Mask Mandates Ending Across America

Even liberal states like California and Massachusetts are moving on.

As noted a few days ago in “Shifting Gears on COVID,” my home state of Virginia is among several that are removing mask mandates and other protective measures against the pandemic—seemingly as much in reaction to public frustration as to “the science.” As promised during the campaign, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order on his first day in office allowing parents to opt their kids out of public school mask mandates. Many school districts, including the one where my kids go to school, sued on the grounds that a state law passed by the Democratic legislature and signed by the previous, Democratic, governor last year required schools to follow CDC guidelines. Yesterday, with a handful of Democratic crossover votes, the law was repealed, allowing parents to opt out starting March 1st.

NYT (“A new Virginia law will end school mask mandates and limit remote instruction“):

After weeks of back-and-forth, Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, a Republican, signed into law on Wednesday a bill that will effectively bar mask mandates in schools, by giving parents the right to exempt their children from mask-wearing without stating a reason.

“Today, we are re-establishing and restoring our power back to parents,” Mr. Youngkin said as he signed the bill into law. “We are also re-establishing our expectations that we will get back to normal, and this is the path.”

The bill will also take away school districts’ freedom to close schools and switch to remote instruction, except in limited circumstances. It requires that every district provide in-person instruction for “the minimum number of required annual instruction hours” in a standard school year, or else face financial penalties.

The state legislature accepted amendments added by Mr. Youngkin that make the law effective on March 1, giving school districts that have tried to maintain mask mandates some time to adjust. They also give the governor the power to waive the bill’s provisions in an emergency.

As to “the science,”

The daily average number of new coronavirus cases in Virginia has fallen by more than 80 percent from the peak of the Omicron surge in mid-January, though it remains higher than at nearly any previous point in the pandemic, other than the surge a year ago, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations, including those in intensive care units, are also declining, but remain high, averaging nearly 2,000 patients.

The database, alas, does not show what percentage of those are school-aged children, much less those who are fully vaccinated (as both of mine are) much less boosted (as my 13-year-old is). 76% of Virginians 5 and over (and 91% of the over-65 population) are fully vaccinated.

The CDC is currently recommending masking for all schoolchildren and every indication is that it won’t change any time soon. Then again, CDC also recommends that people, even those who are vaccinated and boosted, wear masks in most public, indoor settings and few are mandating compliance. The few remaining states and localities that still had them are dropping masking and proof-of-vaccination requirements left and right. Both California and Connecticut had their mandates expire midnight Tuesday. The latter went further than Virginia’s, lifting masking requirements for teachers and staff, not just students—but also allowed local districts to impose them; Virginia does not have that option.

Perhaps even more telling: New York City’s new Democratic Mayor Eric Adams is urging businesses to end remote work for the good of the economy. Hell, Coachella is going to be held in April with no mask or vaccine requirements.

A last holdout, oddly, is the Defense Department, which employs both myself and my wife. It requires masks in all facilities unless in a single-person office. Even though our workforce is essentially 100% vaccinated, there’s no indication that the requirement will end any time soon.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    A last holdout, oddly, is the Defense Department, which employs both myself and my wife. It requires masks in all facilities unless in a single-person office. Even though our workforce is essentially 100% vaccinated, there’s no indication that the requirement will end any time soon.

    My understanding is the mask requirement is driven by the level of community spread in the county in which your office is located. If that drops below “significant” the masks can come off. At least that’s how my agency is doing it.

    2
  2. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I do think they need to rethinking the threshold for masking but the public needs to stop thinking of this in enduring terms.

    No one says: ‘Lets get rid of umbrellas’. You need them when it rains. Masks should be mandated when its “raining” high Covid transmission and not used when its not.

    12
  3. Kathy says:

    America to continue its love affair with COVID.

    10
  4. Tony W says:

    In California, where I live, our hand is somewhat forced by the governor’s unwillingness to play by his own rules. He has been photographed numerous times “cheating” the masking and isolation rules, to the point that there is incredible pressure on him to simply remove the mandates altogether.

    Leadership matters and I am very disappointed in Gov. Newsom. I predict he will be primaried, as many left-leaning folks like myself require more intellectual honesty and consistency in our leaders.

    12
  5. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: @Jim Brown 32: I agree that it makes sense to base decisions on what the virus is doing. But, despite most Americans—and pretty much all of the oldest Americans—being vaccinated 96.34% of counties in the country as at High and 2.27% are in Significant. People just aren’t going to mask forever.

    @Kathy: Is most of the developed world mandating masks still?

    5
  6. Cheryl Rofer says:

    This time it will surely work.

    11
  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    That is entirely too sensible a position to ever be adopted 😀

    7
  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    WATBs.

    3
  9. Mu Yixiao says:

    The CDC is currently recommending masking for all schoolchildren and every indication is that it won’t change any time soon.

    CDC to release new guidance on masking as early as next week.

    With national cases of COVID-19 dropping precipitously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon release new guidance on how states and local governments can ease out of health restrictions, including indoor mask wearing.

