by James M. Flammang
Covid 1, Public Health 0
On April 19, a Federal judge appointed by Donald Trump in his final days in office, who had never tried a civil or criminal case, invalidated the CDC's mandate for wearing a face mask on public transportation. On some flights in the air when the news broke, passengers and crew turned the announcement into a celebration. Have none of you noticed that Covid cases have risen by 43 percent nationwide, and the latest variant is even more contagious than the original or the subsequent variants? As Steven Colbert pointed out on his late-night TV show that evening, this is hardly a time to be relaxing the rules. Some of us will be wearing our masks proudly, indefinitely, to protect not only ourselves and our families, but (if you're an anti-masker) you and your loved ones. Contrary to critics, mask-wearing in public is a trivial inconvenience that produces substantial benefit in public health. Period.
A day or so after the judge's ruling, the Department of Justice filed an appeal, asserting that the mask mandate does fall under the CDC's authority. Now, if the mandate is restored, it's sure to escalate the tension between travelers who favor the rule and those who oppose. Either way, the public loses.
Dropping Masks Raises Covid Risk
Easing of mask mandates in 49 states is drawing a torrent of jubilation from those who are exhausted by two years of lockdowns and limitations on daily life. Some of us are far less delighted. Despite the recent reductions in cases, we're still worried about Covid-19 and its variants. Rather than planning more visits to restaurants, bars and indoor events, we'll be even less willing to enter public places.
During the lockdown period, we could weigh the risks. Is the restaurant large enough to let air circulate readily? Is it likely to be crowded? Are patrons likely to be unmasked, defying the rules? Have mask requirements been enforced in that establishment? Now, under the new rules, we can assume that nearly everyone in that café or shopping mall will be unmasked. Every entry into a closed, populated space will present risk.
If only enough of us had taken mask and vaccine requirements seriously, in the interest of public health, the pandemic might have been controlled months ago. We've heard enough whining about such minimal, potentially lifesaving restraints. If you want to hear about heroic people who are in actual danger of losing basic freedoms, including the right to remain alive and safe, just tune into the latest news from Ukraine.
Anti-vaxxers face angry critics
After remaining mostly quiet for months, vaccinated Americans were increasingly expressing outrage at Americans who refuse to get the jab and/or wear masks. Many of us weren't pleased by the re-openings that occurred over the summer, and the deletion of mask mandates in February-March. We'll keep wearing masks and maintaining that 6-foot distance until experts agree that the pandemic really is on the way out.
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