“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Flattening the curve through social distancing has worked in restraining Covid-19’s growth, according to new research published in Health Affairs.”
“The goal of flattening the curve was to prevent local health systems from becoming overwhelmed, which could have led to even higher fatalities than the US has already seen (about 90,000, as of Monday morning). Even New York City, the hardest-hit place in the country, has not seen its hospitals overrun in any kind of systemic way.
Take together the reduced spread through social distancing and the medical system being able to meet the Covid-19 need, and there is solid evidence that flattening the curve has worked.”
““In principle, the measures also bought time to develop a more effective testing and contact tracing infrastructure, although we will see whether that actually has been achieved as states start to reopen.””
“Social distancing absolutely does work to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In the states that started social distancing the earliest, including Seattle and San Francisco, the growth of new cases has slowed noticeably. In places that implemented them a little later, like New York, the growth of new cases began to slow later.
Testing is still limited and the criteria for testing varies in different places, making direct comparisons difficult, but there are enough cities seeing improvement that a real trend can be observed.”
“It’s a vexing situation. The US has succeeded at its first task of slowing the wildfire spread of the virus through our communities, but it may have achieved only a standstill, not a victory. And as pressure grows to open more businesses and get the country back to work, there is still limited (and not encouraging) data about what will be needed to keep the virus from roaring back. Even worse, if the data suggests that the country actually needs more stringent restrictions than the current ones, it’s hard to imagine who’d muster the political will to implement them.”