    1
  10. KM says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    I’d change that to high transmission of any contagious airborne virus aka flu season. Let’s face it – there’s no reason for the country to have a wave of illness so predictable it’s scheduled when we can easily just pop a piece of fabric about our face. If you’re unvaxxed (COVID/ boosted, that year’s flu shot, etc) then masks are required from Oct to March when transmission is high. I’d say for the timeframe in general but I doubt that would go over well. Do a rolling 7 days mandate and announce at the beginning of the week if it’s active or not. Get the public into the habit of checking like you’d check the weather – is it a masking week or not? Better keep the mask in your pocket then!

    7
  11. SKI says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Yup. Was coming in to post this.

    CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky “said during a White House briefing that the government is contemplating a change to its mask guidance in the coming weeks.” Noting the “recent declines in COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths, she acknowledged ‘people are so eager’ for health officials to ease masking rules and other measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

    @Jim Brown 32:

    I do think they need to rethinking the threshold for masking but the public needs to stop thinking of this in enduring terms.

    The challenge is the perception of the current prevalence and spread. As James noted in the OP, right now we are down 80% from the Omicron height but higher than at any point in Delta. Are we low or high? The perception is that we are in a low period but the reality is that we are very much elevated.

    4
  12. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m astonished that people keep missing the point of vaccines and masks. It’s not about your risk, it’s about everyone’s aggregate risk.

    Everyone can transmit the trump virus, whether they are symptomatic or not. The solution is to vaccinate everyone and keep masking at all times, until the virus has no more hosts to infect. Protecting only those at higher risk is not enough.

    9
  13. ptfe says:

    @SKI: Indeed, this is “Take 3” on the End of COVID. Remember all the agitation in fall 2020 about getting back to normal? Remember when we all decided it was fine to go inside last summer? I believe the saying is, rumors of the end of COVID have been greatly exaggerated.

    I won’t believe we can treat it as “no more than a flu” until the next wave doesn’t pile right on. Give me 6 months of actual low transmission. Hell, I’d take 4. We’re literally on the downslope of the latest wave.

    4
  14. charon says:

    Based on what I posted earlier in the open forum, this looks to me like a noisy minority getting its way.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FLwB8UlXIAk5e3f?format=jpg&name=900×900

    Just how popular are indoor mask mandates? A recent poll from the COVID States Project (conducted end of December-end of January with 22,000+ respondents) found that 69% of Americans approve of indoor mask mandates, with majorities in all 50 states.
    http://covidstates.org/mask-mandates

    The range:

    52% – ID

    57% – TN

    80% – CA

    80% – NY

    3
  15. R. Dave says:

    As we transition to this “high community spread but no mitigation” phase of the pandemic, I wish there was a straightforward way to determine what the actual risk of symptomatic infection / hospitalization / death is for my elderly but fully vaxxed parents, since it’s now more or less certain they’ll be regularly exposed.

    2
  16. charon says:

    @SKI:

    The challenge is the perception of the current prevalence and spread. As James noted in the OP, right now we are down 80% from the Omicron height but higher than at any point in Delta. Are we low or high? The perception is that we are in a low period but the reality is that we are very much elevated.

    I base behavior on the Maricopa County data I get here:

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/maricopa-arizona-covid-cases.html?searchResultPosition=1

    New cases most recent 3 days average 1200/day – compared to 7-day average over 2000/day throughout November and December.

    So – no longer shopping once/week only early Sunday morning, back to more often and anytime, considering Omicron lower hospitalization and death rates too. Still masking though – I’d guess maybe half the other shoppers I see still do.

    2
  17. charon says:

    I think this is complicated by conservative virtue signaling – showing off their conservatism by not masking.

    6
  18. MarkedMan says:

    This is more out of frustration than anything else, but I have to say that anti-maskers are your classic belligerent jerks, devoid of any common sense or common decency. The reason for this outburst? I attended a funeral yesterday and the viewing beforehand was surprising well attended, and a fair number of attendees were quite elderly and in poor health. There was exactly one person that was unmasked. This burley, bullet headed tool proceed to take up station next to the eldest and most frail person attending and yammer at her for half an hour. He may have nodded to someone in the immediate family on his way in but he never talked to any of us. I asked around and no one knew who he was. Needless to say, he didn’t show at the mass or at the cemetary chapel.

    2
  19. grumpy realist says:

    If the decline in cases continues most of Cook County here in Illinois plans to remove the indoor public masking rule by the end of February.

    Dunno what we’re going to do here–we’re under a different jurisdiction and it wouldn’t surprise me if we kept the masking rules around a bit longer, considering the average age of our residents.

