Masks Biggest Factor in US Coronavirus Debacle

We were much slower and have higher non-conformity than countries that have it under control.

A scathing Washington Post report finds that, “At the heart of dismal U.S. coronavirus response, [is] a fraught relationship with masks.”

Reporters Griff Witte, Ariana Eunjung Cha, and Josh Dawsey begin with an anecdote. While I tend to skip over those in my excerpts, this one is particularly illustrative:

Mike DeWine had blazed a trail in March with his forceful response to the coronavirus pandemic, rapidly shutting down his state to protect it from the worst ravages of disease.

A month later, Ohio’s governor made what seemed, by comparison, a modest proposal: If businesses wanted to reopen, customers and employees would have to wear masks.

The backlash came instantly. An avalanche of abuse on social media. Calls from anguished citizens. Angry recriminations and threats.

The next day, a chastened DeWine backed down. Asking people to wear a mask “is offensive to some of our fellow Ohioans,” the Republican declared somberly. “And I understand that.”

It would be three months — plus tens of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths — before the governor would try again.

Now, one could counter that DeWine should simply have issued an order under his authority as governor, whining be damned. But it’s awfully hard to impose something as personal as mask use on a hostile public. Indeed, even in places where local law and/or store policy requires use, we’re constantly seeing violent confrontations with those angry at the insistence.

The mask is the simplest and among the most effective weapons against the coronavirus in the public health arsenal. Yet from the start, America’s relationship with face coverings has been deeply fraught.

Faulty guidance from health authorities, a cultural aversion to masks and a deeply polarized politics have all contributed. So has a president who resisted role modeling the benefits of face coverings, and who belittled those who did.

The result, experts say, is a country that squandered one of its best opportunities to beat back the coronavirus pandemic this spring and summer. In the process, the United States fell far behind other nations that skipped the fuss over masks, costing lives and jeopardizing the recovery heading into the fall.

“Some countries took out their masks as soon as this happened,” said Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist from the University of California at San Francisco, “and their rates of death are very low.”

In a coronavirus response that has been full of missteps and unforced errors, delayed acceptance of universal masking, Gandhi said, may be the single biggest mistake the United States has made.

While the temptation in all things is to blame Trump’s poor leadership, the quip about masks being “politically correct” linked above is from May 26–a month after DeWine’s order. No, sadly, it was our experts who failed us.

In interviews, elected leaders, health specialists and mask advocates say it did not have to be that way — and very nearly wasn’t.

The country hit a tipping point on widespread mask use only this month, with a majority of states and the nation’s largest retailers all mandating them. But the science has long been pointing toward the efficacy of masks — even if the guidance from health authorities wasn’t.

In February — as the virus silently spread in communities from coast to coast — both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against face coverings for healthy members of the general public. They urged that masks be preserved for front-line health-care workers, especially amid global shortages of personal protective equipment. It was a line repeated by top officials in the Trump administration.

CDC Director Robert Redfield was asked in February whether healthy people should wear masks. His answer to Congress was unambiguous: “No.”

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, repeatedly told Americans “there is no reason” for anyone in the United States to wear a mask. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted on Feb. 29: “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!”

That was simply outrageous. It was untrue. They had to know it was untrue when they said it.

My understanding has always been that they were responding to a panic buying of N95 and other medical personal protective equipment and trying to ensure that first responders and health professionals were able to get them. But, if that was the concern, they could have just urged people to wear cloth masks and save the specialized ones for those who really need them.

Still, there was more to it.

The health officials had made their recommendations based on the flawed assumption that the bulk of transmission was taking place from people with obvious signs of illness. The thinking was that if people with fevers, coughs and other symptoms were to isolate, case counts would remain under control.

But it wasn’t long before CDC contact tracers began to find evidence of “silent” spreaders. One report in late March, from a skilled nursing facility in the Seattle area, found 13 asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic patients among 23 residents who tested positive.

