How the very idea of masks as a form of pandemic protection became a political conflict is subject to debate. Which has made the benefits of masks themselves a subject of debate. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs argues, the only thing these debates can lead to is more deaths.
This whole thing about masks is madness.
Last week in Utah, at a hearing in Provo to explore the issue of masks in schools, county commissioners had to shut it down when obstreperous parents packed the room, refusing to sit only in designated socially-distanced chairs and consciously appearing without masks. Even, as you see in the picture below, advocating against them.
As any fool can see, they put themselves at risk. Now you might say, “So what,” but here’s the hitch: they put everyone else in the room at risk too. Do they not even know that Utah was recently listed by the CDC as a state “with the greatest likelihood of a larger number of deaths?” Its own hospital association has asked for a statewide mask rule.
Look, I don’t like these masks any more than anyone else. They feel hot, they inhibit breathing, they are generally a pain. But guess what: if I wear one, and I’m someplace where the virus can spread, I’m protecting not just me, but you. I had a woman ask me a few weeks ago, “Why are you wearing the mask?” I told her, “Because I want to protect you as well as me.” She came back with one of the stupider questions I’ve heard since this whole mess started: “Do you have the coronavirus?” To which I said, “I have no way of knowing, and that’s the point.” I wanted to add, “Would you like to be the one who finds out, the hard way?” But at that particular moment, I wasn’t in a combative mood.
This isn’t rocket science. There is virtually no discordance among scientists and physicians (might we even dare to call them experts on this issue?): Masks, especially indoors, not only are an easy way to protect ourselves, but an easy way to protect others around us.
But try telling that to those parents in Provo! They just weren’t of a mind to hear it. Their argument is that masks infringe on their freedoms. As if their freedom to flaunt the rules doesn’t infringe on my freedom to stay fit. And it’s not just Utah. The Denver Post reported a few days ago that in stores and restaurants around the state, “When trying to enforce mask policies, employees say they have dealt with customers spitting on them, using racial slurs and even threatening their lives.”
It’s a fair guess that you could find similar stories in every city across the country.
And you can lay it on Trump.
That was obvious when one of the careless citizens at the Utah meeting told a television reporter, “I think it’s a political hoax, and I am against masks.” Shades of the Denier-in-Chief’s own concocted complaint that the coronavirus is part of a plot to trash the economy and hurt his chance for reelection.
Anyway, why would Trump’s acolytes obey the law when their pitifully irresponsible non-role-model of a leader encourages rebellion against rules rather than obedience, like when he urged citizens in April to “liberate” their states from stay-at-home orders. Or after he personally repudiated masks with the absurd assertion that he can’t see himself wearing one when “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens” come through the Oval Office (expect the dictators to get the first invitations). Or when he rashly allows photographs like this one last weekend on the golf course where, totally unmasked, he was darned near close enough to kiss Lindsey Graham (and since Graham has been such a Trump toady, he’d probably like to.)
Of course once this guy has staked out a position, he seems viscerally incapable of changing it, even when his original outlook proves to be a malignant mistake. That’s why he’s still advancing his timeworn argument that everyone from the “alarmist” Dr. Anthony Fauci to his own Surgeon General originally said we shouldn’t be buying masks. Characteristically of course he ignores a pivotal point: in those early days, they didn’t want to shrink the seriously short supply of masks for medical providers. Since then, everyone else in a position of responsibility has said, “Wear them.” Including the chief of the CDC who declared last week, “If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground.”
But why would we listen to experts like these, versus a man whose only involvement with masks before the pandemic was at his construction projects. Yet on Sunday he told FoxNews’s Chris Wallace, who asked about a possible national mandate on masks, “I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don’t believe in that, no.” He also stuck to his imbecilic and counterfeit claim that the disquieting spike in infections from coast to coast is just “burning embers.” Yeah, right, with the U.S. death toll— from those “burning embers”— now around 140,000. And with embers now burning in a record 75,000 more Americans each day. That’s more confirmed cases per capita, by the way, than any other industrial nation on earth.
Which Trump still speciously chalks up to the “best testing in the world.” So what that it’s taking many people up to a full week to get their test results. That’s pretty useless if the result comes back negative, after seven days of exposure since the test was taken… and dangerously useless if it comes back positive.
The mayor of hard-hit Austin, Texas, lamented last week, “When we were trying to get people to wear masks, they would point to the president and say, well, not something that we need to do.” The mayor of Miami sadly said, “People follow the people who are supposed to be leaders.”
Need any more explanation for the dangerous deportment of those Trump disciples in Provo?
My plea is, even if some of you don’t believe the almost unanimous announcements of experts who argue that masks help protect us, how about some courtesy and respect for those of us who do. Those of us who believe it when these experts even warn, masks might make the difference between life and death.
Our lives, and yours.