  20. Modulo Myself says:

    Given that you can walk into a coffee place in NYC and see people with dangling masks drinking coffee and baristas pulling their masks up to come to the counter to take your order (all without having to show your passport) it’s pretty hard to know what even functions as wearing a mask to conform to a mandate. Some of this stuff is just so personal–I know two people with MS. They’re both vaccinated. One is very cautious and deliberate. The other is traveling to surf towns in Central America. In the end, you can’t force people to be shut-ins and phobics for two years if it’s not in their nature. Just not happening. I think this is playing out across the board, and the idea that there’s a way to enforce wearing masks everywhere indoors is just not happening. You can do airports and subways, i.e. the worst public spaces imaginable. But everywhere else will trend back to normal, unless there’s another surge that is worse than Omicron.

    3
  21. Slugger says:

    I remember seeing passengers arriving from Asia at big airports with many voluntarily wearing masks in years past. The world works by people having a high sense of comity or by lots of regulation. We have diluted any sense of mutual obligation in our society; yet abhor regulation. Is this attitude going to work?

    3
  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    Unless/until a new deadlier variant comes along, masking is over.

    We can argue about it all day, but it doesn’t matter, compliance rates are dropping through the floor and the 10-20% who will hold out longer aren’t going to do anything to slow the spread to unvaccinated people. And if they’re vaccinated they’re also doing just about nothing to change the odds for themselves. I live in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles – very liberal, mostly well-off – and three weeks ago, when we’d walk the dog, we’d see people wearing masks outdoors. Now no one is masking outdoors.

    Masking always had a ticking clock attached to it, sooner or later people were just going to say fuck it, I’m vaxxed, I’ll take my chances. People just won’t continue masking absent something scarier than Omicron.

    4
  23. de stijl says:

    I wear a mask in public indoor areas. Will continue to do so.

    It’s prudent. It benefits both me and you. Also, I am not obliged to wear my annoying dentures. Win – win.

    5
  24. Scott says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I’m vaxxed, I’ll take my chances.

    It’s always about risk assessment. That’s why the arguments are so annoying. The choices are not binary and never have been. Even during the height of this pandemic whether it was the beginning, middle, or end, I never wore a mask outside while walking the dog or some other activity because I judged the probability of COVID acquisition as very low.

    Right now the probability is low and, if you’re vaxxed, the consequences are moderate to low. And people are behaving, for the most part, appropriately.

    4
  25. MarkedMan says:

    I actually have a lot of sympathy for the CDC. In a way, they have two tasks. First, they present the science and data on health issues to state and local public health departments and work with them to develop best practice guidelines. Second, they communicate these best practices to the public directly. In normal times, the first is 99% of their task, since almost all public interaction with that science and messaging comes at one or more levels removed, meaning that the general public hears from their local PH department, or another level removed through their physician, or school or place of business or via a local health department inspector. Basically, in normal times the average Joe pays zero attention to what the CDC is saying.

    Another thing is that the mission is actually split into two parts that only overlap in odd ways. “The science” is everything known and provable about a public health issue. The messaging, on the other hand, is what is effective in mitigating or eliminating that public health issue at the population level. For instance, the science of mask wearing is very well proven, and that is why surgeons and other medical personnel wear masks. But the public health efficacy of a general population mask wearing campaign was barely researched at the time and what little research that did exist seemed to indicate it would not be effective. Coupled with the fact that there is a large body of good experience that leads public health departments to absolutely not start campaigns that they know people will not comply with, and the whole masking effort was always going to be a mess.

    2
  26. R. Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Masking always had a ticking clock attached to it, sooner or later people were just going to say fuck it, I’m vaxxed, I’ll take my chances. People just won’t continue masking absent something scarier than Omicron.

    Yeah, I’ve been convinced for a while that the only thing that would actually work here is civil liability for employers whose employees catch COVID at the office unless that employer requires indoor masking, vaccination, etc. For employers, getting repeatedly sued is just about the only thing that qualifies as sufficiently “scarier than Omicron” to establish and actually enforce a real masking and/or vaccination requirement. Governmental mandates are far too unlikely to have teeth or be enforced to have the same motivating effect as the prospect of lawsuits.

    2
  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott:

    people are behaving, for the most part, appropriately.

    Indeed, and that’s a problem for people on the Left who can no longer really call the maskholes crazy. We are past the tipping point and in a few weeks it’ll be the maskers who look crazy, and the longer we carry on, the more we’ll end up validating the genuinely crazy anti-maskers. Got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.

    2
  28. just nutha says:

    The daily average number of new coronavirus cases in Virginia has fallen by more than 80 percent from the peak of the Omicron surge in mid-January, though it remains higher than at nearly any previous point in the pandemic, other than the surge a year ago, [emphasis added]

    Whateves. Hope you and yours stay healthy. My county has lost count of how many new cases we’re having, but we are up to 6 out of 10 fully vaccinated and an additional 9/10ths of a person with one shot, so we’re good to go back to normal. Living in a red county is great! 🙁

    2
  29. Dude Kembro says:

    @James Joyner:

    Is most of the developed world mandating masks still?

    The developed world has universal healthcare coverage, paid family leave, some form of free college, sensible gun controls, and fully vaxxed rates over 80%.