Many experts backed the anti-mask guidance, arguing they weren’t sure face coverings would make a significant difference. They were worried masks could make people less disciplined about social distancing.

I do remember that argument. And, while it seems like this thing has been with us forever, March was still early days.

Still, we were laggards in this debate.

But some, including George Gao, the director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the United States was making a “big mistake” by not mandating masks.

Zeynep Tufekci, an information science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, examined the emerging evidence and knew that hand-washing and isolating the obviously sick wouldn’t be enough. If people were spreading the virus before they had any symptoms, “that’s huge. It’s a whole different ballgame.”

Going against both the CDC and the WHO felt like heresy at a time when few mainstream scientists were. But she decided she had no choice. The case that masks could slow asymptomatic spread was compelling. The arguments against — particularly the idea that people might hoard medical-grade masks, when cloth ones could easily be made at home — would only feed resentment.

“If you’re paternalistic and you don’t treat the public as a partner, what you end up with is mistrust and polarization,” said Tufekci, who laid out her views in a March 17 New York Times op-ed. “That’s not how you do public health.”

Across the country, data scientist Jeremy Howard was reaching a similarly against-the-grain conclusion on masks. A specialist in artificial intelligence at the University of San Francisco, he had no background in public health. But he knew how to interpret numbers.

“I had never personally worn a mask in my life. I thought they were kind of weird,” he said. “But I had vaguely heard they could maybe help a little bit.”

When he examined the data — particularly from Asia, where masks had become commonplace during the SARS outbreak and were then put to work in the fight against the novel coronavirus — it was overwhelming. In Europe, too, the evidence was persuasive: Masks had become widespread within days in the Czech Republic, thanks to a campaign among cultural influencers. Transmission rates soon fell.

“I was just stunned,” Howard said. “It seemed pretty likely that this was the most effective public health tool that we had.”

Howard put his argument for members of the public to wear do-it-yourself or other store-bought cloth masks into a March 28 piece for The Washington Post. Senators were calling the next day, asking for private briefings. One of them, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), was so impressed he vowed to make the case to the president.

Those op-eds both came out more than four months ago. Before DeWine’s order. So, why didn’t the message take hold then?

The White House was receptive, but only to a point.

Inside the administration, there had already been weeks of debate on masks at the coronavirus task force level without a decision on what to recommend to the public.

In the last week of March — as the official case count was approaching 100,000 — the CDC presented what was then considered a radical proposal to the White House, recommending routine masking by the public. Senior administration officials, particularly members of the vice president’s office on the coronavirus task force, pushed back, arguing it was unnecessary.

The new guidance was somewhat of a compromise. It encouraged — but did not require — people to cover their faces in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

On April 3, President Trump stood at the White House podium and issued the recommendation. “It may be good” advice, he offered. But he immediately undercut the guidance by announcing he would not be wearing a mask himself.

“Somehow sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk” as he met with “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens,” Trump said, “I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself.”

Initially, some Trump aides said they did not like the idea of him wearing a mask publicly because they believed it would be bad politically and make the president look weak. They thought it might lead others to panic or think the pandemic was worse than it was. There were also fears among some in the president’s circle that his supporters would rebel against anything that smacked of a government directive.

So, by late March, the debate had been ongoing “for weeks” without decision. And they ultimately settled on a tepid compromise that was confusing. (See, for example, my March 31 post “Wear a Mask. Maybe.” which had the subhed, Conflicting guidelines from the CDC are unhelpful.

Further, while I’ve long presumed Trump’s reluctance is a major contributor to the politicization and hostility behind this issue, the opposite may well be true.

Among some of Trump’s most ardent fans, anti-mask insurrections were already brewing. In dark corners of the Internet, mask conspiracy theories took shape. On the steps of state capitol buildings, activists shouted their objections to a masked attack on “liberty.”

Some of the president’s advisers, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, expressed repeated skepticism of masks and whether they made a difference, campaign and White House officials said. Trump campaign masks were produced and presented to the president but never sold. Some aides were fearful of selling merchandise he did not wear and appearing to profit off a pandemic, officials said.

