Maskless in Washington

After a brief respite, the Capitol and surrounding areas are playing the mask game again. Count me out. My mother is 102 and infirm and I will wear a mandated mask to visit her in her senior residence as she and those living there are aged and extremely vulnerable. I wore one on a trip to Hawaii to visit my family whom I hadn’t seen in well over a year, although I knew this was preposterous. To go there we had to prove we were vaccinated and take a COVID test hours before we got on the plane where the air was rapidly exchanged (the entire volume of air every 2-3 minutes). My danger of getting COVID on that plane or giving it to anyone was zero, but I complied or didn’t get to see them. Even sillier the steward demanded that I lift my mask up after every sip.

In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser this week reinstituted masking to begin -- not by accident -- one day after her big maskless birthday bash, and was nevertheless seen a day later when the masking was required by her diktat, at a wedding without a mask on. Par for the course. I do not know of a single Democratic governor or mayor who ordered masking and lockdowns who did not break their own rule. (Rather like Climate Czar John F Kerry taking 16 private plane trips this year which use up far more fossil fuel than you will if you continue as you were driving your fossil-fuel car. “Flight logs indicated that his family's private jet spent over 20 hours in the air from February of last year to January -- eventuating in an estimated 116 metric tons of carbon emissions. 

For comparison, a March 2018 report from Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That calculation assumed a car that drives around 11,500 miles per year with a fuel economy of about 22.0 miles per gallon.”)

The Democrats are revisiting Medieval sumptuary laws. Instead of barring us peasants from wearing purple or pointed shoes, they are demanding we bike or bus masked while they party maskless and take private flights and, like the Obamas, plan a giant birthday bash with fellow aristocrats using private planes to Martha’s Vineyard to mix it up maskless.

This latest round is something I will not endure. I refused the mask at the hairdresser’s. I’ve canceled my in-studio workouts, which I enjoy, because exercising in a mask is in my view unhealthy and unnecessary. The apparatus in the studio are stationed at reasonable distances from each other, the equipment is sanitized after every use, everyone there is fully vaccinated. I feel bad for the owner who seems to face new obstacles every other week, but unless the firms in this area protest en masse, this nonsense will continue until they are all out of business. I have refused to enter any commercial establishment where masks are required except for one fifteen-minute trip to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. I have everything delivered, and if that means less revenue for the merchants, perhaps they will stand up against this preposterous, unscientific overreach by the CDC and local governments. (If you live where you cannot get groceries delivered, try to use the almost universally available service where you phone in your order and then drive by to pick it up. Again you won’t be tempted to impulse buy, merchants will feel the sting of these absurd policies, and just might get off their duffs to pressure local authorities to stop it.) To comply with the distancing rules in restaurants, whole lanes of traffic, already cut up for the handfuls of bikers, are now occupied by outside tables and chairs, making movement throughout many of the areas with such establishments very difficult, and their bottom line must show revenue falling. Inside seating is restricted and stupidly you must wear a mask when entering or leaving the establishment but can remove it as soon as you are seated. It’s like playing Simon Says where Simon is psychotic. 

Please read in its entirety this wonderful article by Ryan Bourne on the economic case against mask mandates, which I can only summarize here.

As the vast majority of the population can access something that mitigates their risk of getting and transmitting COVID-19 much more significantly than a mask, it is surely the case that we should now consider the majority of the external costs as “internalized.” Each individual now is the “lowest cost avoider” of harm. In non-economic speak: if people still want to roam unvaccinated, they should bear the elevated risk, and not expect others to be coerced into making sacrifices to (primarily) keep them safe.

In other words, after setting aside a period of time to allow people to get the vaccines, we should take the non-vaccinated folks’ decision not to be pricked as a willing acceptance to personally front up the infection dangers. Many will self-evidently change their minds if they see delta cases in their area surge. But burdening everyone in a territory with government-enforced mask wearing or even lockdowns again (as Krugman advocates) is unjustifiable when the vast majority of the benefits will go to those actively forgoing the most effective means of alleviating the virus’s effects.

Accepting this means acknowledging that this principle may result in more illness and death. In many areas with weak vaccination coverage, hospitalizations are surging. If the public health officials are right, then mask mandates would reduce cases and deaths in these cities. But provided these hospitals are not at risk of having their capacity exceeded, the case for personal vaccine responsibility, and government action instead concentrating on broadening vaccine availability to children while offering resources to protect the immunocompromised, is now much stronger relative to society-wide mandates.