    In the US we have zero of that, because a majority of the majority keeps finding excuses to vote for right wing lunacy and lies (this year’s excuse is “woke hurt my feelings on Twitter and Facebook”). In the US, suggest canceling student loan debt and even your supposed center-left allies will start screaming and yelling profanities. It would be canceled already in the rest of the developed world.

    In most of the developed world, the candidate with the most votes wins. In the US, Hillary Clinton is considered an iredeemably bad candidate for getting 3 million more votes than Trump. Meanwhile, we’re lectured on why why we must empathize with those who supported this bigoted, pathological lying tyrant Trump.

    So we can’t compare the United States to “most of the developed world.” The US can’t do what they do because our politics is controlled by the selfish and unserious.

    Imagine Angela Merkel running for president in the US. The US: “Is she likeable? Can you have a beer with her? Let’s check her email usage.” Stupid!

    14
  30. DK says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I fear what the CDC is about to do. The CDC should not base its guidelines on anything other than science, data, and research. To cave and cater to politics and “I’m done with COVID!” is a mistake.

    Local officials have legitimate additional considerations that sometimes supersede raw data, so they can and should use, ignore, and/or adjust the CDC’s guidelines as appropriate for their jurisdictions — and maybe the Biden administration should say that.

    But it’s not a good look for the CDC to change evidence-based guidelines to make people feel good.

    5
  31. R. Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We are past the tipping point and in a few weeks it’ll be the maskers who look crazy…

    That may well end up being the popular perception, but I don’t think it’s correct as a matter of risk assessment. Per my comment upthread, it’s not easy to find out what the specific risk of hospitalization/death would be for my 80-year old father if he gets infected, but I recall a stat from the Delta wave that a vaccinated 80-year old had roughly the same risk as an unvaccinated 50-year old, which is pretty significant. Combine that with how infectious Omicron is, and it’s reasonably likely that if my dad goes around maskless he’ll catch COVID at some point and face the risk of hospitalization/death equivalent to that 50-year old anti-vaxxer nutjob. I don’t think it’s “crazy” at all for him to wear a mask to avoid that, nor do I think it’s crazy for me to wear a mask when I’m out and about so I don’t end up catching COVID and giving it to him.

    7
  32. inhumans99 says:

    @Tony W:

    Yeah, while I am glad we did not end up with Larry “Trump/DeSantis/Abbott” Elder as our Governor due to the attempted Recall of Newsom, some of Newsom’s actions during the pandemic have had me shaking my head.

    He should know better, but CA is not immune to having many residents, usually super-rich or politicians, who are quick to talk about the rules that we should all follow, but you wouldn’t know it from their actions that the rules they lecture us Californians about being so important to follow to help out our fellow citizens are the same rules they should be following. They very much like to say do as I say, not as I do, which can be frustrating to experience.

    That is one thing that is universal to politicians in all 50 states, GOP or Democratic, they all like to talk about the rules we should be following but for some reason only think the rules apply to everyone else but themselves.

    3
  33. Franklin says:

    It’s all risks and benefits, and people are going to have honest disagreements about it. I live in a very liberal area, but the county health department just said schools can optionally end mask mandates. Our school system declined that offer.

    Yes, school districts without mask mandates have had significantly more outbreaks. But there are all sorts of well-documented harms from masks to children’s speech development and mental health. Is that worth the relatively tiny risk of Covid to kids? What about their families that they bring it home to? Hard questions!

    But some people would have us masking forever. Sorry, but expecting people to do that is as naive as libertarians who think everybody makes rational decisions at all times. You’re trying to fight human psychology, and it is no longer working.

    1
  34. senyordave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We are past the tipping point and in a few weeks it’ll be the maskers who look crazy
    Then people like you can go up to people like my wife, who wears a mask anytime indoors because she has lymphoma, and tell her she’s crazy.
    It was the left that was correct about covid, not the right. These weren’t a bunch of far-left types, just people with common sense who listened to the medical community.
    I never understood why anyone would actually have a problem with someone wearing a mask.

    9
  35. Kathy says:

    Suppose you get in your car one morning and it’s very very cold. So as you drive, you turn on the heater and keep the windows closed. After a while it warms up, you’re no longer shivering, and feeling good.

    So naturally you turn the heater off and open all the windows. Then you’re surprised it gets bitterly cold again and you feel lousy.

    7
  36. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Better to keep your mask on and be thought crazy, than to take it off, catch COVID, and remove all doubt.

    8
  37. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I reject your framing.

    I am totally fine with masking up personally. Whether others do or do not is not my business. I’d prefer if they did, but, again, not my business.

    I am not making a political statement by masking even after the mandates ended, I am doing what makes me comfortable.

    Recently, I needed a new phone so I had to go to the store at a strip mall. I paused to mask up before entering and a passerby volunteered that it was no longer necessary. My reply was a non-committal “whatever” or something.

    I should have said that it is not your business and please fuck off.

    9
  38. Gustopher says:

    Let’s Go, Covid!

    2
  39. Mu Yixiao says:

    @DK:

    The CDC should not base its guidelines on anything other than science, data, and research.