“The President’s position has been consistent on this,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said in a statement. “In late March, before there was even a recommended but not required guidance given by the CDC on mask-wearing, he supported facial coverings.”

The last is just bizarre gaslighting; Trump has been wildly inconsistent on the issue. But the hostility seems to be visceral and organic, not sparked by his example.

Which brings us back to Ohio.

With little hope for progress at the White House, Howard had begun to make his data-based case for masks to the governors, focusing especially on Republicans who had shown a willingness to embrace a scientific approach to attacking the coronavirus. DeWine was at the top of his list.

The 73-year-old Ohioan had won plaudits from public health experts for the speed with which he shut down gatherings, businesses and schools in March when the coronavirus began to spread in the state. Cases stayed low, even as the economic damage rippled.

As pressure intensified on DeWine to reopen the state in late April, the governor seized on a mask requirement in stores and other businesses as a way to do so safely.

Masks would not be “forever,” the governor announced April 27, “but if we want to get back to work, we have to protect our employees.”

Within hours, as protests over the governor’s assault on “freedom” poured in, DeWine knew it had been a mistake that would need to be reversed.

“After 40 years of representing Ohioans in many different jobs, I’ve got a pretty good ability to gauge these things,” he said in an interview. “And with the pushback we got, my instinct was that this was too far.”

Unlike closing schools — which could happen with the stroke of a pen — requiring masks would involve getting “millions of Ohioans making individual decisions dozens of times a day.”

And unlike in Asia — where DeWine had traveled pre-pandemic and seen the widespread use of face coverings to ward off disease — there was no culture of mask-wearing for public health benefits in the United States.

The president’s unwillingness to set an example by wearing a mask didn’t help.

“I would have liked to have seen the president do that,” DeWine said.

Also unhelpful, the governor said, was guidance from some public health authorities that continued to be contradictory, even as the science behind masks became increasingly clear.

Studies suggesting masks could be effective in curbing the risk of transmission continued to accumulate. But the WHO — which has been criticized throughout the pandemic for being slow to respond to emerging data — took until June 5 to issue a mask recommendation for the general public. Even then, it was tepid and full of asterisks, with the global health body insisting the change was consistent with its original guidance.

The WHO and CDC have really failed us. But, still, other countries managed to figure this out well before June 5.

U.S. officials have been more forthright in acknowledging their advice has shifted, arguing it was in response to shifting data.

“If you acted on the best information you had at the time and then later you get new evidence that points in a different direction, does that mean what you did three months ago was wrong? Well, existentially, yes it was. But it was based on the evidence we had at the time,” Fauci said in an interview Friday.

I’m fully sympathetic to the notion that, with a “novel” virus and incomplete information, the experts are going to be wrong with some frequency. All they can do is go with the best evidence they have.

Should they have known that wearing a mask was a good idea by the time the virus hit our shores in mid January? Probably.

Should they have known better than to send out adamant orders that there was “no reason” to wear a mask by mid February? Absolutely.

Yet, even when they finally got around to reversing course on the last day of March, they did so tepidly and poorly.

So, yes, what they did three months ago was absolutely wrong. Unforgivably wrong.

Once policy did shift, Fauci said, medical officials were united in getting behind the new recommendation. But other senior administration officials weren’t on board.

“That was a problem,” he said.

Trump was foremost among those who weren’t interested in promoting masks.

When, in late May, he toured a Ford plant in Michigan where masks were required, he refused to put one on in front of the cameras. “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” he said.

Over Memorial Day weekend, he retweeted a mocking criticism of his election opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, for wearing a mask.

Obviously unhelpful. The antithesis of good leadership.

But, again, while I’d like to put it all on Trump, I don’t think the connection to what follows is that strong.

Videos began going viral as Americans squared off on what to do about customers in stores who refused to mask up. Social media groups devoted to casting doubt on their efficacy proliferated. Face coverings had become debate points in the U.S. presidential campaign and potent symbols in the culture war.

