I thought masks were just about dead, or at least on life support

Oh they are still around and being enforced in some places. Found that out today at the dental office.

Granted I lack any form of medical degree. Still, it struck me odd that I was instructed to don a mask upon entry, but as soon as my fanny hit the chair I could remove, only to have people crawl inside my mouth. Sit up to walk out? Put the damn thing on again.

It’s like a basketball or football team that refuses to succumb to a foe that’s leading by certain surmountable margin but just refuses to give in and defiantly hangs around within striking distance. The mask…will not…go…away.

Jack DeVine is a retired nuclear energy executive. He is a 1965 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a nuclear submarine officer. He is a lifelong reader, an author, and a passionate observer of current events, and he writes a weekly op-ed column. I’ll add that he gets it, big time. DeVine writes:

As we tip-toe back to “normalcy,” one vestige of the painful pandemic keeps hanging around. It’s the MASK, the ubiquitous, irritating, virtue-signaling — and largely ineffective — COVID shield.

I suspect that years from now, when COVID anxiety is a thing of the past, the masks will be our most vivid, visceral memory — the protective measure that outlasted sanitizing sprays, two-minute hand-washing, social distancing, vaccination cards, and even lockdowns. Masks were the most visible, most pervasive, and arguably the most politicized of mandated COVID protective measures.

And they were the least effective.

After two years, the accumulated data on public masking speaks for itself. Rates of COVID hospitalization and death have been essentially the same in the cities, states, and countries that imposed strict masking requirements as in those that imposed none. Masking seems not to have helped at all, anywhere.

That’s no surprise. I’ve been a mask skeptic from the start — although an informed one. The idea that a loose-fitting piece of cloth draped over one’s nose and mouth can intercept much of any contaminant, inhaled or exhaled, contradicts all that I’ve learned in 50 years in the nuclear energy field. Entering a radiologically contaminated area (at the Savannah River Site, for example) the single most important rule of effective respiratory protection is to have an airtight seal between face and mask — rarely the case in every-day public mask wearing.

The downsides of mandated masking go far beyond inconvenience. Masks can carry germs as well as block them. They can cause skin and breathing problems. They muffle speech and hide facial expressions, making personal interaction difficult in all circumstances and disastrous for young school children.

For me, the tipping point came a month ago. For the first time since COVID, my wife Peggy and I scheduled a round trip coast-to-coast flight to visit family in California. From the moment of airport entry at one coast to airport departure at the other — about 10 hours each way — full-time masking was required. We thought that we’d left behind COVID craziness, but not in the friendly skies of United Airlines.

To their credit (they surely don’t like the mask rule any more than we do), the UAL staff enforced it relentlessly. Like high school hall monitors, flight attendants roamed the aisles reminding everyone that masks must be worn “over mouth AND nose.”

My wife and I eat together at nearly every meal. But in this antiseptically clean airplane, equipped with HEPA-filtered ventilation system, we were strictly enjoined to remain masked even when eating — allowed only to momentarily pull aside the mask for “bites and sips.” Seriously??

It’s always fun to bash politicians for doing dumb things, but there’s a larger point here. When a public policy, even if well intended, is found to be both ineffective and harmful, it should be revised or retracted. Hiding behind “abundance of caution” doesn’t cut it.

Faced with inconsistent requirements and conditioned by incessant finger-wagging, many people evidently feel safer wearing a mask and will probably continue to do so. That’s fine. But many also wrongly assume that those who disagree are simply selfish, unwilling to make even a small sacrifice for the common good.

COVID is not over. But happily, the worst is probably behind us.

And for certain, the mask mandate is a turkey, well past its “sell-by” date.

4 thoughts on “I thought masks were just about dead, or at least on life support

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