    If you read through the article, you’ll see that’s what they’re doing. Rather than just reacting “instinctively”, they’re going to be defining metrics which determine what actions should be taken at which times.

    That’s both based on science (cause & effect) and political smarts (give people real reasons and let them know when it’s going to end and they’re more likely to follow instructions).

  40. Mikey says:

    what they think. @de stijl:

    I am not making a political statement by masking even after the mandates ended, I am doing what makes me comfortable.

    This. I haven’t had a cold or flu in two years. I like that. I might keep some KN95s around for flu seasons going forward.

    And so far nobody has offered a good reason why I should give a shit what the anti-maskers think.

    8
  41. Jen says:

    Hahaha on Mayor Adams’ attempt to get people back into the city.

    With low unemployment, employees are calling more shots than employers are accustomed to, particularly in tech. Employers demanding to have people in-office are being told to pound sand.

    I’m sure the dynamic will shift again at some point, but begging CEOs to demand they bring their workforces back into offices, just so that NYC stores and restaurants can get their foot traffic back is not going to get the traction he’s hoping for.

    2
  42. Kathy says:

    @Mikey:

    I’m onboard, too. Not only do I intend never to get COVID, but I’ll make the effort to never again catch even a cold (still not sure if I’ve ever had the flu).

    Naturally this will mean masking at least seasonally, as well as getting annual flu and COVID shots*. It’s worth it.

    * I’m no longer uncertain about the need for anual shots for COVID, at least in the medium term (ie 25-50 years). What I’m not sure is whether we’ll need just one, like the flu, or two. Not only because immunity wanes, as it does against flu as well, but because the trump virus is not seasonal like flu.

    3
  43. Andy says:

    I’ve been super busy without much time for commenting, but wanted to quickly note that here in Colorado, state-wide mask mandates ended last May (except for specific situations like health care and elder care), and authority for mandates flowed to counties and municipalities. The places that kept mandates in place are now rescinding them.

    At least here in Colorado, it’s not clear how well the mandates have actually worked, but demographically and geographically similar counties have very similar death rates despite some having mandates and others not.

    Where I live, we haven’t had any general mandates since the state mandate ended. Despite that, I’d estimate that about half to 2/3 of people wore masks in stores and other indoor public places during the delta and omicron peaks, based on my own observations. When I traveled to the Denver area, where mandates were in force, I saw a lot more masking, but a lot of it tended to be what I would characterize as theatrical compliance that is minimally effective. This is one reason why I think the death rates aren’t that different.

  44. de stijl says:

    @Andy:

    “theatrical compliance”

    Check your bias.

    4
  45. grumpy realist says:

    @Jen: My agency was sending out quite a few questionnaires earlier about what to do when COVID finally dies down and we can conceivably go back into the office. Would we want to go back?

    At least 75% of the response was HELL NO. So it looks like we’re keeping with the telecommuting. And I can stop having to wonder whether I have to sell my place and move to the DC area.

    (I suspect that next attempt by companies and gov’t agencies is going to try to remove the regional cost of living stuff–or state that hey, you can always move to a low COL location in the US so here’s your lower salary offer.)

    1
  46. DK says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Reassuring, thank you.

    @de stijl:

    I am not making a political statement by masking even after the mandates ended,

    I am. Masks have already been de facto optional and discretionary in Los Angeles for months, so when I mask it’ll often be so I’m not mistaken for a Trump supporter. *shudder* /sarc

  47. DK says:

    @Mikey:

    I haven’t had a cold or flu in two years. I like that. I might keep some KN95s around for flu seasons going forward.

    Masking during cold/flu season has long been normal in some Asian communities. Like, the government didn’t need to mandate anything. Like, in their own heads, some people thought, “I don’t want to get sick or get others sick. I’m going to wear a mask today when I [insert appropriate masking situation here].”

    No drama. No clownvoys. No “I’m done with the flu!” No goverment involvement. No screaming at school boards. Just critical thinking and unselfishness. Figured out by themselves, on their own accord.

    Americans who don’t travel are convinced we’re the best the world has to offer. Lol okay.

    4
  48. EddieInCA says:

    @Mikey:
    @de stijl:

    This. I haven’t had a cold or flu in two years. I like that. I might keep some KN95s around for flu seasons going forward.

    This is EXACTLY where I am. For the last 20 years, I’ve flown an average of more than 50K miles per year, with several years working in Miami causing me to fly more than 125K miles for several years. I got colds and flu regularly. I haven’t had a cold or flu since March of 2020. I freaking LOVE that.

    Places I will continue to mask:

    Airplanes.
    Grocery stores
    Movie theatres.
    Live Theatre venues
    Sporting Events – even those outside – if I’m packed into a crowd.
    Concerts

    I’m doing it purely for myself. Everyone else can do what they want. I’ll protect myself best I can.

    7
  49. R. Dave says:

    @de stijl: @Andy:

    “theatrical compliance”

    Check your bias.