Public health specialists could only shake their heads.

The debate radiated through big cities and small ones as the coronavirus began a resurgence in June, with many areas that had dodged the first round of infection getting hammered this time.

I don’t understand where this comes from. I find wearing masks uncomfortable. Even more so when it’s 97 degrees and humid. It’s stifling. And, if one wears glasses, it’s even worse.

But it’s never made me angry. I see wearing a mask as an inconvenience I have to bear to make others feel safe. I dislike it. But I don’t resent it.

And, indeed, it may well be that the maskholes were always a distraction—an incredibly loud, angry, but miniscule minority.

Joplin had no active cases at the start of June. Weeks later, the city of 50,000 in southwest Missouri had one of the nation’s fastest rising infection rates.

For five hours in late June, the city council debated whether to mandate masks, only to defeat the motion by a single vote.

Two weeks later, with hospitals hitting their capacities, the council voted again. This time, the mask mandate passed 6 to 3.

Mayor Ryan Stanley was among those who changed his mind. He had initially thought that a mandate was unenforceable and that, in a deeply conservative, pro-Trump region, it would only encourage defiance. But when he visited local businesses the weekend after the requirement kicked in, he was astonished by what he saw.

“We were getting 15 percent adoption before. I was crossing my fingers and hoping for 50 to 60 percent,” he said. “But now it’s at 90 to 95 percent. It’s certainly doing its job.”

Stanley said mask opponents had been loud — staging noisy demonstrations and dominating the debate. But they hadn’t actually been that numerous.

Public opinion polls bear that out, with large majorities of voters overall favoring mandates, although Republicans are less supportive.

Policies have begun to match those attitudes. A cascade of states — including Ohio — have instituted requirements in recent weeks, with DeWine identifying compliance as critical to the state’s hopes of bringing down infection rates and opening schools.

Major retailers such as Walmart have as well, making shopping trips difficult without a mask.

Evidence shows the mandates are working.

“There were seat belts in cars for decades. There were lots of public service announcements, people saying, ‘Wear seat belts’ ” said David Keating, who worked with Howard to found the nonprofit advocacy group #Masks4All. “But it’s when the law started requiring it that seat belt usage soared.”

In the DC exurbs of Northern Virginia where I live, compliance has been pretty high since the governor ordered wearing of masks in indoor public places back in April. Indeed, almost everyone has a mask on—although there are still too many who wear it in a manner that does no good. I’ve lost patience with people who wear it around their necks such that it doesn’t cover their nose. (And, oddly, I’ve even seen healthcare workers doing this.)

Even Trump has started wearing a mask.

We’ll see if the wave of rising infections and deaths finally changes the overall culture on this issue. It seems like a relatively small ask.

I don’t, alas, expect us to go full Asian on this issue, even though they’re obviously on to something. Imagine if people routinely wore masks during cold and flu season. Even if it was just people who were symptomatic, it would save a lot of lives.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, COVID-19, Health
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. Cheryl Rofer says:

    James. it’s disheartening to see someone as intelligent as you proffer the argument that public health experts should have known all along what we know now. I’m not going to refute your points one by one, just will ask you to learn how science works.

    1. This was an unknown virus that nobody had ever seen before. In November 2019, we knew literally nothing about it.

    2. Science works on “the best information we have now,” not on hard building blocks of absolute fact that are handed down from on high. Mask recommendations, so far as I can see, have been based on the best information at the time, balanced with the practicality of the mask supply.

    3. The public health experts of March were unable to take information from July and fold into it the best information they had then, as you are doing when you say that countries that used masks early have had better outcomes. And is that even true? Science requires evidence, not just a general feeling. If it’s true, what other measures did they put in place? How did they affect the outcome?

