Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022
Almost two years into the pandemic and the masked messages are still mixed. When to wear them, whether to wear them, and even, what is a mask. Two years, and there seems to be lots of studies and no consensus.
In Dr. Michael Osterholm’s weekly podcast yesterday, called, appropriately, “A Pandemic of Lost Trust,” he pointed out (again) that one problem with mask mandates is defining an effective mask. For example: Material: cloth masks do not protect against the coronavirus. Fit: masks that gap around the edges, letting air pass through, do not protect against the virus. Wearing: masks worn under the nose–no protection. Age: There are no effective N95 masks fitted for young children. Just requiring “masks” — and here I am paraphrasing — is pointless unless they work. Especially with a variant as contagious as Omicron.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, stated in Wednesday’s White House briefing that decisions to lift mask mandates should be made on a local level, but offered no guidance for the local officials on which to base the decision. The CDC continues to state that, “Any mask is better than no mask.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the NAIID, stated that masks are one of the layers that make the school environment safe.
I can quote more. But you get the idea.
Almost any interview with an epidemiologist, and there are many, will provide vague advice on masks without specifying the kind of mask, who’s supposed to be wearing it, where (schools, casinos, ball games, coffee shops), and combined with what other mitigation (testing? Good ventilation? vaccination?). Reading studies doesn’t give much guidance either. 18 months ago there weren’t many studies. Now you can find a study to prove almost anything you want to prove. But if the study was done before mid-December, it wasn’t testing any masks against Omicron, which is really what matters now.
Eleven states have changed their statewide mask policies since Monday:
- California: Indoor mask mandate expires Feb. 15. Except L.A. County, for now. School still require indoor masks.
- Connecticut: Beginning Feb. 28, masks not required in schools and child care facilities.
- Delaware: Indoor mask mandate expires on Feb. 11. School indoor mask mandate expires March 31.
- Illinois: Indoor mask mandate expires Feb. 28. The state’s school mandate is being challenged in court.
- Massachusetts: School mask mandate expires Feb. 28.
- Nevada: Both indoor and school mask mandates expired on Feb. 10.
- New Jersey: Beginning March 7, masks not required in schools and child care facilities.
- New York: Indoor mask mandate expired Feb. 10 with many exceptions. School mask mandate still in place.
- Oregon: Indoor mandate and school indoor mandate expire on March 31.
- Rhode Island: Indoor mask mandate expired Feb. 11. School mask mandate expires March 4
- Washington: Outdoor mask mandate expires on Feb. 18. Indoor mandate and school mandate still in effect.
I would like to list the countries around the world that are lifting or modifying mask mandates and/or testing requirements in public and/or in school, but as you can see from this sentence, each country is picking from the menu of available mitigations. If you are traveling abroad or even in the U. S., you might want to check on the current rules.
Are we on the way to “normal”? No. The coronavirus is still active throughout the world. It can still surprise us. Plus the economic repercussions from the pandemic era are just beginning.
In the meantime, around the world, elected officials, school administrators, and individuals at large are making mask decisions as they see fit. I really don’t see what else they can do.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“America is removing its masks … again,” Axios, Feb. 10, 2022. https://www.axios.com/america-is-removing-its-masks-again-940af484-9c24-43e0-8d8e-664c603b5b1a.html
Episode 90: A Pandemic of Lost Trust, The Osterholm Update, Feb. 10, 2022 https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuY2lkcmFwLnVtbi5lZHUvY292aWQtMTkueG1s/episode/ODIwZDEyMmQtNGNiYS00OTYyLWFkNzMtODM0ODJhMTRkMjdh?hl=en&ved=2ahUKEwjV5_zV9_r1AhVilWoFHXShCMsQjrkEegQIAxAF&ep=6
“White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing,” Feb. 9, 2022. https://www.c-span.org/video/?517851-1/white-house-covid-19-response-team-briefing
“Here’s What Dr. Fauci Says on Illinois’ COVID Metrics, Masks and More,” NBC Chicago, Feb. 4, 2022. https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/coronavirus/heres-what-dr-fauci-says-on-illinois-covid-metrics-masks-and-more/2749767/
“Nearly a dozen states move to end masking mandates as COVID-19 infection rates fall,” ABC News, Feb. 10, 2022. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/dozen-states-move-end-masking-mandates-covid-19/story?id=82806903
Tear Off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Princeton University Press, 2005.
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be written on our memories just as the 1918 Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression, or the Cold War left their mark on past generations. Since March 11, 2020, this blog has examined the modern pandemic experience both in the media and in everyday life, drawing on my experience as a medical technologist, a historian, and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.