More short-sighted stupidity from an institution of higher learning

The university will have to get me one of these masks if they expect me to be nice to COVIDiots.

It’s official. The University of Minnesota is taking tentative steps to dismantle mask requirements. I’ll still have to wear them in the classroom (I’m not planning to discontinue that, no matter what the administration says), but you can go to football games, plays, and social events without them now.

For our faculty, staff, and student workers in instructional, clinical, and transit settings, face coverings will continue to be required. Additional information on where and when masks may be required is available from Safe Campus.

Those who work in other settings—including residential housing, dining facilities, and offices—will not be required to wear a mask while at work. However, you may continue to wear a mask in these settings based on your personal preference and expect support from your coworkers and leaders in creating a positive workplace that is welcoming and respectful.

It’s too soon. We’re always doing this — backing off on the preventive measures as soon as they show signs that they’re working. And then everyone is going to act surprised when we get another spike!

I’m also a little peeved at that admonition to be “welcoming and respectful” to the conspiracy theorists, like this guy, who is a pastor in Benson, just an hour away.

…Jason Wolter, is a thoughtful, broad-shouldered Lutheran pastor who reads widely and measures his words carefully. He also suspects Democrats are using the coronavirus pandemic as a political tool, doubts President Joe Biden was legitimately elected and is certain that COVID-19 vaccines kill people.

He hasn’t seen the death certificates and hasn’t contacted health authorities, but he’s sure the vaccine deaths occurred: I just know that I’m doing their funerals.

He’s also certain that information will never make it into the newspaper.

Wolter’s frustration boils over during a late breakfast in a town cafe. Seated with a reporter, he starts talking as if Anfinson is there.

You’re lying to people, he says. You flat-out lie about things.

No, he is not thoughtful, he doesn’t read widely, and he doesn’t measure his words carefully. He’s a dogmatic, blinkered COVIDiot, and no, I’m not going to be welcoming and respectful towards that kind of inane attitude. We’re going to get another spike thanks to the people who think we have to make nice with the ignorant.

If you want to see what I anticipate for our future, look to China.

In Shenzhen, officials ordered the city’s more than 17 million people to stay at home starting on Monday through March 20, after just 150 new cases were reported over the weekend.

The city is home to key Chinese companies like Huawei, electric carmaker BYD and Tencent. Apple supplier Foxconn suspended operations, as did circuit board makers Sunflex and Unimicron, also a supplier to Apple and Intel.

Authorities in the northeastern province of Jilin on Monday barred its 24 million residents from leaving, marking the first time officials have sealed an entire province since January 2020 when Hubei was put under lockdown.

Health officials said hospitals were overrun because of the rapid increase in cases since Friday. The province recorded more than 4,605 coronavirus cases on Saturday, while 3,868 residents have tested positive in preliminary tests but were not yet included in the official tally, officials said.

Somebody is smart enough to see that when 150 people sneeze, it’s a harbinger of millions getting flattened by a disease. We’re not that clever. We’re instead sending out memos telling us to be welcoming and respectful to plague rats.

Hey, check out Hong Kong.

There are no funeral ceremonies for some of the hundreds of elderly Hong Kong residents dying every day of covid. Their bodies are instead sealed in plastic bags and then quickly cremated, freeing up space at the morgue for more arrivals.

Hong Kong — a wealthy financial center — now has the highest covid death rate in the developed world. More than 2,300 people have died since the start of the city’s most recent outbreak, compared with just 213 in the two years prior. Those dying are overwhelmingly elderly, unvaccinated residents, but they also include toddlers and children too young to be immunized.

Gosh. Those vaccines must be killing all those unvaccinated elderly people and children.

We’ll never learn.


  1. says

    Europe is seeing an uptick in cases. It’s going to happen here, which is why I will never take off my masks. (Yes, I wear two, since one is paper and the other is cloth. My Costco is selling N95s and I’m going to buy a couple of boxes.)

  2. raven says

    ur Staff – St. Mark’s Lutheran church (LCMS) Benson, MN our-staff
    Pastor Jason Wolter

    At least right wingnut Jason Wolter is Missouri Synod Lutheran.

