To mask or not to mask, that is the question, and increasingly blue states are choosing not to

Democrat controlled states are rapidly removing restrictions while case counts are over 20 times what Dr. Anthony Fauci once claimed were acceptable levels.  The science hasn’t changed, but the politics have, and even the Biden Administration is quietly working to alter how hospitalizations are calculated to drive cases down.

The “science” on masking hasn’t changed.  The pandemic hasn’t suddenly stopped.  Cases have been declining, yes, as the Omicron surge appears to be subsiding, but the 7 day rolling average is still well over 200,000, close to the highest points of previous waves.  Once upon a time, numbers like these were considered proof positive that drastic measures were required and masks were absolutely essential, including the masking of young children in school.  It was repeated endlessly that these masks were one of our most important tools to combat the pandemic, and any one who disagreed didn’t believe in “science,” indeed they were branded “Neanderthals” by the President of the United States himself.  Blue states like California and New York literally bragged about their restrictions, claiming they were more enlightened than their red counterparts like Texas and Florida.  This trend began in April 2020 and has proceeded apace until now.

Suddenly, however, blue states are completely changing direction while case counts remain high.  California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have all recently announced the loosening or outright abandonment of their mask mandates.  “This is what we’ve been waiting for — tremendous progress after two long years,” explained New York Governor Kathy Hochul, whose mask mandate expired yesterday for adults and will expire for schools in March. “And we’re not done. But this is trending in a very, very good direction, and that is why we are now approaching a new phase in this pandemic.”  This is, of course, highly misleading.  The trend line is down from the highest levels ever seen in December and early January, but case counts, which were once considered the key metric, remain far, far above what used to be considered acceptable levels.  The good Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly claimed our target should be under 10,000 per day.  We are currently twenty times that number, and no one knows what the future will hold.

Further, these blue states are now directly contradicting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while a Democrat is in the White House.  On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky insisted their guidance has not changed:  Mask mandates should remain in place in areas they define as high transmission, which is the great majority of the country at the moment.  “We continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing, where she also noted the seven-day average of new infections, while declining, is still more than 247,000 each day. “That’s much of the country right now, in public indoor settings.”  Dr. Fauci was slightly more optimistic in an interview with the Financial Times, though he too thinks masks are still required in schools. “As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase of Covid-19, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated. There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus.”  At the same time, he too, is rapidly changing his position and is now saying that eradicating the virus is impossible, despite that being the goal for months now as President Biden promised to “shutdown” the virus, even declaring victory last July.  “There is no way we are going to eradicate this virus,” he said. “But I hope we are looking at a time when we have enough people vaccinated and enough people with protection from previous infection that the Covid restrictions will soon be a thing of the past.”

Public health experts are also vacillating on the issue, claiming the science has changed despite no new evidence being presented.  Dr. Leana Wen told CNN that she generally supports the governors who’ve loosened their mandates.  When asked directly about it, she said, “I do.  There was and is a time and place for pandemic restrictions, but when they were put in it was always with the understanding that they  would be removed as soon as we can and in this case circumstances have changed, case counts are declining.  Also the science has changed.  We know that vaccines have protected very well against Omicron which is the dominant variant, everyone five and older has widespread access to vaccines, and we also know about one-way masking.  The idea that even if other people around you are not wearing masks, if you wear a high quality mask, it protects you the wearer too, and so in this case I’m not saying, I don’t think anyone is saying you should never wear masks, but rather that the responsibility should shift from a government mandate…to an individual responsibility by the family.”  This is a truly remarkable shift:  Setting aside that evidence of the efficacy of vaccines against Omicron is scarce, conservatives like myself have said all along that people who feel they are at risk for whatever reason should wear a mask, but were told repeatedly that the benefits of masking only manifest if everyone complies.  Not wearing a mask even if you personally had essentially zero risk was obscenely selfish, but now “one-way masking” is science.  We’ve also said the responsibility to determine your level of risk and what precautions you should take lies with the individual, and yet were maligned as cold-hearted killers.  This, however, is all “science” now, no longer an “experiment in human sacrifice” as Georgia was described in May 2020.

