Terry Schwadron

Jul 21, 2021

4 min read

Here Come Masks Again

Terry H. Schwadron

July 21, 2021

We realize it is summer, and many of us are spending more time outside, at least when it’s not raining or overly hot, both of which are happening. At least half of Americans have been vaccinated, but lots have not, and are resisting free inoculations against the most serious effects of coronavirus.

Naturally, then, the continuing mutation of the pandemic virus is well underway and spreading, apparently particularly in areas where vaccinations are low.

Logic or Science or Medicine says, then, take the extra precaution and wear the mask again while inside, while coming into contact with large numbers of people.

Logic also says that not doing so puts you and those with whom you come into contact at higher risk.

So, we’re at the cusp of areas like Los Angeles County reinstating unenforceable mandates for masks, and doing so is enraging the hesitant half of the population, prompting fights and worse.

The only thing more annoying than wearing the masks is having the illness strike our families. Even the financial markets are reacting poorly to the successes of the virus over the will of Americans to vaccinate or wear masks.

The next most annoying thing is hearing people complain about putting on masks for the 10 minutes they are inside a store or gathering point. Just stay outside when you are with people and a few feet away from me and my grandchildren, who cannot yet be vaccinated.

Why can’t we agree that the most annoying thing of all is 10 more years of coronavirus mutations kicking us in the pants?

Individual Responsibility

Frankly, I don’t care about your discomfort (or my own) — either about wearing a piece of cloth over your nose and mouth or about the arguments that this is about individual choice. I had hoped that the vaccines that have gained emergency approvals would be sufficient to ward off illness, which by and large is being borne out by hundreds of millions of jabs.

The tradeoff of a life-saving move for temporary fogging of glasses doesn’t seem much of a decision.

The truth is that you may be right — that this should not be the government’s business, federal or local, to dictate mask usage. I’d like to see government spending its time on some other things, like ensuring we have affordable access to health care, housing and job training in a changing world.

But the other half of that sentence is that you should be doing this as an individual, particularly if you object either medically, historically or politically to vaccines. Take care of yourself, individual, or your mom or your kid. By wearing a mask while inside, maybe you’ll save someone else’s life.

Sometimes while we’re driving, I think we should be in the middle of the road, rather than in one lane on the right. But I don’t value that “individual right” to hog the middle over the common sense and “mandated” arrangement for driving rules. For that matter, for permission to drive, we insist on driver’s insurance, mandated eye tests, rules about eyeglasses, and speed limits. Just why do we value the rules for driving over temporary rules for coughing?

Don’t get started on why abortion and birth control are something that the proponents here for individual responsibility want to be decided by the state.

Strangely, however, the disease is hitting hardest at states where political culture divides are dictating the play — actually showing that people want to act more as groups than individuals anyway.

The science here seems pretty simple: Diseases like covid-19 live on through mutations and by finding vulnerable hosts. The vaccines seem to be working, and most of the world that doesn’t have the excess of inoculations that our government is offering us to take for free — as individuals — is literally begging for them. If you insist on turning down the jabs, the responsible individual act is to wear a mask in public, inside.

Frankly, step into a still-underused New York subway, and your first thought is why haven’t we been wearing masks for years already — as protection against everything from cold and flu to people who can’t cover their coughs. I might add earmuffs to keep from listening to endless appeals on my ride for dollar bills.

Could it really be that different in Little Rock or Dallas where hospital emergency wards are filling again with coronavirus patients who skipped the jab?

Public Policy

The public policy question here is how long do you want to live under the on-off threat of coronavirus?

How long are schools going to stay open this fall if this current mutation redoubles every couple of weeks? We seem to learn nothing from the current spread in the Olympic village in Tokyo, or from the experiences of smaller rural communities now starting to be overrun.

Instead, we’re fighting about the liberty of Facebook and its vocal vaccine and mask resisters to publish and promote theories that masks cause cancer (Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.) or that vaccines turn humans into magnets or that wearing a mandated mask is more personally dangerous that wearing a mandated Trump 2024 hat. Even Facebook is pushing back to say yes, it is policing nutty theories, but that the flood of them being promoted by “individuals” is akin to a Climate Change alteration in non-fact flooding.

The anti-maskers, anti-vaccine crowd has won a good part of the political day. They have assured that no governor or mayor will willingly step forward to set a mandate for treatment so simple as to require no thought at all. There is too much of a political price, apparently.

But in doing so, the same crowd has lost focus of what the real problem is. It will take us a decade to shake ourselves of this threat.