Why is there a culture war about masks?

You are certainly aware that, at least in America, there’s a culture war between those who favor and promote the wearing of face masks during the pandemic, and those who resist them and, indeed, refuse to wear them. The Internet is full of videos of people going into stores like Wal-Mart and refusing to wear masks—even pulling guns when asked to do so—and there are also photos of demonstrations in which the yahoos flout their resistance to masks. Here are several examples. What’s more American than pulling a gun while defending your right to make others sick?

Even at Botany Pond, where there are University rules mandating the wearing of masks in that “social space”, people get testy when I ask them to put on a mask when I’m near them. Often people are polite and comply, but almost as often they get snarky or pissy or just laugh at me. One guy said “I’m wearing a mask” while pulling the mask down below his nose.

At least the campus cops will respond if there’s a group of people not social distancing and not wearing masks, though they don’t seem eager to enforce the rules. (I find that odd given that the University wants to desperately avoid getting coronavirus on campus.)

Here’s a particularly snarky way to comply with mask mandates while making you susceptible to infection:

People at a “Save America Rally” in Baton Rouge on the 4th of July across the street from the Governor’s Mansion where about 200 gathered. The 4th of July rally was organized by Jeff Crouer, Mimi Owens and Woody Jenkins, chairman of the executive committee for the Republican Party in East Baton Rouge Parish. Source.



The anti-mask demonstrations often appear with American flags and signs, like the one just above, that forcing people to wear masks is tyranny—an abridgment of “freedom.”  This of course is ridiculous. Yes, you have the “right” to get sick if you want, but you don’t have the right to make others sick, which is the outcome of people like these getting infected. You have no more right to abjure masks in the name of freedom than Typhoid Mary did to avoid being locked up so she wouldn’t endanger others.

But this all puzzles me, and I can think of only two reasons why Americans would object so strenuously to wearing masks. The reasons are interconnected.

It’s a culture war between conservatives, who don’t like government interfering in their lives, and liberals, who have a greater concern for society. After all, it’s mostly Republicans, and Republican governors, who resist mask mandates, despite the demonstrated efficacy of masks in slowing viral transmission.

Alternatively, people might distrust the scientific evidence that masks slow viral transmission by stopping or slowing the expulsion of respiratory droplets. This is connected with the political divide above, as Republicans are more likely to deny evolution, the efficacy of vaccines, and in general are less likely to trust “elitist” scientists.  There are plenty of data on that; here’s some from a 2019 Pew Poll:

So yes, I do get where the opposition is coming from, but it seems deeply irrational for both Republicans and Democrats. People don’t want to get sick, do they? Presumably if you asked an anti-masker if Typhoid Mary should have been left free to ply her trade as a cook, or whether a kid infected with chicken pox should be allowed to go to school, they’d say “No.” Yet they demand the “right” to get infected and spread the virus to others, though they never mention the latter bit. And yes, some demand the “right” to have their kids unvaccinated, which can also spread infectious disease.

Maybe I’m missing something, but when it comes to public health, it seems profoundly democratic and yes, patriotic, to try to protect your fellow citizens.  I never would have predicted mask wars when the pandemic began, but they’re on in full force, egged on by Trump, who generally refuses to wear masks or even to say that states should mandate them, much less issue a federal mandate.

222 thoughts on “Why is there a culture war about masks?

  1. Even Trump has now been heard to say wearing a mask was patriotic. Excuse me while I get sick in my mask. Ignorance is all around us and in front of us. His cult thinks wearing a mask is against their rights but it is okay to send federal troop into American cities and attack demonstrators.

    As of now they cannot get into their favorite Walmart without a mask.

    1. It is because they act like brave, tough people but they are scared, cowards. So they won’t protest something where they could be actually confronted and harmed and they will instead justify it in their minds. Yelling at nurses while having an assault rifle strapped over you or pulling a gun in Walmart is easy. And I am appalled at the lack of fire arms training these yahoos seem to have. The way they wave a loaded weapon around and how they keep their finger on the trigger. Not only could the damn weapon go off but I guarantee the bullet won’t hit their target but several by-standers instead. If someone pulled a weapon on me like that I’d immediately get away from them. Maybe throw in a few zig zags because they won’t hit you anyway and I’d call the cops and let them deal with it. The conversation is over now and you need to be arrested so you can cool off. If gun laws were reasonable their weapons would be taken from them. Jesus, pulling a gun on your fellow citizens over a petty argument – it says you are willing to take a person’s life over a discussion about wearing a piece of cloth over your mouth.

      1. “It is because they act like brave, tough people but they are scared, cowards.”

        Yes, back to the “Rugged Individualist” from one of yesterday’s purveyors of nonsense.

  2. We have our own anti-maskers in Canada too. There is a group called Hugs Over Masks or some such that demo in large groups in public, refusing to socially distance or wear masks. I made the foolish mistake of reading comments on their Facebook page. One woman was upset that if she goes into the hospital for a visit or procedure, she has to not only wear a mask but also suffer the laser pointer thermometer being pointed at her and “if I move suddenly or am surprised I could be blinded”. When you’re that level of deliberately ignorant and down right stupid, I really start to detest you as a person….it’s my own bigotry toward stupid because this person could easily learn that the laser thermometer isn’t going to blind her and I guarantee she engages in far riskier activities every day. Not to mention that pre pandemic people wore masks in hospitals where required and no one complained.

    I think a lot of this foolishness is partly the culture war but also a denial of the seriousness of the virus. That page was full of “plandemic” and “scamdemic” comments. If it’s not real, it’s not a danger, and if it’s not a danger I don’t need to feel afraid because fear is unpleasant. A pampered society that can’t handle any discomfort and lashes out at those that make them feel uncomfortable – it’s systemic narcissism: “How dare you make me feel bad!” It really angers me and then I wonder why I feel depressed in the evening after reading this garbage.

    1. Covid is in something of a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of being able to spread and kill via ignorance. It’s deadly and contagious enough that the rejection of science is a real public health problem, looking to kill 200,000+ USAians alone by the end of the year. But it’s not so deadly and contagious that everyone comes face to face with the consequences. So, for every “my relative X died, I was wrong” story we get, there’s going to be a twenty, fifty, a hundred wooers saying “I rejected the science and see? Nothing bad happened. It was all just leftist/media hype.”

      1. Yes, this is a big part of the problem. Most only experience discomfort and inconvenience which they resent. COVID is a “hoax” unless it visits nearby.

      2. Yes and those who say it is a hoax and that nothing bad happened to them and speak of the virus in scare quotes also refuse to believe it is a thing until someone they know personally is infected and not only infected, goes to hospital and not only goes to hospital but ends up in ICU and not only ends up to ICU but is put on a ventilator. The bar is set so high they can almost never meet that person unless of course they suddenly do because their behaviour causes a cataclysmic spike in cases.

      3. This is one reason why it is really unhelpful that Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for the virus but has not got seriously ill. He will now use this personal experience to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic. I don’t wish serious illness or death on anybody and that includes Bolsonaro but his relatively harmless (as far as we know) brush with the disease is bad news as far as quashing the idea that covid-19 is a trivial thing is concerned.

  3. I think there may be a simple reason why the right-wing hates masks: Trump told them to do so. If from the beginning of the pandemic, he told his cult to wear masks, they would have done so without a whimper. Trump’s electoral strategy has always been to sow cultural division as means of his stoking his base. His denying that the pandemic is serious and his anti-science biases are swallowed whole by the cult. The fact that his cult dominates a major political party lends evidence to the contention that the Age of Reason is still somewhere over the horizon.

    1. I’ve discussed the pandemic a lot with some Ayn Rand objectivists, and they regard almost every action put in place by the American government to limit the spread of the virus, as pure evil and an infringement on their individual liberties. This includes wearing a mask. I don’t think they are particularly affected by what nonsense Trump spews. They are more motivated by their distrust of everything related to the government and, like the most extreme activists on the left, one lense is applied to every issue. It’s only ever their ”freedom to”, never other peoples ”freedom from”.

    2. If your theory is correct, we should see tRump supporters wearing masks now that tRump has told them it is the patriotic thing to do. I bet we won’t.

      1. The thing about chaos messaging is that the faithful can pick any one they prefer. Pretty much the same as citing bible quotes to support what you think.

        1. Yeah, they seemed to be behind the message change when Trump said it was a liberal hoax but then started saying it was a real virus. There are still the hoax promoters wandering among us.

