Against Faucism

“Last week, the CEOs of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines told Congress that they do not think mask requirements make much sense on airplanes, where the air filtration systems are superior to what is typically found in an intensive care unit.
“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” said Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest. “It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”

Unwilling to let anyone undermine the case for keeping a government mandate in place, White House coronavirus advisor Anthony Fauci threw cold water on the idea.

“You have to be wearing a mask on a plane,” he said bluntly on television Sunday.

When ABC News’ Jon Karl asked Fauci specifically if he thought we would ever reach the point where we did not need to wear masks on planes, he responded: “I don’t think so. I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step when you have people—you know, you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s well over a five-hour flight. Even though you have a good filtration system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do, and we should be doing it.”

This is Faucism distilled down to its very essence. For the government health bureaucrats who have given themselves sole authority over vast sectors of American life—from travel to education to entertainment to housing—it doesn’t matter what the CEOs of these companies think. It doesn’t matter what their customers want. It doesn’t matter if maskless air travel is, for the most part, quite safe (especially for the vaccinated). It doesn’t matter if the mask mandate makes air travel impossible for families with young children. All that matters is the calculus of the most risk-averse people: unelected public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Like Fauci, NIH Director Frances Collins said this past weekend that air passengers should be masked—and should think twice about large gatherings, and even about going anywhere at all.”

Lockdowns’ High Costs and Murky Benefits

“If legislators were determined to “save lives, period, whatever it costs,” they would set the speed limit at 5 miles per hour, or perhaps ban automobiles altogether, which would prevent nearly 40,000 traffic-related deaths every year. Those policies seem reasonable only if you ignore the countervailing costs. In public policy, economist Thomas Sowell famously observed, there are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs.

“Logically,” Bourne writes, “there must be some negative consequences of government lockdowns, and some point at which they might become self-defeating.” To figure out when that might be, policy makers needed to estimate the public health payoff from lockdowns and compare it to the harm they caused.

Contrary to Cuomo’s framing of the issue, this is not a matter of weighing “the economic cost” of maintaining lockdowns against “the human cost” of lifting them, as if those categories were mutually exclusive. Even in life-and-death terms, lockdowns had a downside, since they plausibly contributed to a spike in drug-related deaths, discouraged potentially lifesaving medical care, and inflicted financial and psychological distress, neither of which is good for your health. And as Bourne emphasizes, “economic welfare” goes beyond household finances or GDP, encompassing everything people value.”

Florida’s mysterious Covid-19 surge

“Toward the end of the summer, Florida became the epicenter for America’s recent Covid-19 wave — reporting more hospitalizations and deaths than any other state in the country. But there was and still is surprisingly little certainty, among experts, over one question about Florida’s surge: Why did it happen?

The most common explanation for the outbreaks in the South that we saw over the recent summer was the low vaccination rates across the region. It’s true vaccination rates are low across the South: Seven of the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates are in the region. And lower vaccine rates do correlate with more Covid-19 cases and deaths.

But Florida defies the regional trend. The state ranks 20th for full vaccination in the US, with 56 percent of people fully vaccinated — not great, but a little above the national rate. At the peak of its outbreak in mid-August, Florida had fully vaccinated about 51 percent of its population — again, not great, but in line with the national rate.

Maybe Florida loosened restrictions too quickly and more aggressively? It’s certainly true that Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken a more hands-off approach than leaders in blue states, but it’s not clear if this actually led to differences in how the public behaved.

According to Google’s mobility data, Floridians around mid-August were about 14 percent less likely to travel to retail and recreational outlets compared to pre-pandemic times. That’s almost the same as Californians, and actually lower than New Yorkers. Neither New York (about 59 percent fully vaccinated at the time) nor California (about 54 percent fully vaccinated at the time — not much higher than Florida) saw surges anywhere as bad as Florida’s in August.

The same trend holds for other metrics that measure precaution. Based on Carnegie Mellon University’s COVIDcast, through August, Floridians were more likely to mask up than New Yorkers or residents in other states that didn’t see nearly as big Covid-19 surges.

Based on OpenTable’s restaurant reservation data, Florida was back to pre-pandemic numbers for restaurant reservations around mid-August, but that wasn’t too different from the US as a whole. Some states, like New Jersey and Connecticut, equaled or surpassed their pre-pandemic baseline for restaurant reservations and didn’t see anywhere near the surge that Florida did (although both benefited from significantly higher vaccination rates than Florida).”