In the meantime, the mainstream media has been quite busy trying to spin these obviously political moves.  The Washington Post claimed that “This much is clear from the emerging fractures among Democrats on mask mandates: they have no unified metric for lifting pandemic restrictions.”  Of course, they’ve never had a unified metric, ever, and yet they report this as some kind of surprising new development.  Moreover, it’s not as if this lack of any actual standard for removing restrictions hasn’t been apparent and pointed out since the start of the pandemic.  In their view, “Public health experts are divided on whether now is the moment to lift mandates, and some worry the conflicting guidance could flummox a weary public. And the issue has sparked debate over the metrics states and the federal government should use to make critical decisions.”  Once again, in any rational world this debate would’ve been settled long ago, but at least the Post had the decency to mention that the “political landscape” has shifted because that is precisely what is driving this.

As we saw in December when Omicron started its massive surge, Democrats and progressives are well aware the public is rapidly losing its patience with the era of endless lockdowns, forced masking in schools, and other arbitrary restrictions.  Virginia is a perfect example.  Newly minted governor Glenn Youngkin won an upset victory last year opposing mandates and pandemic restrictions.  He immediately issued an executive order to make masking optional in all Virginia schools, but was promptly sued by groups that called the move a “slap in the face” of concerned parents.  The would-be authoritarian then did what authoritarians do:  He brought it to the State House for a vote.  There, the Democrat controlled Virginia Senate voted overwhelmingly, 29-9, on an amendment to make masking optional.  A larger bill on both in person schools and making passed 21-7 with two Democrats defecting to the Republican side.  The Biden Administration, while slow on the uptake, is also busy working behind the scenes on new metrics that will essentially end the pandemic.  Politico reports that they are “working on recalculating the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations.”  “The group is asking hospitals to report numbers of patients who go to the facility because they have Covid-19 and separate those from individuals who go in for other reasons and test positive after being admitted.”

Why are they doing this? “Lower hospitalization rates could inform the administration’s thinking on public health measures such as masking.” In other words, this isn’t science.  The science is in on these measures and they did more harm than good.  This is politics, and while I am glad Democrats are finally reaching the conclusion that the country cannot live in a permanent pandemic state forever, the lies and spin need to be confronted.  This is what they wrought and they need to own it so it never happens again.  That is the only acceptable way forward and we must do it in the name of science and checking our own authoritarian hubris in the future.

3 thoughts on “To mask or not to mask, that is the question, and increasingly blue states are choosing not to”

  1. Even here in draconian Oregon, one of the most locked-down and masked states, the masks are planned to drop. But not for six weeks yet, our muzzles drop March 31. California drops their today. But as you well point out, and as a lot of us are seeing too, this is hardly the time for the dictators to be unmasking and de-locking, considering the stats.

    There’s two things pretty obvious at play. One, yes, they need us to vote for them this fall out of “gratitude” for releasing our chains. Two, they have indeed made great progress– on getting jabs into basically everyone. That mass injection campaign was the main goal, and we all know what they set into motion by doing so. Once they get their set goal of a certain percentage of us multi-jabbed, the “pandemic” ceases to matter.

    We expect the next five years to be nonstop death. Hope you and your loved ones were able to avoid the injections. Only I was, but my entire family and virtually everyone else around me has been shot up. Best to seize every moment to enjoy them before they are taken away prematurely.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry for tardy reply; homeless and don’t always have web access.

        Sorry to hear you had to shoot up the nasty just to see your band. Another blogger I follow is in a band and has not played live for quite some time. It’s sad. There is no denying the social and psychological benefits of going to a live show, of any kind. The collective emotions, reaction, the shared experience, is something no screens can ever replace.

        Nice to meet another atheist conservative cannabis user. We are indeed hardly brainless, and being godless hardly means being soulless. Best to you and yours, Christian Twiste!

        Like

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