Masks are coming back

I just returned from a trip to the supermarket and noticed that pretty much everyone, except for four people of whom three were young, is wearing masks again. While I always wore masks there and at any indoor venue where I was not sure that everyone was vaccinated, I had noticed last month that mask usage had dropped considerably. I wondered whether people would be more resistant to the advice to mask up again and was glad to see that, at least in this area, people seem to have adopted them again. The county has as yet not mandated that everyone mask up indoors, though with the rising number of infected people due to the Delta variant, I expect to see such a mandate soon.

Meanwhile Republican governors of Florida and Texas and some other states have decided that wearing masks, let alone getting vaccinated, is a massive infringement on personal freedom, instead of an extremely minor inconvenience that imposes almost no financial cost but could save you from serious illness and death, even though the virus is rampaging through their populations.

The crowd gathered under a tent at the water’s edge, their tables decorated with the Stars and Stripes and checked tablecloths. In their midst in Austin county, Texas, last Saturday was the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, laughing with delight and playing the fiddle.

With the coronavirus roaring through the state and hospitals near breaking point, comparisons with Nero fiddling while Rome burned were irresistible, although journalist Alisha Grauso pointed out on Twitter: “Nero actually enacted sweeping relief efforts to try to quell the fire and also offer his people aid in the aftermath, particularly the lower class, so Abbott is somehow worse than a Roman emperor known today as being a psychotic tyrant.”

But Abbott, who has banned mask requirements, is far from an outlier in a Republican party which, having long sought to downplay the climate crisis, is now offering a confusing, incoherent and anti-scientific response to the biggest public health crisis for a century.

Some Republican leaders are seeking to support Joe Biden’s efforts to beat the pandemic by encouraging the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible. But others are actively trying to undermine the president’s offensive by embracing what critics regard as lethal mix of ignorance, irrationality and nihilism.

Elaine Kamarck, a Democrat who served in the Bill Clinton administration, said bluntly: “They’ve gone out of their minds. There’s just no other way to describe this. This is about the dumbest thing you could imagine because the only people listening to them are their voters. So this is the first time I’ve ever seen a political party advocating things that would harm their voters, maybe even kill their voters.”

But Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, argues that such a strategy will prove counterproductive in the long term.

“Never before in the history of our country where we’ve had to confront national crises have elected officials behaved so badly, so disingenuously and with so much disregard for the safety and security of the American people,” he said.

Steele added: “Individuals like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and others are out here selfishly proclaiming that somehow I’m more free if I don’t wear a mask. Well, that’s just bullshit and the only freedom you get from not wearing a mask is death.”

It simply amazes me. Looking at the grand causes that people of the past were willing to sacrifice their lives for and that bettered the lives of those who came after them, I think, “Really? This is the hill that you want to literally die on?” Do you think that future generations are going to look back at you and say, “We should be eternally grateful to Joe Schmuck, who sacrificed his life to covid-19 so that we would not be forced to wear a cheap piece of fabric when we went into an enclosed public space.”



  1. Jörg says

    Steele’s “The only freedom you get from not wearing a mask is death” could be a catchy slogan for placards.

  2. consciousness razor says

    The county has as yet not mandated that everyone mask up indoors, though with the rising number of infected people due to the Delta variant, I expect to see such a mandate soon.

    You might have missed it, since you’ve been wearing one all along, or maybe I’m misinformed…. Isn’t the state requiring them? (That was effective July 28.)

  3. jrkrideau says

    Well the mask thing is strange but remember the “Big Endian--Little Endian” controversy that led to a civil war.

  4. StonedRanger says

    I dont wish death on anyone. But I will not feel sorry if one (or more) of these people die from their own stupidity. The whole personal freedom argument is just as stupid as the argument they gave about the confederate flag. If they think corona is just a hoax why do they rush to the hospitals and ask doctors to save them from themselves? They dont understand how stupid they are. Its not even sad anymore.

  5. garnetstar says

    “Freedom” from a piece of cloth is just a mask (ha ha), what I mean is a cover, for their real objections, which they can’t say because they’re so cruel and unacceptable. The real reasons are owning the libs, not letting Biden succeed, and following Trump’s example. And yes, people will die for their cult.

    In actuality, putting on a mask and wearing it is no more difficult or un-free than putting on and wearing your underpants. (And, for those who have no occasion to know, it’s a lot less difficult than putting on and wearing a bra.) So, when they say it’s freedom, it’s a cover for their real motives.

    But, governors beware: there is a degree of physical suffering, hospital bills, and funerals, that will overcome allegiance to the cult. Especially if it’s the suffering and funerals of people’s children and teens. This isn’t going to end up a political winner for politicians who back it now.

  6. bmiller says

    A friend had a harsh (and not serious) suggestion: Require proof of vaccination before you can access the health care system at all. I know we can’t do that. At a minimum, if I were a health insurance executive I would announce that insurance policies would not cover COVID related care for the unvaccinated.

  7. bmiller says

    I would note that my County, which I describe as the “Alabama of the Bay Area” has not mandated masks yet. And, while I am by no means as serious as some here, I noted on a little walk in my Cowtown that some of the bars were disturbingly crowded on a Friday night with unmasked people.

  8. Matt G says

    The Tennessee vaccine chief who was recently fired said most refuseniks are doing so out of spite. If they get vaccinated, the liberals win. Petulant children, just like their Dear Leader.

  9. Matt G says

    bmiller@9- They are the ones who talk about business decisions being made without bleeding hearts….