  4. People tend to lose sight of the fact that civilization (and social morals) require strictures on personal behavior. Willingness to abide by these strictures, to accept the trade-offs in order to gain the benefits, varies by temperament. The young are particularly unwilling in a way that is remarkably similar to groups of young baboons challenging their elders.

    Added to the general unwillingness of some of any age to be bound by the strictures of civilization is the “bonus” fact that the elderly are the main victims of this virus. While there are those young people who fall, it seems that these are primarily losers in a genetic lottery, which should not be expected to inhibit young people much. Young people do lots of risky things like join the ranks of armies, drive cars fast without seat belts, drink too much, etc. to show haw daring and brave they are.

    So it goes.

  5. It’s tribalism and machismo, plain and simple, as evidenced by Trump’s refusal to endorse the wearing of masks or to wear a mask himself (but for his one recent visit to Walter Reed). No one would be waiving flags, pulling guns or assaulting the greeters at Walmart unless they were driven by something more irrational than mere doubt as to the effectiveness of a mask.

  6. I expect most people believe they do not have covid (and they are likely right), therefore they are endangering only themselves by not wearing a mask and, by gum, it is their right. If they have symptoms and do not wear a mask, then they are plain anti-social. (And, yes, there are the few that have covid but are asymptomatic, therefore just ignorant.)

    I’ve had negative covid tests but wear a mask anyway. It puts others at ease and modestly reduces the chances I will get infected.

    1. AIUI people are contagious up to a week before they are symptomatic. Which is likely the main way the disease is spreading – via people who don’t think they are sick because they have no symptoms (…yet).

      You’re right, the vast majority of the time “I have no symptoms, therefore I don’t have it” is correct reasoning. The problem is, the tiny minority of instances where that reasoning is wrong is what drives the epidemic. You can be right 99% of the time and wrong only 1%, and that 1% is going to be responsible for the spread of the disease throughout the community.

    2. Remember, you will test negative right up until you test positive. How can it happen any other way? Wearing the mask more than modestly reduces the chance you will infect others.

      1. The chance is never zero. For all I know, my negative test results are false negatives. One has to evaluate possible outcomes probabilistically in deciding what to do. I have noted a failure to do that sometimes during this pandemic, like people washing down their groceries.

        Still the mask mandate is a good thing. Too many stupid people.

  7. From my experience in the UK the great many people who don’t wear a compulsory mask or face covering on public transport will use any excuse and abuse to not cover up. It’s an imposition, it’s not their problem, they simply cannot be bothered.

  8. BTW, at the beginning of this pandemic we were strongly urged NOT to wear a mask by health experts, including Fauci. They wanted to keep the supply for health care workers, but we were told emphatically that masks were not needed. No wonder people become distrustful.

    1. Yes, it’s terrible when doctors or scientist change their mind due to the evidence.

      1. I mostly agree with the sarcastic theme of this comment, but there’s something that eats at my full agreement. The strategic decision to tell people masks were not needed because of the shortage of masks and not the idea that they aren’t helpful was cynical. Yes, changing one’s mind on the basis of new information is a good thing. But there was, or may have been, some initial deception involved, too.

          1. “Misinformation” carries the implication it was a lie. I don’t think that was the case. In the early days, it was not known how important asymptomatic spread was for this pandemic.

            1. Yes it was. This idea that the asymptomatic transmission is a fairly recent discovery is bullshit. We’ve known it at least since March.

              In the UK, we were told not to wear masks and several reasons were given. One was that they wanted to make sure that there were enough masks for healthcare professionals. Another was that it was thought they may actually increase risk if not worn properly, for various reasons.

          2. Fauci has come up here and just above. There seems to be some implication that he was at one time without any qualification opposed to masks. Of course Generalissimo Drumpfranco and his lackeys in government and in parts of the media would like people to believe that.

            I doubt that anyone can come up with a quote from him, back whenever, which can back this up, if the context of the quote is included.

            So I’d be interested to hear such a quote, but including at least three full sentences both before and after the statement, or however many less than that he stated at the time. So if my impression is correct, take that as a homework challenge.

            Personally I had some minor doubts about his preparedness to stand up to Mass Murderer donald, but much less so now.

          1. It seems to me that initially, the importance of masks in the US (not elsewhere) was played down because they weren’t very effective at protecting the wearer. This seemed to be the main criterion in the US. The real benefit of the masks was to protect others, and this seems to have been lost on many Americans. In many other countries the protection of the community as a whole was given more importance. I think this was another instance of something inherently self-centered about American culture.

            1. By the way, as I wrote on this website back when the experts were flip-flopping on masks, anyone could have seen that masks, even poor ones, would reduce the mass flow of air from a person’s mouth, reducing aerosol transmission. This is just physics and is easily verified by putting your hand in front of your face and talking, with and without a mask. We all should have ignored the early “no mask” advice.

        1. Perhaps though in Canada the message was “save the masks for the front line workers because we are very low on PPE (especially after Trump tried to stop masks entering Canada and then stole PPE destined for Canada), there is no scientific evidence yet about the efficacy of masks but if you want to use a piece of cloth or a home made mask go ahead but we are worried this is going to make you think you don’t need to socially distance so please continue to socially distance”. Then once the masks were more available, and there was more scientific evidence, they started again emphasizing if you choose to wear a mask, continue to socially distance”. Once we started opening up, masks became more recommended and then became mandatory in indoor public spaces in many local municipalities.

          And still there are the anti maskers. I think they would be anti mask regardless of the facts because that’s just who they are – facts don’t matter.

      2. Yes, there is new evidence, but there is old evidence too. The Japanese have worn masks during epidemics since the Meiji period with success. The health experts had no evidence to support their claim that masks were ineffective. It was a convenient lie.

        1. I’ve heard experts opine that the lack of proper mask use procedures typical among civilians renders mask use ineffective. I don’t think this line of argument is a lie, but I do think it is wrong.

          I don’t doubt that not following strict procedures would render mask use ineffective in the circumstances in which most experts trained in proper mask use procedures have experience in. For example, in these circumstances there is good reason to consider a used mask as “radioactive” to be carefully disposed of after any use for it to be an effective safe guard.

          But most experts don’t have experience in mask use as a measure to lower infection rates among a general population during a pandemic. And apparently there isn’t much prior research that addresses the issue. Looking at it from the outside, as a non-expert, it seems pretty obvious that of course even “improper” use of masks should inhibit the spread of the virus. It does seem an obvious thing to me, anyway, though I always try to keep in mind that many things that seem obvious turn out not to be true.

          Science, reality, is hard for non-experts and even some experts to accept. It is inevitable that non experts will complain that the experts are wrong or not trust them. Ideally, they should trust the experts and do what they suggest while understanding that accurately figuring shit out is hard and answers are provisional. Of course the hard part for non-experts is figuring out who the experts really are. As Steven Pinker recently said.

          “With coronavirus, it’s genuinely hard to know whether surfaces are potential vectors, whether six feet is enough or not enough, whether masks help or don’t help. From a scientist’s point of view, it’s not surprising the information would shift. That’s because our natural state is ignorance. We can only learn from data, and as the data comes in, our state of knowledge and best practices will change. But, partly because people think of experts as oracles, as opposed to experimenters and exploiters of trial and error, there’s a presumption that either the experts know what is the best policy from the get-go, or else they are incompetent and ought to be replaced. That’s opposed to what we know to be the correct situation in science—namely, no one knows anything, and you have to learn.”

          1. Yes, there is a margin of error in donning and doffing that is more acceptable, for instance, in a non health environment.

          2. I also remember hearing that there is evidence that the amount of virus one gets in an infection episode has a huge bearing on how sick one gets, all other things being equal. This makes sense as a high initial viral does gives the virus a headstart in swamping the body’s defenses. Even if a mask isn’t perfect protection, it may help one not die from the disease.

            1. Yes exactly. I think that is a big flaw in the attitude of some medical professionals that ignorant non-experts don’t know how to use masks properly so it’s pointless. First, with a proper effort by leaders and experts ignorant non-experts can be taught to be better mask users and, what you said. Perfect protection is not remotely necessary to have some benefit.

              1. Fact is, though, that a whole lot of people don’t seem to be able to wear a mask correctly.

              2. ” . . . with a proper effort by leaders and experts ignorant non-experts can be taught . . . .”

                It also takes proper effort by those being taught.

