Wednesday, November 23, 2022

No Mask Mandate

We need another mask mandate. But, Andre Picard writes, we're not going to get one:

Given the devastating impacts of the triple-headed monster – respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and SARS-CoV-2 – on children and pediatric hospitals, is it justifiable to have mandatory masking in public spaces again?

Almost certainly, yes.

Is it going to happen? Almost certainly, no.

Welcome to the frustrating incongruity of (post-?) pandemic life.

A mask mandate makes sense scientifically. But it’s pretty well a non-starter for political and social reasons.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we bought into masks:

Masking was widely embraced earlier in the pandemic – before vaccines, and before most people were infected with COVID-19 during one of the eight or so waves that have washed over the country.

But now the conventional wisdom is everyone for themselves:

People are largely sick and tired of pandemic rules and restrictions, even largely effortless gestures such as donning face coverings in public spaces.

The messaging around masks has also been confusing at best.

At the outset of the pandemic, we were told masking was to be avoided, that research shows masks make you touch your face and increase the risk of infection. Masks were for health professionals, trained in donning and doffing. Then came mask shortages, and the do-it-yourself era of cloth masks. (Who doesn’t have a box of those in the cupboard?)

Scientific consensus shifted rather quickly and soon masks were mandated in all public spaces. Except in schools, where we argued about the impact on learning, and whether kids actually get sick. (That question has been answered in spades.) Then we bickered about the relative merits of various sorts of masks, and where they should be used. Gradually, restrictions were lifted everywhere.

We can forgive the public for being a bit confused, or skeptical about masking and mask mandates. The messaging has been and continues to be all over the map.

Recently, politicians and public health officials have been doing a lot of “urging” about mask-wearing, but are backing it up with some contradictory role modelling.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford encouraged everyone to mask up in indoor public spaces, but he and most of his colleagues remained unmasked in the legislature. Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, “strongly recommended” masking, especially at indoor gatherings. Then he was photographed unmasked at a Toronto Life party.

Neither of those is a good look. But the reality is that masking is a personal choice, whether we like it or not. Public shaming is not an effective tool.

The new conventional wisdom makes it virtually impossible to solve the existential problems we face today. It's been almost a century since T.S. Eliot published his poem, The Hollow Men. If he published the poem today, the last three lines of the poem would read:

This is the way the world ends,

This is the way the world ends,

It's everyone for themselves.

Image: YouTube


Anonymous said...

Picard is wrong on almost all counts. Most people are not confused by mask mandates. They understand that public health recommendations changed as our understanding of Covid evolved. The pandemic has repeatedly shown that public shaming is an effective tool against all but the stupidest and most recalcitrant. The problem is that politicians and public health officers like to think the rules don't apply to them and so they choose the path of least resistance, putting the health of others at risk. Or, as Yeats put it:
<>iThe best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Owen Gray said...

Point well taken, Cap. In Ontario, at least, hypocrisy rules the roost.

Trailblazer said...

I guess the truckers and Poilievre won the day?


Lorne said...

Personally, Owen, I think the recalcitrant need to answer but one question: Do you, or do you not, care about the well-being of the youngest, the oldest and the most vulnerable amongst us?

Owen Gray said...

It certainly looks that way, TB.

Owen Gray said...

That's precisely the question, Lorne. And the answer is abundantly clear.

James Turley said...

BREAKING: The Washington Post now admits it’s not a pandemic of the unvaccinated & vaccinated people make up a majority of Covid deaths…

Owen Gray said...

The virus keeps evolving, James. Wearing a mask is a small inconvenience. COVID is not going away.