  10. Marja Erwin says

    The right-wing media have spent decades saying that if anti-war or anti-fascist protesters wear masks, that means the protesters are dangerous and are terrorist sympathizers. They’ve supported laws which criminalize masks.

    So maybe it’s easier for them to continue denouncing masks, and insisting that the masks are a way to control people, than to admit they’ve been lying through their teeth about this.

  11. rockwhisperer says

    I live in fairly densely populated Santa Clara County (South end of the San Francisco Bay Area). The county just announced proudly that over 80% of residents over age 12 are fully vaccinated. The email, sent out to anyone registered for them, reminded us that indoor masking is required everywhere, no exceptions, and to stay six feet apart. Provided the current link to help find places offering vaccinations. It is encouraging people who think they even MIGHT have Covid-19 symptoms to get tested, and even offered a link to a YouTube video, made for the county, in which a fabulous drag queen gets vaccinated. (And asks good questions about medical treatments that people might think contraindicate getting vaccinated).

    I am often not proud of my county, but they’re doing a good job with this.

  12. Bruce says

    Give the people what they want. Every hospital has a parking structure where cots or beds can be set up. Do this. Then have hospital admissions triage all patients such that vaccinated ones get the regal building, but unvaccinated people get a bed in parking. Likewise vaccinated doctors and nurses and techs and orderlies work in the vaccinated building. Any hospital staff who are still unvaccinated are the only staff to work in parking. Even a car accident or heart attack victim who is unvaccinated only gets the treatment in the parking area. The regal building gets modern vaccines and modern equipment. In line with their preferences, patients in the unvaccinated parking only get equipment and medicines known before vaccination was developed 200 years ago.
    This will minimize crowding and limited resources in all regulatory hospitals, and solve a lot of problems without interfering with anyone’s freedoms.
    And it seems fair and appropriate to me.
    People who resist masks won’t like ventilator tubes, and now they won’t have to have them.
    Oh, death. Where is thy sting?

  13. Bruce says

    “Regal building” should be the regular hospital building.
    Parking structure, above, means structure or lot or yard with tents.
    Sorry for the typos.

  14. moarscienceplz says

    For those of us who have lived in the USA long enough, none of this is surprising. The saga of seatbelts in cars went almost exactly this same way. First, some engineers working for the federal government proposed them, but the car makers either ignored them or pushed back, saying it would be too difficult to engineer or too expensive or it made the public realize their deathtraps actually were deathtraps. Then, the government tested seatbelt effectiveness for decades, found they really did save a lot of lives, and created a timetable for mandating seatbelts in all cars. Then the professional conservative whiners joined in: “It will make cars too expensive to buy”, or “Seatbelts will wrinkle my dresses”, or the perennial “It’s an assault on my freedom!!!1!!”.
    Eventually, all cars were required to have seatbelts installed, and Surprise! Surprise! people were still able to afford new cars, but very few people buckled up, including my family. The government tried a lot of ways to persuade us to try to save our own lives: PSAs on TV, requiring cars to beep annoyingly at unbuckled riders (some people dealt with this by buckling the belt BEHIND them and then tucking the belt into the crack between the seat and the seat back), even systems that automatically harnesed you in when you sat down and closed the car door (people then paid their mechanics to disable these systems).
    Finally, Congress told all the states to get seatbelt usage up or lose their Federal highway money (this was in the days when most of the GOP still had some respect for science) and the “Click it or ticket” campaigns began. At first, they only gave out warnings or they would cite you only if they were already citing you for speeding or other infractions, so a lot of people still ignored it. I had only been driving a couple of years by this time and since my family had never buckled up, I didn’t either, but I finally sat myself down and thought about it for maybe two minutes and realized the stupidity of my resistance and started using the belts. Many people still didn’t however, until the cops started handing out tickets just for lack of seatbelt usage. There was still lots of grumbling and moaning for a couple of years, but it was undeniable that traffic injuries and fatalities were way down, and eventually it just became one of those things that one does automatically and nobody even talks about anymore. Until, of course, when airbags came along and we had to go through the whole rigamarole again. Then again with smoking in the workplace, and again with smoking in restaurants, and AGAIN wih smoking in bars.
    Bottom line, many Americans think things that are really just dumb habits are vital sacred freedoms until somebody hits them with a two-by-four to make them realize it really was just a dumb habit all along. THEN they will finally shut up about it.

  15. Katydid says

    Agree 100% with moarscienceplz. I lived through those eras and can confirm, that’s exactly how that happened.

    The same thing happened for the metric system, except Teh Stupids won that battle. “There’s no way Americans will accept the metric system,” huffs person holding 2-litre bottle of soda.

  16. lorn says

    Down here, Florida, masks have become both a general purpose tribal marker and, as the disease causes more deaths, a sign of hard-core commitment to the Conservative brand.

    One lady was sure that her child’s elective surgical procedure being postponed had nothing to do with COVID and the hospital being packed, COVID being a fake and all. She instead insists that it is discrimination against her conservative Christian beliefs. She is sure there is a list of people who are not allowed medical treatment. She saw the clerk look her name up before announcing that the procedure was postponed indefinitely.

    Who knows? I wouldn’t think it possible but there is indeed some chance that, despite declining poll numbers, Desantis may build an impregnable political fortress around himself by stacking the bodies of Floridians and show how deeply committed he is. He is exactly that sort of politician. One willing to have you die for his cause.

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