              3. Sure. Absolutely. And some percentage will be incapable or unwilling to learn no matter the effort to educate the public and recruit them to help. But the effort would have improved the outcome. Degrees are a real difference.

      3. It would be one thing if they presented their original proclamations as tentative and provisional, rather than The Science™ and hence The Truth. When you repeatedly say “trust us, we’re the experts” instead of “we’re not 100% sure yet, but here’s what we think is best”, and then turn out to be wrong, it’s no surprise that people become distrustful of the next iteration of The Truth.

        1. The scientists are generally doing the best they can with the information they have. Although they may be wrong and they may have to change their minds, we should follow them because they know more than we do, have studied it for longer, and their judgement is better than our own. Of course there are limits to this but that should be the default.

          1. I expect it’s not so much the science but the way it was presented by the media and politicians, as usual.

          2. If masks had never been used anywhere, anytime in the world, being agnostic about their effectiveness could be justified. But masks have been used during pandemics in Asia for centuries. To ignore that evidence because they weren’t controlled experiments was silly.

        2. I’m not sure how accurate of a picture of the issue that is though. It seems to me that quite a bit of the time the “experts” pronouncing truths aren’t actually the experts but rather politicians or administrators that aren’t necessarily accurately relaying to the public what the experts have said. On the extreme end is Trump pontificating for his supporters. If he has ever accurately portrayed what actual experts have said it was either purely by accident or calculated for personal gain.

          When it comes to the many people that don’t know, don’t care, don’t understand the complexity of the reality we inhabit and the problems human nature poses that the basic methods of science have evolved / been designed to account for to enable some progress in trying to figure stuff out, at what point should such people be held accountable for their ignorance contributing to the problem?

      4. There already was evidence from other airborne diseases such as TB.
        I feel vindicated because I defended the use of face masks from the beginning.
        See eg under answer 6:
        I think most Drs would have promoted masks, but there was this notion that available masks, especially N95 masks, should be reserved for health care workers. Downplaying their importance (lying, in other words) for that noble goal seriously backfired.

  9. Seems odd (or, I guess, maybe not so odd) that the people carping loudest that being forced to wear a mask during a pandemic violates their free-dumbs are one and the same as those who seek to force gynecologists to jam ultrasound wands up the hoo-has of women seeking pregnancy counseling.

    1. Except for your attitude towards freedoms, I agree completely with your remarks.

      We are in West Texas, visiting mt wife’s family ranch for a few weeks, and although the state has a mask order, some of the businesses just don’t have anyone there wearing masks. They seem to be places owned by religious folks.

      1. I’m in favor of freedom; I consider myself a staunch civil libertarian, particularly when it comes to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.

        That doesn’t keep me from recognizing how dumb it is for people to claim they should be exempt from simple public-safety measures, free to endanger the health of their fellow citizens.

  10. This is (IMO) the inevitable end result when right-wing pundits bombard their listeners with messages of “don’t trust the mainstream media, it’s liberals promoting liberalism,” and “don’t trust scientists, they’re liberals promoting liberalism too.”

    When that is successful, then there should be absolutely no surprise that when scientists and the mainstream media come together to recommend a course of action, the right rejects it as a leftist conspiracy against them.

    In some ways what we have here is a prisoner’s dilemma. There are short-term gains to be had in making people distrust anything said by ones’ political opposition But in the long term, it’s extremely damaging to society, because sometimes, your opposition says something smart and worth listening to. But if you’ve weaponized debate, when they say that smart thing, your followers will reject it out of hand.

  11. Jeez, what were the odds it would be “Florida Man” who pulled the gat when asked to wear a mask?

  12. I must say that this confuses me as well. I always wear my mask, as does the rest of the household, when we are out and about. Perhaps it’s a reaction against shutdowns?

  13. We have the same problems here in Germany.

    In general, the acceptance of wearing masks is high. But there are several individuals, fringe groups and even scientists who openly question the necessity of wearing masks and who organize demonstrations whose participants aggressively verbally attack politicians, experts and/or health authorities.

    Some people even compare wearing the mask with wearing a Jewish badge.


    1. What is with the little, “der” floating above the message on the shirt? Is it a last minute edit?

      1. Yes, you are correct. It says: “Die Maske = der Hitlergruß”.

        The full translation reads:
        “The mask = the Hitler salute. Without a mask, these are the ones with the invisible Jewish badge of today.”

        The protestor is not the fittest in German syntax.

        1. I think it’s funny that he, or someone, fixed his grammar. It says that at least he’s trying. haha

        2. Every time I feel bad about my grammar (I’ve lived in Germany for 20 years), I just look at what far right does to their own language.

          “Ohne Maske sind das die mit dem unsichtbar-sichtbarem Judestern von heute”

          Apart from the spelling, syntax, and grammatical errors, what on earth is “invisible-visible” supposed to mean?

          Last year there was some AfD politician who tried to ridicule a young girl whose father came from India, by making jokes about native Americans. He didn’t know the difference between “Inder” (person from India) and “Indianer” (native American).

          These people sit on the train and yell at foreigners for not speaking German!

          1. Oh good, I thought it was just tricky German. I was having a hard time translating it and could only come up with “make the invisible visible” or something.

            1. It is really quite mad.

              It should also be unsichtbare*n*, because of the earlier ‘dem’. Really, it only took me about four and a half years to understand that!

              Though looking at the photo more closely, he did actually spell “Jedenstern” properly — I couldn’t see the ‘n’. So that’s something at least. But the rest of it is a real dog’s dinner.

              1. The ‘n’ following ‘dem’ is something I really understood right away. My brain somehow just thought it made sense. But my German is terrible…okay for people who speak German like Tarzan…maybe this guy.

  14. I think it’s very simple. You think face coverings should be worn. They don’t like you. They won’t wear face coverings.

    1. I think 1+1=2.
      Hopefiully this is the leftwing position on the matter.
      Will this lead to big trouble for me??
      You never know, you know.

  15. People have already forgotten that when this started it was recommended that masks were only for health care workers and wouldn’t help the average person. There was a lot of mask shaming going on back then by people on the left. I was at the receiving end of it because I have quite a few P100 masks and got yelled at twice for something like ‘stealing masks from our health care workers’. This is in an extremely liberal enclave. Not to mention the silence when protests were occurring with many people not wearing masks. And places like Reddit were shaming people for buying masks, claiming they were selfish republicans. Both sides are equally tribal now. Extracting yourself from the identity of both political parties is a smart move if you want to extend your life and make informed decisions.

    1. Yes, there wasn’t much science early on, but now we have it. And I’m sorry, but the pro-mask faction has science on its side; are you recommending that an “informed decision” for someone who’s healthy can be to not wear a mask when around others? How informed could THAT be?

      1. Well, except that there is this…on May 21, 2020, well into the pandemic, when supposedly the science was pretty well established, the NEJM published this: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372.

        The second paragraph–definitely “above the fold”–says this, in its entirety:

        “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”

        Just read the first and last sentences of that. I did, and I thought: “WTF??? Have the NEJM editors lost their minds?”

        This is already all over social media from Trumputos and others who cite is as “proof” that their anti-masking position is the correct one.

        1. That is a somewhat weird perspective piece. It makes a lot of broad statements (including the ones you note) but doesn’t back them up with appropriate citations or data. As you also note it’s in NEJM, so certainly sounds authoritative and that bit is circulating widely.

          Are they correct? I’m skeptical. This has certainly ben a moving target. We were initially told not to wear cloth masks as there are data from influenza studies suggesting that they may compound the problem of transmission. However that advice has changed, presumably based on new data. We are now required to wear masks in communal areas and when not distanced in labs and offices. The objection to cloth has disappeared although the ones provided are paper.

          My gut reaction is that mask wearing at least passes the “sniff test” as an appropriate measure. But I’m open to new data.

          In the meantime the virus has infected a good number (couple of dozen) people that I know. It’s gone OK for all of them, symptom free to prolonged and painful coughing and muscle aches …… except for the two that died. SO I’m still taking it seriously, no matter what.

          1. You mention one bit of info that I have been thinking about; namely folks that you know who have been infected. I personally know of no one, family, friends, or colleagues who have been infected, and wonder if that is the experience of most folks here at WEIT.

            1. That would be a good poll. I know a half dozen people who have gotten it. One was very sick and hospitalized, but never put on a ventilator, one was hospitalized, put on a ventilator and died, and the rest just had the sniffles and a slight cough. It’s really crazy (and maddening) how this virus affects people differently.

