As an advocate of masking throughout much of the pandemic -- especially indoors, and especially pre-vaccine -- I was nevertheless struck by the fanaticism of certain fellow maskers, for whom wearing at least one face covering seemed more like a religious ritual than a common sense courtesy. Bizarrely, as the pandemic has begun coming to an end in the United States thanks to three safe and effective vaccines, many these people have dug in their heels, as if they are so committed to "science" that they don't want normalcy to return. It's hard to diagnose exactly what is motivating this outspoken subgroup; some of it may be a manifestation of various neuroses. Some of it may be an addiction to being obedient to powers that be (so long as the powers that be are telling them things that align with their self-created dogma). Some of it may be clinging to a sense of superiority over others, along with the accompanying scolding and hectoring. And for those who've felt empowered in some way over the past 14 months, some of it may be a desire to maintain that power.
Regardless, it's been hard to miss the dead-enders. They're the ones who've fought virtually every sensible and data-based effort to loosen restrictions, even well after the science clearly justified changes. They've raged at people who wanted to safely reopen schools, shouted at passers-by for not masking up outdoors, and flooded into social media comment sections to declare 'blood on the hands' of anyone who's dared to violate the tenets of their faith, no matter how justified the 'violation.' Today, they're the folks quaking in fear over, or angrily denouncing, the CDC's belated decision to treat vaccinated people like...they're vaccinated. The emergence of this cohort (seemingly disproportionately represented among white coastal progressives) became so unavoidable that even some center-left media covered the phenomenon, perhaps most prominently in a recent piece in The Atlantic entitled, "The Liberals Who Can't Quit Lockdown:"
Progressive communities have been home to some of the fiercest battles over COVID-19 policies, and some liberal policy makers have left scientific evidence behind. Lurking among the jubilant americans venturing back out to bars and planning their summer-wedding travel is a different group: liberals who aren’t quite ready to let go of pandemic restrictions. For this subset, diligence against COVID-19 remains an expression of political identity—even when that means overestimating the disease’s risks or setting limits far more strict than what public-health guidelines permit...Scientists, academics, and writers who have argued that some very low-risk activities are worth doing as vaccination rates rise—even if the risk of exposure is not zero—have faced intense backlash.
They love science so much that they are compelled to ignore real science in the name of felt science, and attack those who are relaying accurate information and making responsible (or even terribly delayed) policy adjustments. News outlets offer illustrations of how this warped mentality plays out in real life, beyond online fulminations. Here's a profile from Yahoo News:
Whenever Joe Glickman heads out for groceries, he places an N95 mask over his face and tugs a cloth mask on top of it. He then pulls on a pair of goggles. He has used this safety protocol for the past 14 months. It did not change after he contracted the coronavirus in November. It did not budge when, earlier this month, he became fully vaccinated. And even though President Joe Biden said on Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask, Glickman said he planned to stay the course. In fact, he said, he plans to do his grocery run double-masked and goggled for at least the next five years.
The man is wearing two masks and goggles despite being fully vaccinated, and despite having gotten COVID, even with his extreme measures fully in place. He says he plans to maintain the "safety" precautions (that didn't actually keep him safe!) for at least five years. If this is how he chooses to live, that's his business, but people like Glickman must not wield any power over the rest of us. If people insist on wearing masks, that's fine, but they shouldn't impose their outmoded and superstitious decisions onto anyone else. If deranged individuals like this man in San Francisco want to shame people for getting vaccinated and acting according to science, they can sit inside their homes and stop harassing others:
When the CDC finally updated its guidance last week to reflect the powerful and encouraging reality that the vaccines work spectacularly well, it was a long time coming for many of us. But among the maskaholic class, reactions ranged from fear to confusion to rage. Of course, it doesn't help that CDC leaders appear to be physically incapable of sharing coherent and clear messages with the American people. This, on Sunday, was ridiculous gibberish:
Pressed on the challenges in enforcing new mask guidelines, CDC Dir. Walensky says: "This is not permission for widespread removal of masks... these decisions have to be made at the jurisdictional level, at the community level." https://t.co/wbEM2Uitmk pic.twitter.com/gLIkZl1tdt— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 16, 2021
CDC Dir. Rochelle Walensky defends new mask guidance for vaccinated Americans, telling @MarthaRaddatz: "We now have science that has really just evolved even in the last two weeks that demonstrates that these vaccines are safe, they are effective." https://t.co/gpjJwNg0q7 pic.twitter.com/0t0SX6OmXN— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 16, 2021
What is she talking about? Of course it was "permission for widespread removal of masks," from a public health perspective. Here is what Walensky herself said on May 13: “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.” That's a green light. And why on earth is she suggesting that the science has changed "in the last two weeks" that helped top experts conclude that the vaccines are safe and effective? We've known that for months. Trying to backfill an excuse for why CDC raced from this hesitant, unscientific nonsense to something more reasonable in the span of roughly two weeks is not worth making a statement that implies the government's top doctors and scientists weren't really sold on the vaccines until just now. What's this now?
"There's no need for everybody to start ripping off their masks," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said today as she defended the agency's decision to ease mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people https://t.co/z0BYLxRdm0— WCBS Newsradio 880 (@wcbs880) May 16, 2021
I'm getting dizzy. And why is President Biden still wearing masks outside, especially after even Dr. Anthony Fauci finally stated unequivocally that outdoor masking wasn't necessary? I'll leave you with an update on "impending doom" and "neanderthal thinking" out of "death warrant" Texas:
Today Texas reported:— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 17, 2021
* 0 Covid related deaths--the only time that's happened since data was tracked in March, 2020.
* the fewest Covid cases in over 13 months
* the lowest 7-day Covid positivity rate ever
* the lowest Covid hospitalizations in 11 months.
Zero COVID deaths on Sunday, in the nation's second most populous state. The milestone was achieved less than three months after Gov. Abbott ended pandemic restrictions and lifted the mask mandate, prompting hysterical freakouts. The vaccines work incredibly well. The CDC is right to finally issue corresponding guidance, even if it triggers people who are strangely invested in endless pandemic fears and government edicts.