“We don’t know everything about why Covid-19 cases rise, and we don’t know everything about why they fall, either. David Leonhardt and Ashley Wu at the New York Times recently demonstrated that the coronavirus appears to follow two-month cycles in its rises and falls.”

“This isn’t to say that nothing matters in the fight against Covid-19. We know vaccines work to protect people from severe illness, including against the delta variant. Social distancing, masking, and restrictions do, too. Chances are Florida’s surge would have been much smaller if it had done better on all these fronts.

But Florida’s example complicates any story of recent Covid-19 surges that focuses solely on reopenings and vaccinations. Something else seems to be going on, and experts aren’t totally sure what. “There are things that, to be honest, we don’t fully understand,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told me.”

Rand Paul’s Criticism of Cloth Masks Was Stronger Than the Evidence Justifies

“his flat, categorical statements about cloth masks are stronger than the scientific literature supports, relying on a couple of cherry-picked studies with known limitations while ignoring countervailing evidence.

In a video responding to his YouTube suspension, Paul reiterates that “most of the masks that you get over the counter don’t work” and “don’t prevent infection.” He argues that “saying cloth masks work when they don’t actually risks lives,” describing it as “potentially deadly misinformation.” While N95 respirators are effective at preventing virus transmission, he says, “the other masks don’t work.”

Paul would have been on firm ground if he had said cloth masks offer less protection than N95 masks. But the claim that cloth masks “don’t work,” meaning they offer no protection at all, is inconsistent with multiple studies suggesting that they reduce the risk of infection, especially when worn by carriers but possibly also when worn by other people in their vicinity.”

California mandated masks. Florida opened its restaurants. Did any of it matter?

“the science on masks is clear: They work. Even experts I spoke with who think harsh lockdowns may have been counterproductive say indoor mask mandates were clearly effective.

“Indoor masking guidance was proven to be effective,” Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. “When you look at it all, I think that is probably going to be the one that shows the most effect. … Most things can be done safely if people socially distance and wear a mask indoors in an unvaccinated setting.”

The available research supports that conclusion. In a study published in March 2021, CDC researchers examined case and death rates at the county level after mask mandates were put into place and found the mandates were associated with slower transmission.”

“An earlier study, published in June 2020 in Health Affairs, had reached the same conclusion. Its authors estimated that mask mandates had averted some 200,000 Covid-19 cases by mid-May; at the time, the US had counted less than 2 million cases, indicating that the mask mandates had a meaningful effect in slowing the virus down early in the pandemic.

Some commentators have questioned why dire warnings about what would happen when Texas lifted its mask mandate for good in March 2021 never materialized. But the mandate’s rollback took place in a very different context from the spring of 2020.

For one, many more people now have protection from the virus, between vaccinations and prior infections. More widespread immunity was already an obstacle for the virus.

But on top of that, because the pandemic has become so politicized, people have already sorted themselves into their different camps, experts indicated — and so a state mandate might not have changed behavior. By now, you are already either a mask-wearer or you’re not. A government mandate probably isn’t going to affect someone’s behavior in June 2021 as much as it would have a year ago, especially after enforcement has been nonexistent.”

3 reasons most public masking is still important — even if you’re vaccinated

“We know the vaccines authorized in the US are extremely effective and safe — but not perfect — at preventing Covid-19 illness. Newer data suggests they are also very good (though also not perfect) at keeping people from getting infected, thus likely drastically reducing the chances they could spread it to others.

Even with the small risks of these “breakthrough infections,” there are much more pressing reasons to keep masking in public — especially indoors in places like gyms, stores, and airports — and, according to the new CDC guidance, in most outdoor gatherings as well. Masking remains one of the least intrusive interventions we can take to keep putting the brakes on Covid-19 spread.

From variant wild cards to protecting unvaccinated kids, the reasons we should keep masking in crowded public spaces at least into the summer are strong. We talked to experts to better understand them and to get a glimpse of when we might finally be able to leave our masks at home.”

“The majority of people in the US are still susceptible to infection from Covid-19. “There are folks around us who will not or cannot get the vaccine, and we have to keep thinking, as a community, of ways to protect them, too,””

“a subset of people — roughly 3 percent in the US — have compromised immune systems that might do a poor job of mounting a robust response to the vaccine, leaving them vulnerable to infection even after getting shots.