            2. I agree, an interesting poll topic (JERRY, PLEASE!). My own experience was a number of people across a wide age range (mid 20s to late 80s) in the US the UK and one in Luxembourg. I’m not aware of knowing anyone under 20 who has a confirmed case. One of the older cases was a mid-80s male post surgery patient who caught it in hospital while recuperating. He got through the Covid fine (although has since died of non-covid related morbidities – uncapitalized, that autocorrected to corvid – a touch of Edgar Allan Poe.) Given his generally frail state when he contracted the disease I assumed he would pop his socks – but no. The two deaths were both people in much better physical shape going in.

            3. My wife got it early on, when one of her patients who had been in NYC, saw her for a routine visit, then mentioned the persistent cough. The Wife got pretty sick, and was quarantined alone, on the 3rd floor of the house. I gout some minor symptoms, probably because I went through Covid 1.
              We have positive antibody tests now.
              Since then, a few more of her patients have come up with it, but nobody else in the family.

              1. Max – glad to hear of your outcomes. After traveling to Indiana in January, I had some minor symptoms, so I had the antibody test. Sadly, it was negative 🙁

      2. The issue regarding masks early in the pandemic concerned the government’s asking private citizens not to horde the N95 respirators needed to protect hospital workers since the respirators were in short supply.

        Once social distancing requirements went into effect, regular surgical masks (or their homemade equivalent) became widely available, and doctors began publicizing the efficacy of mask-wearing, I don’t recall anyone on the Left “shaming” anyone about mask wearing.

        I find conflating these issues disingenuous.

  16. In country of over 300 million you are going to get examples of this. I’ve never seen a mask incident or heard of one from friends anywhere. And masks are outside are pointless and unnecessary. Ive never seen any research to show they’re important and I’d like to hear from anyone who can find any (serious point). Most of the response (like this article) is just being a Karen. “Look at these idiots!”. Most people are wearing masks. Including my republican dad and the people down in his retirement community. Stop feeing the press to write more of these stupid anecdotal stories.

    1. I see mask incidents at the pond all the time, and this is in liberal Hyde Park. Also, you’re dead wrong saying masks outside are pointless and unnecessary. Have you seen the outdoor pool parties and bbqs that have been imputed in spreading the disease.

      And now, I’m not a Karen, I’m asking why there’s a division–a division that you, apparently blind to reality, don’t see.

      As for you, you’re gone for rudeness and obtuseness. Opposition to masks is not an “anecdotal story.” The family nature of this website prohibits me from saying that you’re the south side of a horse looking north.

      1. If you like I could say it for you. What is it about Bob, didn’t they make a stupid movie with that title.

    2. Without going into the ethics of calling people a Karen, what’s wrong with enforcing social norms? By wearing a mask, you can also show that you are considerate of others and build a good habit.

    3. My wife works part time at a grocery store where masks are mandatory. She has a “mask incidence” story just about every shift she works.

      1. That must be stressful! I do hope compliance settles in so that is not so much of a problem.
        I expect it will take a national law, disseminated with scientifically sound information to change the culture around this. No analogy is perfect, but its a bit like not smoking in public places. We moved from where smoking was everywhere –> good compliance about smoking only outside. But it took time and laws to make it happen.

        1. Yes, “orders” from the top make a huge difference in democracies (or should). Trump’s too dumb to realize this and to realize that if he handled this black swan event with any semblance of confidence or compassion, his reelection would have been a shoe-in. Silver lining that really isn’t since it cost such significant suffering and death and Trump still doesn’t get it.

          1. I know it doesn’t really matter but I think the reason he hasn’t done much to help the US get through this pandemic is that he doesn’t see how it helps him. At the start he was totally unprepared to take advantage of the situation. After a while, his staff convinced him that he needed to think of it like a war and play the role of “wartime President” but he didn’t realize that he had to do more than just play the role for the cameras.

            1. “…he hasn’t done much to help the US get through this pandemic is that he doesn’t see how it helps him…”

              He hasn’t done much to help the US get through this pandemic because he is an utterly evil, totally non-empathetic asshole, who doesn’t care the least about the deaths of tens of thousands of people unless it might somehow affect him personally negatively. He thought initially it would help him get elected by not tanking the economy.

              I wish people here would stop giving the Mass Murderer donald sort of pathetic moral excuses based on his supposed lack of intelligence or some kind of mental disease.

              He qualifies for that kind of ‘understanding’ in just about the same degree as Adolf Hitler does.

              1. Paul:
                Had he not topped himself in 1945, would that, sending him to a psychiatrist, been your suggestion for rehabilitating Adolf?

  17. I’m willing to bet the vast majority of the anti mask folk would absolutely freak if people walked into a restaurant without pants and underwear, then proceeded to sit in various spots while wiggling to get comfortable.

    I would really like to see people protesting the wearing of pants and underwear. Well, not actually see, but read about. Without pictures.

    1. Or the frequent comparison to “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs everyone accepts. I don’t remember ever seeing any “you’re infringing on my constitutional rights” protests for such signs. And not wearing a shirt or shoes is arguably less dangerous to the public’s health than not wearing a mask these days.

      L. Smith

      1. “No shoes, no shirt, no service” can easily be ignored because it hardly ever comes up. It’s not like there are lots of libertarian types that want to go to restaurants in the bare feet or without a shirt. All it would take to change this is Trump mentioning it as an affront to human rights. His sheep would line up at restaurant doors shirtless and shoeless.

        1. “…libertarian types…[Trump’s]sheep…

          Jeebus, Paul, I hope that you’re not making ANY parallels between libertarians and Trumputos. I’ll put my libertarian bona-fides up against anyone’s, but check my FB page for some completely fire-breathing Never-Trumpism.

          And for those idiots who think that masking does present a “liberty issue,” I ask them: “So…I suppose that you’re also against forcible detention and treatment of active TB cases?”

          As a libertarian, I’m VERY pro-2nd A. (Yes, I’m aware of how that vexes many here.) But that doesn’t mean that I’m so addled that I think that it’s OK for you to start spraying bullets into a crowd, just because you harbor no ill will against any particular person, and don’t know WHICH person in that crowd is going to die. Which is EXACTLY what the anti-maskers are claiming a right to do.

          1. Jeebus, Brujo! Why are you making this all about you? My comment was not in response to anything you said. I guess what you are reacting to is my referring to those who don’t want to wear masks as libertarians. I think many of them would claim that title. Still, I am not claiming all libertarians refuse to wear masks.

            1. “I guess what you are reacting to is my referring to those who don’t want to wear masks as libertarians.”

              That would be exactly correct. It rankles. There are a LOT of libertarians who have no quarrel at all with the masking rules, for the reasons I suggested. In other words…we’re WITH you on this. Be as happy for our support as we are for yours!

      2. There’s a difference between the long-recognized right of an individual store owner to refuse service on his property and a dictate of dubious legality from the governor that everyone wear masks in every indoor space except their own homes.

        1. “dubious legality”

          “Under the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court decisions over nearly 200 years, state governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions. The 10th Amendment, which gives states all powers not specifically given to the federal government, allows them the authority to take public health emergency actions, such as setting quarantines and business restrictions.”


      3. I see the shoes/shirt argument made frequently, but to be fair, it’s not really comparable. In the US, almost everyone goes out in public wearing shoes and a shirt. There’s some minor exceptions, especially in the heat of summer, but overall it’s considered normal and the default. Like it or not, masks are not considered culturally standard in the same way in the US. So the argument is missing that difference, where saying the requirements should be treated identically is ignoring that practically, they aren’t in the same mental category.

    1. It will be complicated. As a group Christians are ahead in this comparison when it comes to things like charitable donations, and I suspect also in activities like community outreach to the poor. Christians can come out ahead in these and I expect other areas.

      There are a number of stances that are considered highly immoral to Christians, on the whole, but are moral to at least many atheists. Gay marriage. The right to a safe abortion, that sort of thing. What is moral or immoral then depends on ones’ core values.

  18. The United States of America is built on the concept that absolute individual freedom takes precedence over all other considerations regardless of the consequences. Responsibility to society and others takes a distant second place.

    I suspect that to many of the people who refuse to wear masks are as vehement in their beliefs as those who oppose restrictions on firearms or speech.

    1. “Responsibility to society and others takes a distant second place.”

