Wrong questions and right ones

by | Sep 15, 2021 | coronavirus, Editor's Blog | 4 comments

Republicans arguing against coronavirus mitigation efforts have been consistently dishonest, ignorant, or both. For instance, one columnist from National Review posted a chart showing the rate of deaths from COVID by state, starting from January 2020. The top ten were a mix of Democratic- and Republican-run states. The writer, Charles C. W. Cooke, tweeted that public policy made no difference in the spread. (As I searched for his tweet, I found that he deleted it, but at the time, it had been retweeted hundreds of times.)

Among the states, were New York, New Jersey, and several in New England where the virus hit first and spread quickly. With no mitigation efforts, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocketed, dominating the first wave in April 2020. Since that first wave, Republican governors in places like Florida and Texas have resisted efforts to curb the spread of the virus and their rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have consistently dominated the ten most affected states over the most recent wave. Clearly, the mitigation efforts of mostly Democratic governors and legislatures work to save lives. You can decide for yourself whether or not Republicans like Ron DeSantis are responsible for people dying, but they clearly aren’t responsible for keeping more people alive.

We’ve been hearing for a year from conservative commentators and elected officials that masks don’t work to curb the spread. Now, we have real-time comparisons. In Union County, the school board has allowed masks to be voluntary while in neighboring Mecklenburg, masks are required. The infection rate in Union is about four times higher than the rate in Mecklenburg.

The evidence indicates that masks make a difference to reduce the spread, but even if the evidence weren’t so clear, why are Republicans and conservatives so hell bent on fighting mitigation efforts? Despite their tired rhetoric, few of the measures taken are dramatic or unusual. Vaccine mandates have been with us since the Revolution. George Washington required the Continental Army to be vaccinated against small pox. Every school requires a series of vaccinations for students to attend. And conservatives have been the leaders of school dress codes that really aren’t that different from mask mandates. They want students to cover their asses, but not their faces.

All of that said, conservatives and others are asking some questions that need to be answered. Specifically, when will the pandemic be over? What metrics will allow us to drop mask mandates? In short, when can we return to normal? Governor Cooper and Secretary Cohen need to offer some answers here. So does Joe Biden.

We are probably never going to eradicate COVID, at least not in the foreseeable future, but we can reduce the risk and vaccines do that. We have finally reached the point where the disease is no more dangerous than the flu, which kills about 35,000 people year, for vaccinated individuals. According to recent studies, the chance of vaccinated people contracting the virus is about 1 in 5000. The chance of hospitalization or death are much, much lower. I’ll take my chances with those odds and I’m ready to put away my mask.

Now, public officials like Cooper, who has done a great job protecting us, need to lay out the end game. We’ll be coming out of the latest wave soon and hospitals will begin to recover from being overburdened. That said, areas with lots of pro-COVID Republicans will continue to see spikes. Our policies moving forward should be directed toward them, not those of us who have been responsible. The policies moving forward should be targeted, not broad.


  1. cocodog

    The risk is not entirely being created by folks who arrive here by trains planes and buses. Moreover, they are less likely to carry the disease as many of these transportation companies have instituted protective measures.

    There are folks in this state who believe vaccines and masks represent “liberal” thinking. They view folks who act reasonably to protect themselves, their family, and the community by getting vaccinated and wearing masks as being ante Christian. I have heard there are some (not all) religious leaders encourage folks within their parish not to take these precautions. These folks are the reason we wear masks.

  2. Peter Harkins

    Are masks perfect? No.
    Are they really effective? Define “really”.

    Washington Post article https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/09/09/masks-randomized-study-bangladesh-covid/ albeit last week, and about a study of 600 folk in a set of villages in Bangladesh (okay, not Wake County, but …).

    I quote a single paragraph:

    “The results were striking. Our interventions tripled the proportion of people wearing masks: 13 percent of people wore them in the control villages, 42 percent in the “intervention” villages. This in turn led to a 9 percent reduction of community-level symptomatic coronavirus infections. Villages where surgical masks were distributed appeared to be especially protected — an effect concentrated in the most vulnerable populations. We found that surgical masks averted 1 in 3 symptomatic infections among those aged 60 and older.”

    Not nearly as effective as jabs – but should we argue against perhaps a 9% reduction in a primary school because of “personal freedoms”? Likely considerably higher than 9% if the mask rate could approach 85-90%.

    • cocodog

      It has been a long time since I took logic, but off the top of my head, there is something illogical about your statement and accompanying proof. On its face it makes no sense. I believe what is missing are those superseding intervening events, like failure to properly wear the mask and allowing non-sterile objects (hands) to remove and replace the mask.

  3. Norma Munn

    Yes, I am tired of my mask, but as long as people can travel here by plane, car, train or bus from areas with a lot of non-vaccinated people, I will wear my mask. It is foolish to assume that folks in NC can act as though the rate of vaccination in other states is not relevant to what we must do to protect ourselves and those among us who cannot be vaccinated. Break through cases for those vaccinated are also increasing in some areas although the severity of the disease is still greatly lessened. You also ignored the waning of the protection of the vaccine and the need for booster shots, which have barely started.

    I would love an “end game” but right I do not think it is in sight, or at best barely so.

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