    The Lutheran church is split into several sects that don’t have much in common with each other. The Missouri Synod are hard core fundies.

    but he’s sure the vaccine deaths occurred: I just know that I’m doing their funerals.

    He is lying here.
    I’m sure he is doing a lot of funerals for people dead from the Covid-19 virus.
    These days almost all of them will be antivaxxers.
    The ICUs are running around 95% antivaxxers these days.

  3. raven says

    I ran into a recent Covid-19 virus patient a few days ago.
    She was sick but not that sick. In the hospital for a few days but not in the ICU and/or on a ventilator.

    She looked like she had been through a lot. Aged about 20 years.
    What I noticed first was the hair loss.
    Hair falling out by the handful isn’t just an expression. She had huge bald spots all over her head.
    This happens sometimes after a serious illness, particularly viral infections like Covid-19 virus.
    It is at least usually temporary and it should eventually grow back.

    You do not want to get this virus.

  4. endymion says

    Not directly related to this post, but the last 3 days have seen US covid deaths go from 474 to 173 to ZERO yesterday. I can’t believe I’m not seeing this in headlines this morning.

  5. Bruce says

    PZ, I read the UMM memo differently than you do. To me, it is saying that YOU have permission to wear a mask during your office hours and division meetings, and that other people should be respectful of YOU, and your weird desire to live, when none of the administration can imagine wearing stuff voluntarily.

  6. whheydt says

    California lifted the mask mandate for schools last Saturday. Los Angeles city schools are keeping the mandate in place, though the Los Angeles county has lifted it.

    Locally to me, the schools lifted the mandate. My grandson mentioned that on Monday while waiting for his bus. I recommended that he keep wearing his.

  7. robro says

    endymion #5 — Could that info be slow record keeping or the data source? I looked at Global COVID-19 Tracker and it shows new deaths for the US on March 14 as 1,121. March 15 is 13 but that data looks incomplete. The two days prior to March 14 were lower but March 9 hit 3,416. The 7-day average, a more reliable barometer, is sitting at 1,200 deaths per day as of March 14.

  8. endymion says

    robro – yes I believe the widget/graph I was looking at is broken. Individual stats were still reporting dozens (FL had a 100+) of covid deaths. Still very encouraging trend but not as off the cliff as I’d hoped. I knew zero was suspect.

  9. komarov says

    It’s too soon. We’re always doing this — backing off on the preventive measures as soon as they show signs that they’re working. And then everyone is going to act surprised when we get another spike!

    Some European countries have been doing the same thing, by and large. Wait eternally before imposing any restrictions. Drop them the instant the infection curve starts to drop. Look shocked when this backfires for the nineteenth time in a row. Finally, put the restrictions back in place, but only after waiting for a few weeks or months to make sure incidence really is rising Mustn’t rush these things, right? Ideally, this is delayed until after major holidays where people travel or visit family.

    For example, a lot of rules are about to expire in Germany. This was always known but the government is still dragging its feet on a new framework. People, companies and institutions hoping to plan ahead probably have to wait until the very last day to find out what, if anything, is next. Germany might even return to a patchwork set of rules, with different based on location, just like day one (or rather, day 100, due to more heel-dragging) of the pandemic.

    The only thing that has been successfully flattened for the past two years is the learning curve. Two years and counting, but I have every confidence that we can keep this up long term.

  10. vucodlak says

    @ Susan Montgomery, #3

    If only there were some middle ground, where we could have effective public health policy without being a brutal genocidal police state… oh, wait, there is! We’re a brutal genocidal police state who can’t do decent public policy to save our lives. Hooray for sensible centrists!

  11. robro says

    As an indication of the real risk we still face, China is locking down cities because of a surge, and Pfizer/BioNTech is seeking approval for a second booster for people over 65. I wish we could relax but anyone who believes COVID is over is smoking the good stuff.

  12. Jazzlet says

    The rates of infection, hospialisation and deaths are rising again in the UK and the Johnson mafia have no plan as to what they are going to do about this. Except maybe give over 75s another booster. Which leaves the rest of us up shit creek. There’s a surprise.

  13. nomdeplume says

    If you can get someone to believe in the insanity of religion you can get them to believe anything. America has demonstrated that perfectly in the last 6 years of Trumpism and Covid.