    Some people wanted masks from early on. By and large, they were working on feelings – Asians do it, why not us, seems good to me. It is true that if we had used masks from early on, we would be better off. Or maybe not. The current surge is from loosening restrictions too early because so many people wanted haircuts and massages and to go to bars. Maybe that would have happened anyway.

    And, as long as we are trading in counterfactuals, if we had a president who actually wanted to end the pandemic rather than take advice from doctors who believe that gynecological problems come from sex with incubuses, we would have saved a great many more lives.

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  2. Jen says:

    The damage was done early on, and members of the public who are suspicious of the media and experts in general are exacerbating the problem.

    Suggesting that masks weren’t effective never made any sense to me. If it was done to reduce panic-purchasing by the general public, this massive error needs to be taught in communications and PR courses as a cautionary tale.

    I am STILL having people repeat comments made by Fauci and others that masks don’t work, masks are ineffective, etc. Along with the standard warnings on the side of every box that state masks aren’t 100% effective–clearly done to keep people from investing too much faith in the infallibility of masks (and genuinely needed, considering how many idiots I see with their mouths covered but noses exposed)–there are a substantial number of “mask truthers” out there.

    Assuming that the American public has the ability to parse scientific data is apparently a fool’s errand. I keep thinking this is the same nonsense that landed us in the climate change denial boat: people expect scientific understanding to be cast in stone and perfect from the time of first reporting. That our understanding changes as more data comes in seems to be completely beyond a percentage of our populations’ intellectual capacity.

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    I work every day on equipment used by our customers to test N95 masks (among many other types of filters) all over the world. And while the US is expanding capacity I’m fairly certain a good portion of that extra capacity, if not all of it, is going overseas. There is still no plan to ensure the US has adequate masks and gowns and other PPE.

    NO PLAN.

    Kushner is “in charge” of this effort and he has made it clear hist strategy is a) let the miracle of the free market magically produce PPE for all, and b) conduct government contracts and allocations in total secrecy, with unknown manufacturers and distributors reaping the profits.

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  4. Northerner says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    It would have been fine if the public health authorities had said they didn’t know if wearing masks would help or not. But they made much stronger statements: that wearing masks was harmful. There were no studies showing that, it was just a suspicion on their part about people’s habits.

    In Canada there’s been a number of people strongly against wearing masks (and there’s no political angle to it here), and much of it is based on the WHO and Dr. Tam (Canada’s chief medical officer on it) saying wearing masks was dangerous. Once that got out its been very hard to change some people’s minds (if nothing else they say the medical authorities may end up switching their minds again next month, so why take a chance that it might end up being dangerous). That could have been avoided simply by the WHO and Dr. Tam saying they didn’t know if masks were helpful or harmful with Covid-19 (how could they know either way, no studies were done)?

    Given the lack of studies regarding masks and Covid-19, I can’t help but suspect they came out saying it was dangerous because they were trying to conserve masks, and didn’t think through what would happen if they had to change their opinion later on.

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  5. Kathy says:

    There’s something else at work.

    There are people who think more or less like this: Only sick people take medication. I don’t take medication. therefore I’m not sick.

    Change it to: only people at risk wear masks. I don’t wear a mask. Therefore I’m not at risk.

    I’ll point out that before the mask kerfuffle, the advice did include keeping a 6 ft distance from other people. This helps to reduce the spread as well. I’ll also point out there are other countries in the world besides the US. Few mandated or promoted the use of masks until later on.

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  6. gVOR08 says:

    Per WAPO transportation worker unions are asking the Dept. of Transportation to issue rules requiring masks. Elaine Chao has replied with some blather about it being hard to undo rules later. (Please, somebody investigate that woman.) In June the head of the FAA told congress they’d be issuing new guidelines, but no requirement.

    Is this just a philosophical thing for you folks?” Schatz (D-Hawaii) said. “I don’t get why you wouldn’t want this to be mandatory. I don’t understand why we’re going with a private-sector-driven approach here or a voluntary approach.

