450,000 Dead From COVID—and These Fools Are Rolling Back Mask Orders
It’s utter insanity, or something even more sinister.
As the COVID-19 variants prompt the CDC to study whether we should all be double-masking, three states are demonstrating triple insanity.
North Dakota has ceased to require wearing any masks at all.
Wisconsin’s state legislature voted in recent days to end the mask mandate there.
And at least two counties in Kansas have voted to opt out of that state’s mask order.
This all comes as health officials say masks are more important than ever before in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the chances of getting infected by more contagious and thus more lethal variants.
“We allowed the variants to emerge because we let the virus replicate in our society,” Ajay Sethi, epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told The Daily Beast.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum exhibited what may be the most unfortunate choice of words in the whole pandemic when he described the benefit of ending a successful mask measure to curb a disease.
“A chance for us to take a breather,” he said at a press briefing.
Before Burgum reluctantly imposed a mask mandate back in November, North Dakota had had the highest per capita COVID-19 death rate in the world for six weeks. It had led the nation in per capita cases for two months.
When he allowed the mandate and other basic restrictions to expire months later, his state had the third-lowest rate in America by both measures. Active cases fell 85 percent, from 10,173 to 1,513, after the mask rule went into effect. Deaths fell by 86 percent, from over 16 per day to fewer than three in January.
Because the mandate had been so amazingly successful, Burgum reasoned that it was no longer needed. He decreed that as of Jan. 18, the state would revert to “personal responsibility,” the very same approach that had previously caused it to become a COVID capital of America and the world. He noted the continuing importance of wearing a mask, just as he often had prior to the mandate with little effect.
“The science doesn't change when the mandate goes away,” he said, as if his words would make more of a difference than they had before.
A number of local mandates remained in place, but some state legislators are pushing a measure to outlaw face-covering requirements anywhere in North Dakota.
“We tried the masks, let’s ditch the masks,” Rep. Jeff Hoverson told reporters. “I’m not just condemning something; I’m promoting a build-up-immunity program. So rather than ‘Mask up, North Dakota,’ it ought to be ‘Build up, North Dakota.’”
The only thing Hoverson’s measure would build up would be the state’s COVID-19 body count, which has reached 1,447.
Meanwhile, the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Assembly voted on Thursday to repeal the mask mandate imposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
The GOP-dominated state Senate already voted last week 18-13 for a mandate repeal, and the Assembly had been about to follow suit last Thursday when somebody pointed out that the state would lose $50 million in relief money if it did not have an emergency order of some kind in place. The Senate sought to remedy that with some quick, mask-free legislation.
On Thursday, the Assembly voted 52-42 to proceed with a repeal. Evers responded by instituting a new mandate later in the afternoon.
“Wearing a mask is the most basic thing we can do to keep each other safe,” Evers said in a video that accompanied the renewed mandate. “If the Legislature keeps playing politics and we don’t keep wearing masks, we're going to see more preventable deaths, and it’s going to take even longer to get our state and our economy back on track.”
Along with defying science, the Republican effort to repeal the mandate makes no immediate political sense. Polls show that more than 70 percent of people in Wisconsin support a mask mandate. The Republicans may be seeking to placate the more fervent anti-maskers—the basest of the base—but it also seems to be a continuation of a partisan struggle that began back when Evers was first elected and House Speaker Robin Vos sought to strip him of his powers. The Republicans may now be seeking to end the popular mask mandate simply because Evers imposed it.
“A lot of pride, ego,” the top Assembly Democrat, Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, told The Daily Beast.
Also a lot more death if the mandate is repealed. Hintz referred to a November CDC study in Kansas, where some counties opted out of a state mask mandate. Counties that rejected the mandate saw a 100 percent rise in COVID-19 cases. Counties that observed a mandate saw a 6 percent decrease despite a statewide surge.
Yet despite the proven success of mandates, two Kansas counties that had previously adhered to it decided to opt out at the end of December. A video of the Dec. 28 meeting of the Brown County Board of Commissioners shows that the CEO of Hiawatha Community Hospital, John Broberg, testified in favor of a mask requirement.
“This is so basic,” he said. “If we don’t act, we’re going to see these rates climb.”
He added, “My 4-year-old and my 7-year-old wear it religiously. It’s that perspective, ‘We’re doing this for us.’”
The board proceeded to prove it had less sense than his kids, voting 3-0 to repeal the mandate.
“Today,” one of the commissioners said to make clear it took immediate effect, as if it were an urgent action that could save lives rather than put them at risk.
Jackson County followed on Dec. 29, repealing the mandate with a 2-1 vote. The virus thereby gained another locale where it will spread with greater ease. It will therefore have more opportunity to mutate. And a single mutation could make the virus more contagious and maybe more lethal and perhaps better able to defeat the vaccines. The absence of a mask can thereby endanger not just a county or a state, but the whole nation along with people everywhere.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a White House briefing on Wednesday.
The CDC will likely soon determine that the data supports double masking with variants spreading across the nation. Now what to do about the triple insanity of those who do not want to mandate any mask at all, even as the death toll hit 450,000 this week?
They endanger not just their own county or state but all of us everywhere.