      To the extent that it relates to your above, and to the extent that it preserves a society where one can maximize ones individual freedom, what do you say ought to properly motivate someone to join the military, to possibly go in harm’s way to be maimed for life or killed, on behalf of “American Values” supposedly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence? Someone in economic straits, for whom military pay/benefits is largess? Someone motivated – by something other than their own self-interest – to “preserve, protect and defend”? Someone “else”?

      (In this regard, it would seem to be a “carrot” for the Masters of Mankind to not strive for an economy which is “too good” – else the laboring class won’t be sufficiently “incentivized” to join the military on behalf of the Masters’ interests.)

      Or should the armed forces be “defunded”?

  19. In the UK we have them too – or at least on UK fb pages

    Some are the conspiracy nuts – who are also flat–earthers etc

    Some are the ‘science deniers’ – who quote from the usual ‘natural health’ groups

    Some cherry-pick – so they listened to the WHO when they said ‘unnecessary’, but ignore them now they changed their minds (stupid move WHO – the precautionary principle should have applied)

    Some are extreme libertarians – I refuse to do anything that’s mandated

    Some refuse to do so – until it’s the law – madness!

    I bought some months ago and have been wearing them on the few occasions I go out – on most occasions been the only one doing so

    By doing so, people give me a wide berth figuring ‘I’m ill’, so double-win!

    There will be many candidates for the Darwin awards (are they still a thing?) this year

  20. It is crazy that mask wearing has become politicized. I think it’s analogous to someone demanding the right to smoke and expose others to second hand smoke or demand the right to drink and drive. ‘I have a driver’s license and am over 21 so can buy alcohol legally…this is an imposition on my freedom!’ they would say.

    I heard a politician from a southern US state making the personal freedom claim and saying if the government can force one to wear a mask on their body then what’s next…they can force you to get a shot in the arm?’ He was saying that individuals have the right to their own bodies (isn’t this analogous to the pro-abortionist argument of women having the right to their own bodies?) and that the State has no right to compel you alter it. OK, he might have a point about a vaccine but a mask alters no one’s body, it’s external and temporary…dummy.

    1. I remember when they first started restricting smoking in buildings and there was a big uproar about rights. I worked in a park and the ones that complained the most about not being allowed to smoke in the registration office (where I worked all day and they were in for all of 10 minutes) came from Americans.

      One made a snarky remark “can I smoke in the park” and my friend said with a straight face “no this is a non smoking park”. Then laughed and laughed when his face fell. Nowadays there are non smoking parks but in the early 90s that wasn’t yet the case.

      1. I think it’s the same kind of thing, actually. While I personally despise cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust (and tend to hold my breath and escape upon encountering it), I think it should be the right of individual business owners – as it used to be! – to decide whether their businesses should be smoking or non-smoking establishments, or whether to compromise with ventilated smoking rooms or whatever.

        If you don’t like it, you can refuse to eat or work there, and if enough people do that they’ll not only pressure them to change but also create market space for competitors to run non-smoking establishments. Similarly, you can limit your contact with businesses that don’t require masks. This approach respects everyone’s rights, rather than the current tyranny of the majority.

        And if there are non-smoking parks, that validates the complaints of those who said it’d be a slippery slope where next they wouldn’t even be allowed to smoke outside…

        1. Well it was like that and smokers pretty much were everywhere smoking even if they were the minority because people wanted not to offend. It’s a health issue as second hand smoke is especially bad with people with even minor lung conditions so it should be mandated just like seatbelts are. Also, just try to mandate non smoking if there no laws. I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked in a lot of customer facing jobs and people tend to get very vile very fast. I’ve been very scared of being harmed, I’ve been followed after work, and I’ve been called lots of names and usually just for asking them for a fee that was required upon entry. Once I had to get my boss because a guy refused to move his car from parking on the grass and basically called me a whore. I was the only person there and that can be frightening to a 19 year old girl.

          1. The abuse of employees by customers angry at simply being asked to follow the rules is despicable and I’m sorry you had to go through that. I don’t understand people who treat others like that. Ideally enforcement wouldn’t be your responsibility, but I expect the business didn’t want to pay the cost of employing a security guard.

            1. A security guard was there but they can’t be there all the time. Most if the time I was alone and sometimes worked a shift that went until 11 pm. I usually didn’t get out until midnight.

        2. > If you don’t like it, you can refuse to eat or work there […]

          There were well-publicized lawsuits of stewardesses who suffered from the effects of passive smoke and sued tobacco companies. Apparently, they did not feel that they could simply work elsewhere.

          I remember controversy about a new law that required restaurants requiring a designated zone for smokers or for smokers to go outside. Many owners complained this was bad for profits, but without the law the usually poorly paid staffers would have little chance to avoid the health hazards of smoking.

          Anecdotally, I did not see smokers behaving well without laws. Smoking whole packs of cigarettes in front of children, lighting up at train stations where people must stand to get their train and annoying the non-smoking colleagues at work by constantly taking smoke breaks are just some of the behaviors I remember.

        3. If we take this argument to it’s logical conclusion, every business should be allowed to decide on their own to discharge untreated human waste into the street instead of using sanitary sewers.

          If people disagree they can choose to go to other businesses that don’t discharge untreated human waste into the street.

          Those who get one of the many various diseases from untreated human waste release, even those who didn’t choose to use that business, well, that’s just too bad for them. If it causes a major pandemic of cholera, dysentery, parasites, deaths of hospital workers, elderly, children, adults and trillions of dollars of economic destruction, well that’s just too bad for everyone.

          What is important is that people get to defecate where ever they want.
          Because ‘My Rights!’.

          1. Not really. The streets are public property and, for various reasons, are regulated differently from the atmosphere, which isn’t considered public property in the same way.

        4. ” . . . should be the right of individual business owners – as it used to be! – to decide . . . smoking or non-smoking or
          . . . compromise with ventilated smoking rooms or whatever . . . If you don’t like it, you can refuse to eat or work there . . . also create market space for competitors . . . .”

          In 1980 I had acute appendicitis which had to be remedied in a timely manner by surgery at a southern Appalachia rural hospital. After recovery I was put in a room with two beds. The air I breathed was refreshingly cool and clean. I had the room to myself the first night.

          The next day I was joined by a fine gentleman quite gifted at rolling his own cigarettes. How acridly, pungently fragrant was the particulate cloud to my nares. (How it could be kept from seeping into the hall and general ventilation system, perhaps to the ED or Intensive Care or surgical suites, I don’t know.) His bed was at least two if not three average-sized restaurant tables-distant.

          I waited him out a while, giving him every opportunity for it to occur to him that he was not the only human primate in the universe and that it might be theoretically possible that he might deign to offer me a molecule of consideration, here in the Land of Self-Absorbed Individualism. He did not so deign. I charitably considered that his cognition, by nature and/or nurture, did not extend that far.

          Therefore, so as to “Keep The Peace,” I disciplined myself to not ask him “Mind if I NOT smoke?!?” and I slipped a note to a nurse, asking whether there were a room on the premises not refulgent with cigarette smoke. Staff expeditiously responded.

          I wasn’t in any position (in the short term at least) to take action to “create market space for competitors,” in that the next hospital was 30 miles as the crow flies. I was in no shape to work there, though I suppose I could have refused to eat there.

  21. The CDC is part of the problem. Not only did they change their minds on masks (and, as some commentators pointed out, essentially admitted that it was a change of policy, not a change in the scientific knowledge) but now they are advising universities against widespread testing, which goes against all the science (there’s an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education with all the details). So why should we trust them? I do wear a mask, both because it is required in my community and because I have read enough of the science to understand that it protects me a little and other people a lot. But I no longer trust the CDC.

    1. A lot of communication during the pandemic needed work “social distancing“ and ”social bubbles” we’re two concepts people struggled with and often got wrong. I did like the very Canadian explanation of ”2 meters/6 feet” – about the length of a hockey stick.

  22. They believe we could have solved the whole problem with hydroxychloroquine. Everyone involved in suppressing this fact is engaged in a conspiracy to elect Biden and nothing they say is to be trusted. I kid you not.

  23. These prancing primadonnas tacitly assume that if they do indeed get sick there’ll be a hospital bed for them, and someone associated with that bed (like some friends of mine) to take care of them.

    And they also think that the 3% (or whatever it is) mortality rate means that if they get it they have a 97% chance of living normally afterward with no after-effects, and that appears not to be the case by a long shot.