  14. Susan Montgomery says

    @11 “can’t do decent public policy to save our lives.”

    But, enough about Obamacare.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    nomdeplume @14: Yeah, thank goodness for clear thinkers like Atheists for Liberty.

  16. raven says

    …and Pfizer/BioNTech is seeking approval for a second booster for people over 65. I wish we could relax but anyone who believes COVID is over is smoking the good stuff.

    Yeah, I saw that.
    I wasn’t too happy and wasn’t that convinced since the CEO of Pfizer said that about the 4th booster. He does have an incentive here since Pfizer is one of the vaccine companies.

    Then I thought about it and why not? It’s worked for me/us for two years now.
    When the FDA and CDC say it is time for a 4th booster, I’m in.
    I’d really like to go to a lot more outdoor rock concerts this summer.

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    @18: The percentage of atheists who voted for Trump was about twice that of Black Protestants. Gosh, maybe race is more important than religion. Nah, that can’t be it, can it? Keep hammering that nail.

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    robro @ # 12: … anyone who believes COVID is over is smoking the good stuff.

    Why do you think our esteemed host alluded to “instituions of HIGHER learning”?

    I’ll see myself out now … the door has gotta be over here someplace…

  19. nomdeplume says

    @19 If you don’t think fundamentalist religion played a huge, decisive role in electing Trump in 2016, and in his policies, and in anti-vaxx, anti-mask madness, then we seem to have been living on different planets. But hey, maybe you’re right, maybe “atheists” are to blame for all that.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says


    maybe “atheists” are to blame for all that.

    That’s what you think I said? Never mind different planets. You’re in a different fucking universe. “white” mattered more than “religious”. Deal with it.

  21. hemidactylus says

    I’m more a facultative than obligate mask wearer. The local numbers have nosedived for now as they did last November when I got my booster. Whenever the next surge starts coming I will go back into mask/no restaurant mode again. I enjoy welcome reprieves when I can. Wish we had vaccines with updated signatures available. I’d be first in line for that. Seems we are in a weird limbo.

    Isn’t the China concern the stealth Omicron? Given the recent surge in the US wouldn’t there be some substantial protective overlap? Is China a victim of their previous success with the stricter policy in there not having been as much previous Omicron exposure?

  22. torcuato says

    My workplace also made masks optional starting next Monday, and I will be the first one to happiliy walk in the building without wearing one. I’ve got my three shots and I’ve been religiously following federal and local guidelines, but I’m done hurting my quality of life to protect those who will forever be afraid of the virus, or the small minority who’s at risk. And please spare me the “Why do you want to kill grampa and gramma?” People with special conditions always have to take extra precautions. One of my co-workers has a severe peanut allergy. Should everyone in the building be banned from bringing peanut products? I don’t think so.
    But… but… but… We are going to have another spike! I know, for some people the sky is always falling. Remember Denmark? The ones who lifted all restrictions a month ago, and how Covid rates were going to spike and they all were going to die, and let this be a warning to the US? Well, since then cases have been steadily dropping from mid-40K to 15K per day. But… but… but… deaths spiked by more than 50%!!! Yeah, they went from around 25 a day to around 40 a day. In a country of 6 million people. Oh, the horror!
    Comparing the US and Europe to China and Hong Kong is extremely disingenuous. China and Hong Kong have an incredibly stupid zero-Covid policy, with extreme lockdowns and other restrictions. Very few cases for almost two years, so no natural immunity, and people who don’t feel the need to vaccinate (because there are almost no cases). And the few who are getting vaccinated is with Sinovac, a lot less effective than Pfizer/Moderna/J&J. So, when very contagious Omicron inevitably entered these countries, all hell broke loose.
    How much longer do you want to force everyone to wear masks? One year? Two years? Ten years? Indefinitely? The virus is not going anywhere anytime soon. If you want to continue wearing masks, by all means do! Just don’t force me to do the same.

  23. hemidactylus says

    @24- torcuato
    Masks have been optional in my workplace for quite a while. I still started wearing one again unhappily when Omicron was coming. I have hardcore conservative coworkers that were triple vaxxed and wearing masks too. A few still got Omicron mildly. I was spared. That John Campbell guy was saying everyone was going to get it. I haven’t yet. Though maybe less lethal per person it infected enough people to have killed many more.

