artificial time limit” on mask-wearing.
Fauci dismissed those concerns. “I spoke to him about that,” adding that Biden “didn’t mean it that way.” The good doctor continued, “He’s saying, ‘Hey, folks, trust me. Everybody for 100 days.’ Now, it might be that after that, we still are going to need it. But he just wants it, everybody for a commitment for 100 days. And I discussed that with him, and I told him I thought that was a good idea.”
You read that right, “It might be after that, we’re still going to need it.”
And isn’t that the story of the whole sorry coronavirus saga in a nutshell?