    1. Yeah and they also assume that the hospitals won’t get overrun with people taking up ventilators so that they are turned away when they inevitably have a heart attack stuffing their unmasked face with hot dogs or get into a car accident flipping off a guy in a Prius while passing in their giant pick up truck.

      Yes stereotypes. But these people bring out all my rage and disdain.

    2. If they were in China, they would be losing “social credits” by not wearing a mask. This would happen automatically via their ubiquitous facial recognition monitoring system. Perhaps we need that here. 😉

      1. Just tell them they have to wear a mask or the cameras, which are watching them from orbit, will recognize their face and the lizard people will be able to identify them for reprogramming.

  24. I agree but with the caveat there are a lot of people calling themselves scientists who aren’t using scientific methods, especially in what’s called the social sciences. A lot of motivated reasoning. If a study can’t be replicated the underlying conclusion should be viewed as Op-Ed, not science it’s intelligent to be very skeptical of the pseudoscience

  25. Looking at the US and the UK from Germany, it’s entirely clear what’s going on: the political leadership is incapable of convincing the public to wear a mask, and so doesn’t even try.

    Angela Merkel made a public announcement in April about how serious the situation is, and explained very clearly how quickly the hospitals would overwhelmed die to exponential growth, and that the only way to avoid it would be for everyone to wear a mask in shops and public transport, as well as a far reaching lockdown.

    The next day I had to take my bicycle to the repair shop; someone held the door open for me so I went in before putting on my mask. The guy working in there said, “I will be happy to serve you as soon as you have a mask on.” Same everywhere in Germany, and still is, because even people who wanted to get rid of Merkel or who were angry with her about the refugee crisis, believed that she was telling them the truth. (Her approval rating went from less than 50% to over 80% overnight.)

    In the UK, if Boris Johnson were to speak in such a sober and sensible manner as Angela Merkel did, it would entirely demolish the jocular shallow clown-salesman persona he so carefully cultivated over decades. He can only sell stuff with a positive spin. To organise such measures as have worked so well in Germany, requires competence, personal credibility, and above all the preparedness to take responsibility. Johnson’s government has been carefully designed to avoid each of those areas completely, preferring loyalty as the only measure.

    So instead the public has been told to “stay alert”, and “use common sense”. (This is the same public that voted for Brexit!)

    Obviously, Trump is incapable for the same reasons, but is even stupider than Johnson, and doesn’t even know what a virus is, and is utterly flummoxed as to why testing negative should be good. (Hence, “I tested negative, but in a positive way.”)

    Worse, Trump’s hatred of victims and “weakness” probably makes him resent everyone who has caught or died from the virus. Plus of course, he knows fear of the virus will make people stay away from polling centers, so he and his hench-people will continue doing all they can to keep the virus circulating.

    –So having a culture war about masks kills two birds with one stone: the culture war keeps his followers happy, and the virus keeps sensible voters away.

    1. Germans are so polite. I’ve always noticed this and people think I’m making it up but every German I’ve ever met with a few exceptions of jerks, have always been much more polite than my fellow Canadians. Or maybe it’s me. I tend to be more blunt and therefore rude. Saying they’d be happy to help you once you put your mask on would probably instead in Canada be, “You can’t come in here!” or they’d ignore it and let you as to not be too imposing. It’s extremes. I’d probably try to make a joke of it to get compliance.

      1. Depends… I lived in Berlin for 20 years and recently moved to Cologne, and was bowled over by how friendly people are here in comparison. But Berliners at least aren’t fake-friendly, and are just honest. I think the long and boring winters take their toll.

        In Bavaria, people are genuinely friendly, and I always think their dialect is exactly the way teddy bears would speak!

        But if you break the rules or do something stupid, you’ll get this–


    2. I take a look to the USA, Brazil or Great Britain. In these times I am glad to live in Germany and to have a chancellor who has a PhD, who puts knowledge and insight above her personal ego and who works at full strength for the good of the state.

      1. As I’ve said often, I just adore Angela Merkel. She and former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright are women I really admire.

      2. Yes, you are lucky to have an actual leader. Look what happens to countries where the leaders are fools. Who knows how many people will eventually die of Covid in the US, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up being #1 per capita.

        1. The last 3.5 years are the 2nd time I’ve felt shame and anger specifically because of the government. The first time was W.’s Presidency. I probably would have felt the same under Reagan, but I was too young to understand the damage he was doing.

          1. I’m old enough to have felt the Reagan-shame, too. Especially regarding his administrations shameful refusal to acknowledge the AIDS crisis.

            1. And the shame of Reagan as California’s governor when he shut down mental health facilities. I don’t know if that was the start of nationwide reduction, mentally ill people living on the street and police agencies becoming responsible for handling mentally ill people when they have no training for it.

            2. Yeah, that guy would never even say the word “AIDS”…no speak, it doesn’t exist. Republicans have been a literal death party for a long time. I hope in my lifetime they will be vanquished. I give a lot of energy and dosh to realize that vision. Hope it works, but I’ll never think it a waste of money or time.

      3. Merkel is a great example for the usefulness of scientific knowledge in political leaders.

        1. Even some of the leaders in Canada that seemed all about ideology and the sense to defer to experts and rely on science thank goodness. An example is the Conservative premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, who suddenly became highly competent and set aside his ego completely. Like the other premiers he worked with his counterparts in other provinces and the federal Liberal government quite well. He even praised the Liberal Feds and he refused to criticize them unnecessarily even when goaded by the press.

          It shows that good leadership is about no knowing all the answers but knowing when to defer to experts when you don’t.

      4. A Ph.D. in some area of Chemistry, IIRC.

        Might not be so good were it a Ph.D. in some form of Critical Theory or similar, in present day USian academic jargon!

    3. The UK has not exactly covered itself with glory. It has not helped that the population lacks discipline. A lot of people interpreted their “right to exercise” quite liberally and the government was lackadaisical and nevertheless kept good approval ratings. Newspapers also compared the fight against Covid to the Battle of Dunkirk and waxed about the Blitz Spirit. Not being a Brit, I found these comparisons baffling to say the least.

  26. I think it comes down to a deep distrust in authority (the Left mirror image would probably be Defund the Police.) I read that in a Yahoo poll (to be fair, not sure how scientific that is,) that about 40% of Republicans believed some totally outlandish conspiracy theory about Bill Gates using Covid vaccines to implant microchips. If people believe something that out there, I imagine the percent who believe the government will take over your life if you give an inch on masks is much larger.

  27. There are times to wear a mask and times not to. When I am inside with other people, I wear a mask. When I am outside walking my dog staying apart from other people in 90 degree weather I do not. The woman who tried to mask shame me and several other people in the dog park can take a hike.

    Also there are real health hazards for some people wearing a mask. I have temperature sensitive asthma and, in the winter, wearing a mask and then going outside is likely to trigger an asthma attack. For now I wear a mask but I will not when the temperature gets below 40. Perhaps I will find one of the useless masks to protect my self from verbal abuse.

    1. In WA you would be in compliance with the state mandate—must wear in indoor public spaces and outdoors if six foot distancing is not possible. I have run into some of these mask-shaming extremists and they bug me more than people not wearing masks. The latter I can quietly avoid.

  28. Without tRump, I think the issue would be far less visible. Many deniers are given license by our psychopathic “leader”.

    1. Interesting that tRump has remained covid free unlike other covid risk minimizers such as BoJo, Bolsonaro and Stitt. I suspect what tRump says and how he behaves to protect himself are quite different.

      1. People that are going to have contact with him are tested. His staff are regularly tested and I’ve heard he’s somewhat of a germophobe himself with people following him a round with hand sanitizer. That’s how he has remained COVID free.

          1. Yep….not to mention he would never bump elbows with his constituency outside his position as POTUS anyway so he’s socially and physically isolated….hard to get the virus when that’s the case.

    2. Yup. If he wore a mask and told everyone to wear a mask from the beginning, there wouldn’t be this divide. It is very true that whatever Trump touches dies. And he seems incapable of doing the right thing when making a decision. It’s truly mind boggling how wrong he is on just about everything. He should win the Guinness world record for “the most wrong person alive”.

