If Masks Work, Wear One -- and If They Don’t, Why Mandate Them?
This week, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the Biden administration's mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation methods.
Videos posted on social media showed airplane passengers cheering when told that the now tiresome face mask was no longer needed in the airport or on the plane.
YouTube screen grab
We have been masked up on public transportation for more than two years, with little scientific rationale for this new practice. It's the first time public health officials have recommended, then required, masking to prevent transmission of a respiratory virus. In fact, the CDC and WHO, early in the pandemic, did not recommend facial coverings, except for those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at higher risk.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the beginning of the pandemic,
There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams at that same time agreed, stating,
You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider. Folks who don't know how to wear them properly tend to touch their faces a lot and actually can increase the spread of coronavirus.
Yet the CDC insisted that we all wear masks. Were they following the science? Or political science?
Initially, masks were required at all indoor public venues but gradually these mandates were lifted. Many remember trying to work out at health clubs while wearing a mask. Or wearing a mask while walking through a restaurant, only able to remove it when seated, as if that made scientific sense.
Eventually, we did not need masks in restaurants, sports arenas, and shopping malls, but did on airplanes and in airports, despite the high-tech air filtration systems on planes and the fact that an airport terminal is often just as congested as a shopping mall.
A federal judge finally put an end to masks through her recent ruling. The media was outraged, saying the 35-year-old female judge, nominated by an elected president, confirmed by an elected Senate, was somehow illegitimate, constitutionally unqualified, and fraudulently practicing medicine.
As an aside, remember when Fox News’s Neil Cavuto, not a physician and fraudulently practicing medicine, weighed in on hydroxychloroquine with: “I cannot stress enough: This will kill you.” Apparently Trump-appointed judges and journalists are held to different standards when it comes to opining on anything medical.
Media caterwauling aside, the judge was ruling on the law, not the science. As Power Line Blog's John Hinderaker commented:
“The court accepted CDC’s claim that wearing masks would, in fact, retard the spread of covid. But that assumed fact does not constitute ‘good cause’ for proceeding without notice and public comment, or else that requirement would be a dead letter for any action undertaken by CDC.”
In addition, the CDC did not have statutory authority under existing law to mandate mask-wearing. The simple remedy would have been Congress granting such authority to the CDC through the legislative process. This should have been easy with Democrats, the biggest proponents of mask mandates and in control of both Congress and the White House.
But they did not, instead leaving it to a judge to remind the executive branch that they did not have unfettered power. This is a good example of checks and balances that the three branches of government have over each other, as we learned in grade school civics class and as enshrined into the U.S. Constitution.
How refreshing to see some pushback against an overzealous executive branch that has spied on political opponents and weaponized the justice and intelligence agencies to further their political agendas.
Shortly after the ruling, all major U.S. airlines dropped the mask mandate, much to the relief of passengers and flight crews tasked with enforcing these draconian rules. Videos immediately appeared of elated passengers and airline personnel giddy with delight over finally being able to show their faces and breathe, unencumbered by a face covering.
Those who want to wear masks are free to wear one or more, secure in their belief that masks will protect them from COVID and other respiratory viruses, while leaving other passengers, with vaccination and/or natural immunity, free to breathe and talk without a piece of cloth or fabric covering their nose and mouth.
Or look at it this way -- a simple dichotomy: Masks either work or they don’t. If you believe masks work and are protective, then feel free to wear one, regardless of what others do, and feel safe in the protection it provides on an airplane or in a busy terminal. If these masks aren’t protective and you don’t feel sufficiently safe wearing one or two masks, then why mandate them? It’s one or the other.
As a simple reminder, from a viral particle size perspective, masks also do little. The COVID virus is 50-140 nm, while the pore size in standard surgical masks is 300 nm to 10,000 nm. This is using a chain-link fence to stop mosquitoes. Which is why masks are no longer required in most venues, with public transportation being the last mask refuge because the federal government can flex its tyrannical muscles more in this arena than in the private sector.
Could the government appeal this ruling which they don’t like? It turns out they will, but with a caveat,
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will appeal the ruling that lifted the federal mask mandate on planes, trains and transit systems, pending a decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the order is still required for public health.
The caveat is if the CDC can make the case that masks are still necessary on public transportation. And they have, claiming, “requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health.”
The same CDC just two months ago said almost the opposite:
Most Americans are safe going without a mask in indoor settings, including in schools.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing Friday that the change reflects that the overall risk of severe disease from Covid is lower because of widespread immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection, improvements in testing, and accessibility to new treatments.
"We're in a stronger place today as a nation with more tools to protect ourselves," she said.
But with an upcoming election and Democrat electoral prospects looking dismal, is this the hill that Democrats want to make a stand and die politically on? If the Biden administration want to go back to masking, they should follow the proper process and pass a law rather than leaving it to unelected and unaccountable government agencies to rule by fiat.
Heading into the midterms, with a majority of Americans favoring ending airplane mask mandates, perhaps this would be a good campaign issue, along the lines of liberty versus tyranny. Let the Democrats make the case for endless masking and see how voters react.
Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., is a fully vaccinated physician and writer. On Twitter as @retinaldoctor. And on Truth Social as @BrianJoondeph.