    What bias? I’m guessing he’s referring to things like people wearing a mask with their nose hanging out in order to give the appearance of complying with the requirement but in a way that renders the mask largely ineffective. “Theatrical compliance” seems like a decent descriptor for that kind of thing to me.

    5
  50. EddieInCA says:

    @Mikey:
    @de stijl:

    This. I haven’t had a cold or flu in two years. I like that. I might keep some KN95s around for flu seasons going forward.

    This is EXACTLY where I am. For the last 20 years, I’ve flown an average of more than 50K miles per year, with several years working in Miami causing me to fly more than 125K miles. I got colds and flu regularly. I haven’t had a cold or flu since March of 2020. I freaking LOVE that.

    Places I will continue to mask:

    Airplanes.
    Grocery stores
    Movie theatres.
    Live Theatre venues
    Sporting Events – even those outside – if I’m packed into a crowd.
    Concerts

    I’m doing it purely for myself. Everyone else can do what they want. I’ll protect myself best I can.

    6
  51. de stijl says:

    @grumpy realist:

    We use teleconferences or videocalls to resolve most everything. Have done so for decades.

    The need for face to face is wildly overstated. Pick a random worker in a big corporation and most of them will have a teleconference meeting daily. At the office or at home, nobody cares.

    One thing about face to face is serendipity. I am dealing with this problem and I am stuck, and colleague helps you see it a different way. That is really great and a huge boon.

    I noticed it enough that I used to incorporate into my shtick. I would ask colleagues what they were stuck on. Sometimes I could offer proper advice, but by asking someone to succinctly describe the issue would very often offer them the insight to figure it out as they were describing it.

    Plus it was a neat networking gambit.

    We are not going back to pre 2020 work habits. Some hybrid solution will win out. Workers have figured out that they are in demand and many of their skills are fungible and transferable. The burden is now on the employer to keep good people.

    3
  52. Andy says:

    @de stijl:

    @R. Dave:

    What bias? I’m guessing he’s referring to things like people wearing a mask with their nose hanging out in order to give the appearance of complying with the requirement but in a way that renders the mask largely ineffective. “Theatrical compliance” seems like a decent descriptor for that kind of thing to me.

    Yes, thanks, that’s the kind of thing I was mentioning. There was a LOT of dick-nose. Or really shitty thin and loose cloth masks. Or people pulling masks down to have conversations or talk on the phone. Masks worn down on people’s chins until a customer comes in. I have to wonder how many employees in non-public areas bothered with masks at all.

    And this is before even getting to some of the dumber rules, particularly regarding bars and restaurants – you’re supposed to wear a mask entering a bar or restaurant and when getting up from the table to go to the bathroom but you can be maskless at your table.

    Point being, mandates are only good to the extent that the rules are coherent and there is actual compliance as opposed to pretend compliance.

    2
  53. de stijl says:

    @R. Dave:

    I was going at the notion that people only mask up because they are virtue signalling.

    Maybe some folks do that. I don’t know. That would be weird and unproductive.

    It was Andy’s unstated assumption.

    2
  54. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    The big problem is that too many companies can’t actually measure the value of their employee’s outputs, and so monitoring activity has become a replacement for monitoring achievement. Much like the insistence on open plan offices even though all the research says it hurts productivity, businesses will insistence on returning to the office because they want to be able to see what everyone doing.

    3
  55. de stijl says:

    @Andy:

    I apologize.

    I took “theatrical compliance” as meaning performative and not as half-assing it.

    4
  56. Jon says:
  57. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I used to manage a team where we’re responsible for x where x was not quantifiable.

    The job was not n queries per day, it was how can we make this process better / easier. It made annual review time a real bear. OM effing G, I hated annual review time.

    Eventually, I figured out that avoided lost time could be a metric. Every bad boss wants metrics. Never work for a person like that.

    2
  58. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    I think the issue is more “bad metrics for the sake of metrics” rather than metrics per se, because having no metrics whatsoever creates BS like “i need to be able to see that everyone is working hard”.

    On some level, if there is truly no way to measure the difference your work is having on the company, why do it at all?

    2
  59. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    That is very valid. Metrics are not bad per se. Often, very illustrative.

    In certain endeavors what you are doing is very hard to quantify, so you have to invent them. We settled on avoided lost time and engagement percentage.

    I had to literally invent metrics because my MBA boss wanted / needed them.

    1
  60. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    The other thing to remember is Goodhart’s law (“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”), specifically as it relates to the annual review part of your complaint.

    1
  61. de stijl says:

    The most metrified task I ever had was being responsible for rolling out updates of existing software to desktops, laptops.

    It was extremely quantifiable. Base was 105,000 or thereabouts.

    I did not actually do anything but liase. My role was to monitor, and sometimes reassure folks that if the push wrecked their existing process we had a absolute fool-proof roll-back plan.

    I was nominally in charge of the process where I did nothing and contributed next to nothing. I asked a lot of questions and probed. Weighed ripple effects. Reassured people.

    I relied on the core team to nail the IT details and a risk analyst to gauge potential workflow disruptions if we broke something – some process.