I did get vaccinated and not without a lot of effort. Mayor Bowser refused people living in my ward, largely well-off white people -- from getting a chance at them until late, having shifted the priority for receiving the vaccines to minority wards where people are still refusing to take them.  “In the District of Columbia, Black people have received 43% of vaccinations, while they make up 56% of cases, 71% of deaths, and 46% of the total population…. The CDC reports demographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, of people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at the national level. As of August 2, 2021, CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for 58% of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two thirds were White (59%), 10% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, 6% were Asian, 1% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and <1% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, while 8% reported multiple or other race.”

The lockdowns were bad enough, an economic and social blunder of the highest magnitude. John Tierney lays it out most clearly, including the journalist’s role in fanning fear and supporting this nonsense. Again, I strongly urge you to read it all.

We still have no convincing evidence that the lockdowns saved lives, but lots of evidence that they have already cost lives and will prove deadlier in the long run than the virus itself.

One in three people worldwide lost a job or a business during the lockdowns, and half saw their earnings drop, according to a Gallup poll. Children, never at risk from the virus, in many places essentially lost a year of school. The economic and health consequences were felt most acutely among the less affluent in America and in the rest of the world, where the World Bank estimates that more than 100 million have been pushed into extreme poverty.

The leaders responsible for these disasters continue to pretend that their policies worked and assume that they can keep fooling the public. They’ve promised to deploy these strategies again in the future, and they might even succeed in doing so -- unless we begin to understand what went wrong.

He details the history -- it began with an outrageous estimate of fatalities from the Imperial College in London, which “was swiftly declared the “consensus” among public-health officials, politicians, journalists, and academics. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, endorsed it and became the unassailable authority for those purporting to “follow the science.” 

Scientists like John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford who argued against the lockdowns on scientific and commonsense grounds, met with a heavy backlash which the author details as journalists, scientists, and scientific journals in “herd mentality” ferociously attacked the dissenters.

To keep you under the thumb of the autocratic hypocritical officials, the press keeps lying about the situation in Florida where almost alone Ron DeSantis has been fighting for scientific responses and freedom.

Florida Governor DeSantis did not buy the Fauci-Birx line.

“DeSantis was an incredible outlier,” Atlas says. “He dug up the data and read the scientific papers and analyzed it all himself. In our discussions, he’d bounce ideas off me, but he was already on top of the details of everything. He always had the perspective to see the larger harms of lockdowns and the need to concentrate testing and other resources on the elderly. And he has been proven correct.”

If Florida had simply done no worse than the rest of the country during the pandemic, that would have been enough to discredit the lockdown strategy. The state effectively served as the control group in a natural experiment, and no medical treatment with dangerous side effects would be approved if the control group fared no differently from the treatment group. But the outcome of this experiment was even more damning.

Florida’s mortality rate from Covid is lower than the national average among those over 65 and also among younger people, so that the state’s age-adjusted Covid mortality rate is lower than that of all but ten other states. And by the most important measure, the overall rate of “excess mortality” (the number of deaths above normal), Florida has also done better than the national average. Its rate of excess mortality is significantly lower than that of the most restrictive state, California, particularly among younger adults, many of whom died not from Covid but from causes related to the lockdowns: cancer screenings and treatments were delayed, and there were sharp increases in deaths from drug overdoses and from heart attacks not treated promptly.

He notes examples from other countries which did not lock down and close schools as further evidence that these draconian measures were unwarranted. As for who suffered the most from these policies -- surprise -- it was not the elites, but the poor.

The brunt was borne by the most vulnerable in America and the poorest countries of the world. Students from disadvantaged families suffered the most from school closures, and children everywhere spent a year wearing masks solely to assuage the neurotic fears of adults. The less educated lost jobs so that professionals at minimal risk could feel safer as they kept working at home on their laptops. Silicon Valley (and its censors) prospered from lockdowns that bankrupted local businesses.

Luminaries united on Zoom and YouTube to assure the public that “we’re all in this together.” But we weren’t. When the panic infected the nation’s elite -- the modern gentry who profess such concern for the downtrodden -- it turned out that they weren’t so different from aristocrats of the past. They were in it for themselves.

All this nonsense reminds me of the movie Bananas where the dictator requires everyone to change their underwear every half hour and wear it outside their clothing so the authorities can check for compliance and all children under 16 are now 16. RESIST!

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