Fauci's Lies and the Political Cowardice of Mask Mandates

Like anyone who's paid the slightest bit of attention during this pandemic, you've probably noticed how the narrative regarding cloth face masks has evolved.  Back in March and April, the surgeon general assured Americans that masks are "NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching #Coronavirus," so people should "STOP BUYING MASKS!"  The pre-eminent Dr. Fauci similarly assured us that there's no reason for Americans to be wearing masks, because they offer a false sense of security, they cause people to incessantly touch their faces to adjust them, and most people don't wear them correctly, anyway.  The World Health Organization concurred, saying the general public should not be wearing masks.

An interesting theory has emerged to explain how this once-government-sanctioned, sage advice evolved to become "everyone must wear cloth masks in all public settings or others will die," followed by statewide mandates to have everyone wear masks in public places.  It has been openly asserted by Dr. Fauci, and genuinely believed by many, that all of these public health officials and organizations actually knew that wearing masks is an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 back in March and April, but they engaged in a coordinated conspiracy to deliver the opposite advice, in unison, because they wanted to avoid a public frenzy that would disrupt supply chains for medical masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.

You'd have to climb out onto a pretty weak, thin limb to believe that's true.  I've seen an awful lot of people wearing masks around since the beginning of the pandemic, and few of them are wearing anything resembling medical equipment.  Many of them are wearing nothing more than ordinary pieces of cloth.  If Dr. Fauci had actually believed, as he seems to believe now, that loosely wearing any common rag over your face might be effective in preventing COVID-19 spread, there would have been nothing to prevent him from saying so. 

If masks truly work, how many millions were infected before he advised Americans to wear them?  How many died as a result of his lie?

Inescapably, we must conclude that either Dr. Fauci was lying to the American people back in then, as he now says he was, or, much more likely, he's lying to us now by telling us he was lying to us back then.  I'm not sure which is worse, but it really doesn't matter — the chief public health official in the United States government lying to the American people is a breach of public trust that should be unforgivable, and there is absolutely no reason to believe anything else he says with regard to public health.

The truth is likely simpler than the fiction Fauci would have you believe.  Fauci, like most scientists for the last century, probably just generally agreed with the consensus that masks do little to stop the spread of a virus that is transmitted in the manner of influenza or COVID-19.  As John M. Barry writes in his book on the Spanish flu pandemic, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, there was also massive political and social pressure to promote masking back in 1918.  "Through the attempts to make masks seem normal, positioned at stores alongside everyday things such as tobacco, mustache grooming and dancing, the grim truth persisted," he writes, unequivocally concluding that "the masks worn by millions were useless as designed and could not prevent influenza," because "only preventing exposure to the virus could."

"Preventing exposure," not useless masking, was understandably the strategy Fauci adopted when we decided to discontinue our social and economic lives for "two weeks to flatten the curve," if you remember.  Masks likely weren't part of that discussion because it was generally assumed that after Americans spent two weeks "preventing exposure to the virus" and ensured that hospitals wouldn't be overrun with a massive initial surge of patients, the virus would then spread to others.

In other words, the virus was always expected to be spreading in these summer months.  Every day that we see a rise in cases while hospitalizations are manageable and deaths are trending downward, you could argue that this is actually good news, because the COVID hospitalization and fatality rate is plunging to new lows every day that happens, and we are nearer to the end of the pandemic.  

But that's not what you're hearing in the news, because this stopped being about science long ago. 

You'll hear a lot of talk among the pro-mask crowd about viral loads in a sneeze being captured by a cloth mask in some controlled environment as evidence that masking works, or some other talking point that they parrot in an effort to assign scientific credibility to their position.  But if masks truly worked in the real world, where, as Dr. Fauci once noted, people don't wear them right and constantly touch surfaces and then their faces to adjust them, we'd logically see some evidence that they work, wouldn't we?

Now's as good a time as any to point out that there are various reasons that this place or that one might fare better than another when it comes to dealing with COVID-19, but masks don't seem to be a significant factor.  Among the countries with the lowest observance of masking are the Nordic nations of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, all of which have populations in which 80 percent or more "never" wear masks in public.  Spain and Italy are on the other end of the spectrum, where more than 80 percent "always" wear their masks in public, and yet both have fared far worse than the Nordic countries.

There's a reason why Sweden, in particular, is an inconvenient comparison for progressives everywhere, and that's because it bucked the E.U. technocrats' hypothesis that social and economic lockdowns and masks were the appropriate response to the threat of COVID.  Interestingly, for all the progressives' talk about their devotion to science, they are openly against the one thing that science most requires — variables to test hypotheses.

Sweden was certainly taking a risk, and it appears to have paid off.  Daily new cases in Sweden are nearing zero.  Are they also nearing herd immunity?  It's likely too early to say, but while we certainly can't say most Swedes refusing to wear masks in public has led to this outcome, we can safely say this outcome had nothing to do with widespread adoption of masks. 

The mask mandates we are seeing are social experiments, not sound judgment based upon evidence, and the politicians supporting them are doing so out of cowardice.  You see, back in March, not only were mask mandates understood to be useless placebos by the world's top health officials like Fauci, but in America, they were politically untenable, too.  Outside a few far-left strongholds like Los Angeles and New York, a mask mandate was viewed as an imposition upon individual liberty that was a bridge too far for most Americans just a few short months ago. 

Today, the science on masks hasn't inverted, despite what you've heard.  What has changed is that in our desperate hope for a solution to our national misery, we've become conditioned to find comfort in the promises of mask routines, despite our knowing that they are little more than theatrics.

As such, mask mandates have become the politically safe option for politicians.

For example, consider the political decision involved in Texas governor Greg Abbott implementing a statewide mask mandate, despite having overruled 29-year-old Harris County Judge Lena Hidalgo's county-wide mask mandate only a few months before.  If circumstances get better in Texas, he can claim that it was the masks that helped toward that outcome.  If it gets worse in Texas, he can claim that it would have been even worse if it hadn't been for his mask mandate.  This is not a move rooted in science, but a move rooted in political cowardice and nothing more.

The opposite is the political courage shown by Brian Kemp in Georgia, who has stood nearly alone in refusing to issue a statewide mask mandate.  If it gets worse in his state, critics will cite the lack of a mask mandate.  If, despite his bucking the technocrats' recommendation, circumstances improve in Georgia, we can expect that its success, much like Sweden's, will be ignored as inconvenient and dangerous noise.

That's a significant risk to take.  But then, doing the right thing often is.

Image: MSNBC via YouTube.

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