  29. It may be relevant to note what Trump said in his recent Chris Wallace interview. In my opinion this is the most shocking and frightening thing Trump has ever said. He claimed that the US had the lowest death rate in the world. Wallace countered that this was not true; and of course anyone can look on the internet and see that both our raw and per capita death rates were among the world’s highest. Yet Trump seemed to genuinely believe that we had the lowest. If the President of the US is genuinely so completely deluded about the most fundamental measure of his success in controlling the virus, is it any wonder that he doesn’t make good decisions?

    1. I keep wondering how much of this is Trump’s delusion, how much is due to killing the messenger of bad news, how much is because Trump is surrounding himself with delusional/incompetent people.

      1. tRump is the product of decades of Republican Party political theory and practice. The people who he surrounds himself with are those who got him installed as President. They are all delusional and incompetent.

    2. Actually, I think it is clear that he’s lying about the death rate even in the face of being corrected. He think his followers will believe him over the “fake news media”. The first time he makes the claim, it is plausible that it’s from ignorance or stupidity. After that it is simply lying.

      1. He simply lies so easily facts have no meaning for him and he says whatever he wishes to be true.

    3. I’m afraid that the words “deluded” and “delusional” are not entirely accurate in this context, and almost can be used in some people’s minds as moral excuse for him and his cronies and enablers.

      To me, Drumpf definitely deserves the full implication of my frequent use of “Mass Murderer donald”.

  30. I think the culture war has little or nothing to do with Trump and much more to do with the divide between people who value freedom over safety (typically men and “conservatives”) versus people who value safety over freedom (typically women and “liberals”). The former group thinks that the decision over mask mandates should be made as locally as possible, at the level of individual business owners, municipalities, or states, and that by default people should be free to choose for themselves. The latter group thinks everyone should be forced to wear masks for the greater good, and many call for it to be mandated across the entire nation.

    The problem with the freedom-prioritizing group is that not wearing a mask doesn’t just risk themselves, it also risks others (in the very unlikely case that they’re infected). Of course we make these kinds of tradeoffs all the time – just driving your car poisons the air, and air pollution kills people, for example, and we do allow people to opt out of vaccines – so there’s nothing unusual about accepting a risk to others as the price of personal freedom. It’s not immediately clear where the line should be drawn in this case. We normally make these decisions as a society, from the bottom up and going through standard democratic and legislative mechanisms and the slow workings of culture. In this case, what decisions have been made have been imposed from the top down through executive orders of uncertain legality. This rankles people. Maybe this time it’s necessary to take such emergency action, but that’s far from clear. The total projected deaths from COVID are quite small compared to the normal death rate.

    The problem with the mask-mandating crowd is that the public health “experts” have not had a good track record. Although science is always provisional, that uncertainty has not been communicated to the public. First, the mainstream media and many “public health experts” informed us that the virus was nothing to worry about – the real problem was racism. (The purpose seemed to be to preempt any action by Trump.) Then they said it was a huge crisis (and Trump’s fault for not acting sooner), and although we definitely need a strict lockdown with no gatherings, masks don’t help and probably hurt. They said if you protest losing your livelihood, you’re evil. Then they said attending mass gatherings of tens of thousands of people is okay as long as you’re out there protesting the false narrative that racist police regularly murder unarmed black people – “we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission”, they said – and also you should definitely wear a mask now. With all the flip-flopping and politicizing, it’s hard to take them seriously and they’ve lost the respect of many.

    The nation is currently so divided that it’s probably impossible to reach a general national consensus.

    1. Adam M, my day job includes overseeing the supervised learning of an AI system used to provide updated risk assessments and scores on potential COVID-19 cases for companies and other organizations in the US and SE Asia. My job is to review the daily literature on the evolution of the disease and our response to it so I can curate the output of the learning systems before they are allowed to update.

      What I see scares the hell out of me. COVID-19 is an entirely different type of threat from what we are used to. It is NOT a super flu. It appears that this virus affects our bodies through binding to receptors found in many tissues – sinuses and upper resp pathways, lungs, heart, GI track and even the CNS. This accounts for the wide variation in presentation seen among patients. The specific binding of the virus results in inflammation of blood vessels or vasculitis. This in turn can result in the production of microemboli entering the circulation that can lodge in any tissues including the brain. Beyond those dying outright from the infection, the next big concern is the long term impact of those who survive. For each death, several patients are being identified as having long term sequelae from the infection.

      Anything we can do to control this must be employed.

      1. Thank you for this information.

        Whatever the reason some individuals will not mask up, if they remain apart from unrelated human beings until it is obvious they don’t have Covid-19, fine. They can stay home, or remain at church, or the bar, etc. But they should not be free to go out and sicken or kill other people. Those that do so, should be punished for misusing their “freedom.”

        As has been pointed out, masks have been used to prevent the spread of many illnesses including TB; also MERS and other coronaviruses. So, this is not a new or novel attempt at prevention.

        More and more, news reports make it clear that individuals who are not killed outright by Covid-19 may have long term adverse health effects, including severe damage to virtually any part of the human body. Individuals may live with such effects for months or years.
        And, society may bear the economic cost with them of their health care.

      2. Good information. I’m certainly not fit to say one way or the other how bad this disease is. What percentage of survivors have “long-term sequelae”?

    2. “people who value freedom over safety… versus people who value safety over freedom”

      I think this is a false dichotomy. “Freedom-lovers” includes a large number of people who maintain armories because they are very much fearful of their own safety, imaging that hoards of libruls and dark folk are going to come take their stuff from them.

      The seems more to crystalize around factors like religion, denial of science, racism and xenophobia. The people who “value freedom”, I think, would have a hard time even articulating what the concept means beyond the sense that it whatever libruls value.

      1. I agree. I wouldn’t trust anyone who calls themselves a “freedom-lover” while living in a relatively free country. Such people are usually only interested in their own freedoms and are always one step away other people’s freedom. Similarly for those who wrap themselves in the flag or feel the need to carry a gun. In short, they are selfish.

        1. I certainly don’t disagree that they’re selfish. 🙂 But at least from those I’ve spoken with, if they fear anything it’s the slippery slope and not “libruls and dark folk” – that if they go along with it the next thing will be mandated injection with an unproven vaccine or something. But more than that they don’t want to be forced. I know a bunch of people who disobey the local mask mandate but none who’d refuse to wear one if asked nicely (or so they say).

          1. Are these people children who can only do the responsible thing if asked “nicely”? That’s pathetic.

    3. “..it also risks others (in the very unlikely case that they’re infected)”
      Just like DUI, the very unlikely event of causing an accident… I’d say.

      1. I think that would be a good analogy in the case of people who know they have the virus (just as people know whether or not they’ve been drinking). And there are laws against deliberate disease transmission, although that may only be STDs… I don’t think it’s analogous to people who have no reason to think they’re infected, though.

    4. “..many “public health experts” informed us that the virus was nothing to worry about..”

      Could we have some specific quotes here, including all the relevant context, and also including in vague cases of “experts” some indication that this is not bogus. If all you have are ‘bogi’, the problem has everything to do with general pervasive USian ignorance about how to evaluate truth claims, and nothing to do with health experts.

  31. I don’t have any problem with the changing guidelines. It is after all a NOVEL coronavirus. Same thing with preliminary data. The story/guidelines and hypothesis may change with time.

    1. Absolutely! In fact, the experts even brought us along with their uncertainty. Experts like Fauci often said they weren’t sure yet and that the data was still coming in. Those claiming the experts were arbitrarily switching positions and, therefore, aren’t to be trusted now are forgetting this for their own convenience.

  32. Not trusting ‘elitist’ scientists may be a republican shtick but what I don’t understand is _why_ it needs an ‘elitist’ scientist to explain about masks.
    Haven’t these idiots ever used handkerchiefs or tissues? What did they were for?

  33. “So yes, I do get where the opposition is coming from, but it seems deeply irrational for both Republicans and Democrats.”

    I’m missing something: Why are Democrats in there? Did I read too fast and miss some point? Is there any evidence of some reasonable sized cohort of definite Democrats who might pull a gun on you if you object to maskless them putting you in danger?

  34. Trump, referring to protests and why he sent in the troops: “This is worse than Afghanistan, by far, this is worse than anything anyone’s ever seen.”

    No one in the media seems to have picked up the reference to Afghanistan there. Of course, he means the protesters are worse than Putin putting a bounty on American troops.

  35. Hard not to point the finger of blame at Trump. He’s the leader of Team Willful Ignorance.

    That team was in place, though. The anti-science crowd, et al.

    At least in some instances, people resent not having chance to go to college and some of this anti-science bias stems from that. Just a guess, but a lot of White, non-college educated males support Trump.