    We went fairly conservative and always with a roll-back plan. Initial targeted roll-out. Planned, careful.

    Still, stupid high risk and no reward.

    1
  62. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “When a measure becomes a target”

    Back in the the day I used to work for a big bank rhymes with Bells Largo. Got the pants sued off them because associates gamed the bonus system by creating bogus accounts using real people’s identifiers. Including mine.

    Bad metrics / bad targets can result in a very bad behavioral outcome. You are incenting illegal behavior by dangling a possible bonus. Hello, Wall Street bonus incentives!

    If you measure new accounts as the metric and tie it to a bonus, people will game that.

    1
  63. just nutha says:

    @R. Dave: I’m working under the same assumptions as you are relative to your father. I will not be joining with my congregation in worshiping unmasked next week. I don’t think that’s a wise choice for “something to try out” as I recall it being expressed when announced.

    I will also not be joining everyone for coffee hour, but I didn’t do that before Covid either, so that’s no as much of a change.

    1
  64. just nutha says:

    @Mu Yixiao: The CDC knows when the pandemic is going to end? That IS good news!

  65. Andy says:

    @de stijl:

    I apologize.

    I took “theatrical compliance” as meaning performative and not as half-assing it.

    I appreciate you saying that and I wasn’t offended by your comment at all.

    I was going at the notion that people only mask up because they are virtue signalling.

    Maybe some folks do that. I don’t know. That would be weird and unproductive.

    It was Andy’s unstated assumption.

    I can’t really tell if someone’s behavior is from virtual signaling or not, but I think it’s much easier to tell who, in the context of a mask mandate, is taking it seriously and who wasn’t.

    In my own area, where masks are not mandated, the people who choose to wear them generally do not half-ass it. When I went to places where there was a mandate, there was definitely more masking, and many people not half-assing it, but most of the rest were clearly half-assing it. That’s what I meant by “theatrical compliance” which, in hindsight, wasn’t the best word choice so your assumption was understandable.

    3
  66. Mu Yixiao says:

    @just nutha:

    Predict? No.

    But… being the top agency in charge of pandemics, I’d say they’re qualified to recognize it when it happens.

    While they haven’t released their new guidelines yet, what I’ve read says that they’re going to be setting thresholds or benchmarks. So… At X metric, we have Y systems in place.

    1
  67. just nutha says:

    @DK: I’ve joked with people here that Covid-19 did what 8 years of living in Korea couldn’t with regard to wearing masks. (Masking was common during the yellow dust storms season, but less so during flu season, and yellow dust didn’t trigger any breathing problems for me. Too used to good ol’ Murkan smog, I guess.)

    1
  68. Andy says:

    In good news, my sister’s memory care facility is now “strongly encouraging” visitors to wear N95’s, which they provide. And cloth masks are not allowed. Staff still wear surgical masks, but they do get tested twice a week.

    2
  69. de stijl says:

    @Andy:

    Thank you for being gracious.

    1
  70. just nutha says:

    @Jon: Yeah! I know that’s a great relief to me! 😉

    And in another few weeks expect “New lab experiments from Japan…” to turn into “the Japanese manufactured this so they could force more vaccination and mask mandates on us.”

    2
  71. de stijl says:

    @Andy:

    I have been on the outside looking in at two people in Alzheimer dementia. Grandmother and mother.

    Sorry to hear that your sister might be experiencing that. It is truly heartbreaking.

    1
  72. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Eventually, I figured out that avoided lost time could be a metric. Every bad boss wants metrics. Never work for a person like that.

    I’m of the opposite camp — If it’s not worth measuring, it’s not worth doing.

    If there’s no good metric (customer impact, legal compliance…), let it fail. We’ll find a good metric if it matters.

    This attitude seems to put about half my bosses on edge as I don’t just shut up and do what I’m told.

    3
  73. Kathy says:

    Everyone understands that hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators. Not everyone gets it that case numbers are a lagging indicator of infections. That is, it takes a few days between infection and symptoms (if any).

    If a new, more infectious variant begins to circulate among the diminishing case numbers, you won’t know it until numbers begin to rise (there’s the lag).

    Granted the odds of a new variant arising in your area are small,a and granted there may be some notice from wherever it arises, but keeping a good quality mask on lowers your chances of being among the first to get it.

    1
  74. Michael Reynolds says:

    Obviously people with compromised immune systems should keep masking up. But there’s no way to avoid this being a political statement, even if one does not intend it to be. People can talk a good game but in the end peer pressure will shift or already has shifted and in a few months people masking will look like freaks. Most of you will cave then. That’s not meant to be insulting, just a fact of life.

    I’m going to Europe in May. I’ll observe all plane requirements and local mandates, but I’m not going beyond that. I learned long ago to maintain an even strain and not to let myself be defined by fear. I’m not living the rest of my life with a mask, and the way many of you are talking, you don’t have an end game. You don’t have a way out. That won’t be tenable for long.

    2
  75. de stijl says:

    One thing I learned during the stint of being responsible for pushing out software upgrades is that there are rogue “applications” everywhere.