    If things start taking a another turn for the worse I will wear mine again at work. I have it hanging on my windshield mirror and still wear it when at the supermarket, liquor store, or convenience store buying very expensive gas.

    I never got the N95s. Mine is a breath restrictive cloth multilayer. I have 12 on rotation that I wash periodically inside a pillowcase, but far less often lately. I watch the numbers.

  24. unclefrogy says

    I do not see how wearing a face mask is such a horrible restriction to my quality of life.
    When it is raining out I can wear a rain coat or take an umbrella, when it is hot as hell I do not stay out in the sun very long if i can help it and wear loose fitting clothes when I do go out and wear a hat None of that damages my quality of life that I can see I can not insist on wearing shorts all year even if it is snowing so why is wearing a simple mask any different?
    Life on earth is like that, and I will grant you face covering to restrict the spread of infectious disease is new but it does not seem that different to me just unavoidable like galoshes in the rain.

  25. says

    …Jason Wolter, is a thoughtful, broad-shouldered Lutheran pastor who reads widely and measures his words carefully.
    How did that get past the editor?

  26. StevoR says

    Well, in fairness he might well have broad-shoulders .. but thoughtful or widely read & measures his words carefully? Sure doesn’t sound like it from his reported rantings there.

  27. chrislawson says

    RG and nomdeplume

    Here are the numbers.

    Rob G is correct that a higher percentage of atheists than Black protestants voted for Trump. But not by much (14% vs 7% in 2016, 11% v 9% in 2020), and certainly not enough to assert that race is more important than atheism. Someone could argue the opposite by noting out that nonwhite Catholics and nonwhite evangelicals were about 3x more supportive of Trump than atheists…or that Black protestant support is trending to overtake atheist support well before the 2024 election.

    Both race (especially Blackness) and atheism are highly protective against Trumpism. It shouldn’t be a hairsplitting purity contest. Especially given this type of data can only be collected by exit polls, a notoriously unreliable methodology useful only for broad observations, not for fine details of a few percentage points.

  28. nomdeplume says

    @30 Thanks Chris – what’s the saying about “lies, damned lies and …” I forget what the third one was…

  29. Walter Solomon says

    chrislawson @30

    certainly not enough to assert that race is more important than atheism.

    Obviously race and religion played a role in the 2016 election. That said, race undoubtedly played a much larger role in that election than any in recent memory. Trump started his campaign using white nationalist talking points. Being an atheist, unfortunately, doesn’t immunize people from racism.

  30. erik333 says

    @25 hemidactylus
    How would you know wether or not you’ve been infected so far? You might just have been asymptomatic. The masks seem to slow the spread, and perhaps decrease the viral loads spread. But eventually you will get exposed, masks or no masks. Like condoms, they only make a difference if you aren’t properly socially distanced. The virus wil spread as long as there are vectors, just hopefully slowly enough that hospitals can cope.

  31. robro says

    Oh, by the way, this news just in:

    A covid surge in Western Europe has U.S. bracing for another wave

    Oh boy!

    I straightened all my masks this morning. Pfizer/BioNTech requested FDA permission for a second booster. I’m applying for an “accommodation” due to health reasons so I don’t have to RTO (“return to office”…the acronym of the age) just in case the business I work for goes ahead with its plans.

    And the war in Ukraine. I noticed in the videos of people in Russia and Ukraine not masked. Not surprising for the people of Ukraine, but your would think Russians…oh well.

  32. unclefrogy says

    I feel dread when I see the refugees all crowded up and mask-less
    with the prediction of a much reduced grain harvest from Ukraine this season and possibly Russia as well the specter of famine resulting from all of this the “christian death cult believers ” waiting for the second coming must be salivating in anticipation as the four horseman are arriving

  33. torcuato says

    @26 unclefrogy
    A significant part of my job involves speaking/presentations, so when wearing a mask I’m constantly dealing with the problem of being heard/understood, and also with fogging glasses.

  34. Jazzlet says

    torcuato @36
    So you don’t have clear diction, and your masks don’t fit. I wear glasses, if the mask fits properly they don’t get steamed up.