There are also some people who aren’t able to wear masks to protect themselves in public. This includes some adults and children with disabilities or rare health conditions, as well as babies and toddlers”

“Although the vaccines authorized for use in the US appear to be very effective against the variants that are circulating, it is possible future strains will be better at evading vaccine protection (as the B.1.351 variant, first detected in South Africa, is against the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine). Vaccine companies are working to keep pace with variants, testing their vaccines against them and formulating potential boosters. But, says Guthrie, “it may be a bit of a game of whack-a-mole as new variants come up.””

““These variants — especially ones that have mutations that make them more transmissible — can pop up and then spread quite quickly,” Guthrie says. “If you combine that with a variant that could evade the current vaccines, you’re not going to get a lot of advance warning.” Which means a widespread outbreak, including some people who had already gotten their shots, could get going before we were able to contain it.

Masking can not only prevent a new variant from spreading but could also help prevent new variants from emerging, as the more people the virus infects, the greater the opportunity it has to mutate.”

“Even if we can’t drop our masks indoors for a little while longer, outdoors is a different story. The rates of public outdoor transmission of Covid-19 are incredibly low, and most known cases of outdoor infection spread have occurred from long conversations, yelling, or exercising together.”

Why Biden’s national mask mandate will be a national mask suggestion

“There are varying schools of thought about whether the president has the authority to issue a national mask mandate, as many other countries have. Some attempts to do so at the state and local level have been met with lawsuits and refusals to comply, as masks have become an increasingly politicized and contentious issue. Biden has said he will issue an executive order requiring masks to be worn on federal property.

Beyond that, Biden’s version of a national mask mandate, as spelled out in his new transition website, does not appear to come from him. Instead, he’s going to be “working with governors and mayors” to encourage them to issue their own mandates, as well as remind Americans to wear masks. While the majority of America’s governors have issued statewide mandates, 16 states have not — including Mississippi, which revoked its mask mandate in October (Gov. Tate Reeves is requiring masks in certain counties).

Though it’s hard to see a reality where states and localities run by Republicans work hand in hand with a Democratic president these days — even in the face of a virus that infects people regardless of their political leanings — many firmly Republican state governments have issued mask mandates once their constituents began getting sick and dying, most recently Utah on Monday. Others still seem to take pride in their obstinance, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Even in that state, however, local governments are trying to issue their own orders.”

Trump and his staff’s refusal to wear a face mask is a catastrophe

“On Monday, we learned White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. McEnany — and others in the White House cluster — failed to follow public health guidelines and quarantine, though she had been exposed to colleagues confirmed to have Covid-19.

She also briefed reporters twice — on Friday and Sunday — without wearing a mask, putting them at risk of the virus.

McEnany joins a list of at least 20 people in the White House cluster — including two of McEnany’s aides, White House staff, journalists, Congress members, and others — who’ve tested positive after Trump and first lady Melania Trump announced they tested positive on Friday. White House aide Hope Hicks, who had traveled with the president earlier in the week, also tested positive and was reportedly experiencing symptoms Wednesday.”

“the president and his staff’s failure to consistently wear a face mask while in close contact with colleagues and reporters in the White House and in public settings — the guidance of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — put them at higher risk for infection and of spreading the virus to others, since asymptomatic people can transmit the virus.”

Performative masculinity is making American men sick

“Poll after poll, most recently a Gallup poll from July 13, has found American men are more likely to not wear masks compared to women. Specifically, the survey found that 34 percent of men compared to 54 percent of women responded they “always” wore a mask when outside their home and that 20 percent of men said they “never” wore a mask outside their home (compared to just 8 percent of women).”

“Glick and Reny echoed a sentiment that health experts I spoke to in July said: To get people to change behavior, masks have to become a socially accepted norm. Once people start accepting masks as normal behavior, like they do wearing seat belts and not smoking indoors, the number of people going against the norm decreases.
Getting to that tipping point is a lot easier said than done.”

Miami Police Setting Up ‘Mask Traps,’ Issuing $100 Fines to People Wearing Masks Improperly

“One could make a libertarian case for government mask mandates during a pandemic, on the grounds that no one has an inherent right to cough deadly pathogens on another person. But that theoretical case has to be weighed against the reality of policing in America, where cops frequently resort to petty and overaggressive enforcement.”