    Some smarty pants saw a localized parochial issue in their work realm and devised a clever solution. Take a portion of a data feed and manipulate it in Access or sometimes Excel to yield a better result than the previous process.

    Often they were ancillary quality of life improvements and not core processes, but I was taken by the sheer amount we uncovered in risk analysis. Smart people inventing a bootstrap solution to a problem that becomes embedded into the local process and quite often does not get mentioned in contingency plans.

    It makes sense. Custom application deleopment is hard and very costly. Cost-benefit apportionment rules apply. IT folks are in short supply.

    One thing that I did that I was pretty proud of was to how contingency planning was laid out / reported and that any bootstrap / wildcat application had to be documented.

    When I was junior I did the exact same thing. Took a process and optimized it. Grabbed a bit of a data feed and used it to solve a very parochial problem. Got praised for it. Got promoted because of it.

    But when you are responsible for updating software enterprise wide those wildcat apps can be kneebreakers. We cannot allow that process to fail. They don’t realize it per their contingency planning, but it actually is core. At least mitigate the effect.

    And we cannot fuck it up. Wheels within wheels, big brain risk analysis. X impacts L, Q, and W. Figure it out.

    1
  76. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    My wearing a mask in a public indoors is an easy choice for me. It harms no one and potentially makes my life better. Hopefully, prevents me from infecting someone else if I am shedding.

    You are projecting. I don’t have a plan. I am doing what works for me, and doing what I am comfortable with. I am certainly not trying to shame you.

    In my head I am not making a political statement by continuing to mask in public indoor spaces. It is my choice and I am not doing a civic wrong.

    You might interpret that as being so, but that is a you problem and, frankly, I do not care.

    I will continue to wear a mask when at the grocery store, etc. Deal.

    6
  77. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Who needs an end game?

    A friend of mine likes to say “all’s well that ends”and thinks it’s pretty deep and delightfully cynical. But nothing really ends. Things just change.

    There’s no going back. Things have changed. You either adapt, or you suffer.

    There’s a highly contagious, novel virus out there, causing death and disability. It’s smart to take precautions when the case counts are high.

    Be smart or don’t. Adapt to life as it is, or don’t.

    But it’s not fear, or fashion or performative wokeness to take precautions when called for.

    A friend lives in a county where the case rate is 9.x per 100,000. Right now, my county has a rate of 370 per 100,000 — dropping, but still high, and our hospitals are near capacity. We face different risks, and will have different responses right now.

    That’s what the endemic Covid world looks like. That’s what we live with now. Two years from now, things may be very different. Better treatments for Long Covid, or half of humanity dead from a terrible mutation. We might have no masks ever after, or be wearing pressurized suits and boiling the dead for food after we steal the bodies from feral raccoons. Most likely something in between.

    But clinging to a memory of the past and stubbornly trying to pretend that it’s the present won’t work. Whether it’s a memory of a time before an endemic virus, or black people knowing their place, or whatever … it’s just conservative revanchism.

    The Buddha had a story of two arrows, both of which cause pain. The first arrow is a metaphor for a literal arrow that has punctured your body. The second arrow is a metaphor for a metaphorical arrow, and represents your attachment to the previous state of not having been shot with an arrow. You treat the first arrow by seeking appropriate medical attention before you bleed to death or it gets infected or whatever. You treat the second arrow with acceptance (that you have been shot with an arrow, that you live in a world where people shoot each other with arrows, that you are maimed for life, etc.).

    Most Buddhist stories are awful, by the way.

    4
  78. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I used to throw darts a lot. Still do. Picked it up from a group of friends that were a bit obsessive about it.

    It was fascinating. The correct and proper arm motion during the throw. Stance. Weight distribution. Weight transfer. Utterly fascinating. We got serious about it.

    We played 301 until daybreak for days obsessively.

    Some of the folks started to bring Zen Buddhism into to equation, which kinda makes sense. You are actively throwing a dart at a board. Aiming, willing a thing from your hand to the target. State of mind was a definite thing.

    Emptiness and freedom from desire was a good state. If you are super trying to chuck a 180 (three triple 20s with three darts) it is far less likely to happen than if you just let go and throw it true. A life lesson in dart form.

    We were eating a lot of magic mushrooms back then.

    Zen and darts go together really well.

    1
  79. Andy says:

    @de stijl:

    I have been on the outside looking in at two people in Alzheimer dementia. Grandmother and mother.

    Sorry to hear that your sister might be experiencing that. It is truly heartbreaking.

    Thanks, and yes, it’s terrible. My sister is only 67, she has frontotemporal dementia (FTD) which tends to strike people at a younger age, sometimes in their 50’s.

    1
  80. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But there’s no way to avoid this being a political statement, even if one does not intend it to be.

    I can’t control what someone else infers. I like not ever getting a cold and if someone wants to believe it’s a “political statement” for me to wear a mask to avoid getting a cold, that is both entirely beyond my control and entirely not my responsibility.

    1