    1. This division between Americans is really sad… I liked how you ended off with it being patriotic to protect the lives of your fellow citizens. If only more would focus on uniting by a love for the country rather than dividing ourselves by personal political beliefs!

    2. I read a really good article about the efficacy of masks for flu and the common cold but I can’t remember where it was. It’s possible someone here posted it. For flu masks help a lot, for colds not at all and I think they also tested a corona virus like SARS and it was not as good as flu but still good. Of course all this could be me remembering the article but the cold results seemed to stick out most for me.

  36. There’s a famous song that says, “Don’t Be Cruel.” Come on… wear your mask. It’s about family, state, country and the global world. Not wearing a mask is crass, have some slack for life.

  37. This division between Americans is really sad… I liked how you ended off with it being patriotic to protect the lives of your fellow citizens. If only more would focus on uniting by a love for the country rather than dividing ourselves by personal political beliefs!

  38. “One guy said ‘I’m wearing a mask’ while pulling the mask down below his nose.”

    Those people enrage me. Every time I use public transit there is at least one dimwit who wears a mask over his mouth but NOT his nose. Either these people are super-evolved mutants who no longer need to breath through their noses or they’re idiots. And don’t get me started on the people in the bus who take off their masks to eat…

    Related to this topic, Jonathan Chait has just published an excellent article titled “American Death Cult: Why has the Republican response to the pandemic been so mind-bogglingly disastrous?”


  39. despite the demonstrated efficacy of masks in slowing viral transmission.

    It’s even more effective to do social distancing and handwashing, yet I see little effort to promote general health care to all and handwash dispensers to stores. [I may have missed the latter.]

    The science on masks blocking the pandemic isn’t all that [ https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/06/do-face-masks-help-studies-leaning-towards-yes/ ].

    Do face masks help? Studies leaning toward yes
    Most of the data, however, comes from SARS and MERS.

    Despite these limitations, it’ll probably be a while until we get better information, given that the focus has been on providing any protection possible in the early stages of the outbreak. And at least some of the relevant factors, like how well protection limits the spread of particles expelled in a cough, aren’t specific to any one virus.

    But a key fact noted by the authors is that none of these means of protection is complete; any form of contact with infected individuals presents a risk. So our focus should be on reducing the overall risk that infections spread …

    WHO, for more context:

    3 There is limited evidence that wearing a medical mask by healthy individuals in the households or among contacts of a sick patient, or among attendees of mass gatherings may be beneficial as a preventive measure.

    14-23 However, there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

    [ https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331693/WHO-2019-nCov-IPC_Masks-2020.3-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y ]

    It isn’t easy to get infected, or at least be interesting enough for contact tracing:

    Based on our current knowledge, a close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated.

    [ https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/principles-contact-tracing.html ]

    I think that time limit appeals to many that do a quick store dive.

    1. Oops. If and when my multiple link comment comes out from moderation, I ran together two quotes from Ars Technica. I also forgot the last quote was from CDC, not WHO, so should have been clearly marked.

  40. You forgot two reasons that explains it all:

    1. Masks are STRONGLY associated with rioters. This gives them a bad PR image. Naturally conservatives are going to want to distance from that image.

    2. The science behind masks is not as conclusive as you think. CIDRAP is STILL against them. FiveThirtyEight had a good post on this.


    3. So what changed on the left? I think the protests is the answer again. The prevalence of the protests as the #1 social gathering around the country makes the left look like hypocrites in not calling it out. This creates a sort of mental dissonance that makes them focus on MASKS more as an alternate. The right picks up on this and thus responds in kind.

    Those are my $0.03 cents.

  41. I think it was a terrible mistake to state that masks were not effective at preventing transmission, when they just wanted people to stop buying them for personal use.
    When those same experts later stated that the opposite is true, and that not just medical grade masks but even thin cotton is effective or even critical to prevent spread, all that was established with any certainty was that at least one of those contradictory statements was false.

    Even the idea that they prevent the wearer from spreading the disease is sort of inconsistent. Many of the N95 masks, and even the higher-end respirators fail to filter exhaled air at all. That is not what they are for. Surgical masks are designed to protect both the wearer and patient, but only when worn properly, and with single-use gloves and other gear.
    If you are wearing a thin cotton mask, touching it, then touching other surfaces in public spaces, you have likely offset any protection for yourself or others.

    I do see wearing improvised masks as a way for people to feel less helpless about the situation, but I am unsure if any real data will show that it helps stop disease spread in any significant way.

    I still wear a mask when I am expected to, but again because I am conflict averse and it seems to reassure people.

    1. I think you and many others here are missing the obvious: masks (even simple ones) reduce mass flow of air from your mouth or nose, reducing the flow to something closer to passive diffusion, which means virus particles don’t travel as far as they would without a mask (unless everyone is sitting close together in an enclosed space for a long enough time that diffusion reaches eqilibrium in the space).

      Most of what you said is not true. For example:
      “If you are wearing a thin cotton mask, touching it, then touching other surfaces in public spaces, you have likely offset any protection for yourself or others.”

      A thin cotton mask will stop the person from spraying his particles a long distance. That protects others. What this person does with his fingers is entirely separate and does not do anything to reduce the effect of the mask on reducing mass airflow.

      1. A thin cotton mask is a damp, warm thing right in front of your mouth. If you are exhaling disease particles, that damp spot is going to be a literal hotbed of contamination. If you touch the mask, then a door handle or self-check keypad, you are spreading disease. If you are healthy, and touch the mask with contaminated hands, you are going to be breathing from what is essentially a little bioreactor.

        What I have been observing is people putting on and taking off their masks when they arrive/depart public spaces. They handle and reuse the same mask repeatedly. A large number of people wear the mask incorrectly, and most people touch the mask constantly.
        As I write this, there is a thing on the TV news about the need to wear masks, and the footage they are showing has a shopkeeper wearing the mask under his nose.

        1. All my masks are three layer. I wash them and wear them for small periods of time. I usually disinfect my hands before and after I put the mask on but most importantly I do not touch my face until I have washed my hands whenever I have been out. I make sure to disinfect when I take the mask off and I let it sit around for a while or I wash the mask when I get home. My masks are never wet and I have been a bit sweaty in one on a humid day (I don’t wear that one now so much and have gotten others that are more comfortable). Part of the way you get compliance is educating people about the best masks to use and comfort is important. I’m not so worried about touching a mask as long as you don’t touch your face after. Yes, virus can get spread around surfaces…that’s why you need to remember not to touch your face with your dirty hands. I swear this is how I used to get sick all the time back pre-pandemic. Mostly doing things like feeling a tooth with my finger or something.

          1. I suspect you are an exception.

            I have mentioned this before, but I used to be an instructor in chemical, biological, and radiological warfare defense. That sort of instilled a mindset about this stuff.
            Admittedly, we trained for exposure to very very bad stuff, but the procedures for contamination prevention are sort of universal.
            Anyway, looking from that perspective, most of what I am seeing seems more theatrical than preventative.

    2. “I still wear a mask when I am expected to, but again because I am conflict averse and it seems to reassure people.”

      I too am conflict averse (having grown up in a clan with its share of gratuitous conflict instigators not inclined to consider the effect of their words and actions on others).

      Is it reasonable that wearing a mask is prima facie evidence that one is giving others some reasonable consideration, especially when one (explosively) sneezes/coughs?

      Same with sneezing/coughing into the crook of ones elbow (assuming one is not wearing a short-sleeved shirt and is not carrying an arm-load). I don’t know of any CDC/WHO types who claim that to be ineffective, or not any better than doing nothing. (There have always been enough shirts, as compared to face masks, though the production of both has been off-shored.)

      1. It isn’t just “prima facie evidence”. It is a fact. The point of the mask is to reduce spread of your germs in the air thereby protecting others should you have the disease (and be unaware that you do). Masks accomplish this. The main reason for wearing one is to be considerate of others.

      2. I’m still intensely bitter at the person who, at a children’s hospital lobby pre-pandemic, sneezed into the air without covering his mouth at all. I swear that’s how I got a horrid flu that lasted 3 weeks of my Christmas holiday.

  42. I think the world’s gone back to Restoration-era London, when there were Whig coffee houses and Tory coffee houses: even where you popped in for a drink was governed by which political party you voted for! It seems like everything these days has to be party political. Totally illogical!

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