    I started wearing a mask in April on the basic project management principal that it costs basically nothing and might help. I got dirty looks at the physical therapy office until I mentioned it was a dust mask I had in the garage, I wasn’t depriving anyone of a medical mask. Of late masks are getting pretty common, driven by headline record numbers every few days in FL and by Walmart. As someone, I think WAPO, headlined a column a week or two ago, Walmart is now, by default, our CDC. Now if we could get them to cover their noses…

    Opposition to seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws goes back to the 70s. But I’ve been reading Rick Perlstein’s Before the Storm, a history of Goldwater’s run for prez. This ‘the government is the enemy’, ‘regulation is evil’, ‘you’re not the boss of me’ crap from Republicans goes back to at least 1964. The willingness to cave to it is newer. So yes, we can’t blame it all on Trump, but we can blame most of it on 50 years of Republicans. So while DeWine did relatively well, I’m less than impressed with his explanation that a mask requirement would be unpopular so why would he do it?

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  7. Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Northerner: I’m not going to litigate exactly what was said when or your feelings about it. That’s a waste of time.

    My emphasis is WEAR THE DAMN MASK. That’s the best of our knowledge now. And guess what, even that could change. We still don’t know a lot about the virus.

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  8. Mikey says:

    Regardless of what happened in March and who said what that we now know was wrong, there is NO FUCKING EXCUSE for not wearing a mask NOW.

    And yet. There are still morons in my social media feeds every day equating mask wearing to Nazis forcing Jews to wear Stars of David.

    And that is 100% on Trump and the GOP. They are the only ones pushing garbage like Dr. Demon Sperm blathering on about how masks are useless and we all need to be mainlining hydroxychloroquine.

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  9. Scott says:

    @Jen:

    Assuming that the American public has the ability to parse scientific data is apparently a fool’s errand. I keep thinking this is the same nonsense that landed us in the climate change denial boat: people expect scientific understanding to be cast in stone and perfect from the time of first reporting. That our understanding changes as more data comes in seems to be completely beyond a percentage of our populations’ intellectual capacity.

    My big beef is that the vast majority of people can’t comprehend the concept of risk. They apply binary thinking to just about everything whether it is vaccines, insecticides, carcinogens, or masks. The use of masks is not preventative; it is a risk mitigation measure to reduce the possibility of infection (or spread of infection). But the reduction is not to zero.

    I think if people understood these concepts, there would be a lot more relaxation about going about your daily business. Wear a damn mask, reduce the risk. Use curbside service, reduce your risk. If your dog walking is solo and away from people, your risk is reduced and you don’t have to wear a mask. It’s not that hard.

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  10. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    Now if we could get them to cover their noses…

    At work, I’m contemplating two strategies:

    1) I’m sorry. I can’t hear you when you’re not wearing a mask.

    2) Punch every exposed nose in sight.

    I may need to clear the second one with HR first.

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  11. Raoul says:

    I agree with everything you wrote- it is and it was obvious from the beginning that masks are a net positive. The government has failed us in so many ways (but isn’t that the plan?)- and who the hell Meadows think he is- shhheezz.

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  12. Joe says:

    @Kathy:
    I think there are a number of cultural reasons why many Americans resisted and continue to resist masks among other government recommendations. The problems with the changing views of science weren’t helpful. But it was ultimately the failure of leadership that allowed those cultural factors to fester and gain a strong beachhead. If the administration had jumped on board at the end of March without all the undermining, a large portion of the resistance would have thrown in the towel and put on the masks or maybe even failed to notice that resistance was an option.

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    But it’s awfully hard to impose something as personal as mask use on a hostile public.

    But Governor Whitmer, in the state next door, had the balls to do what DeWine didn’t…in spite of threats on her life and armed protesters storming the capital building.
    This argument about the health officials is BS. I distinctly remember Fauci being concerned about taking PPE from first responders and essential personnel.
    Curious…If there wasn’t a message to wear masks why did I pull out a bunch of N-95 masks, that had been languishing in my shop unused for years, and start using them…religiously…on April 3rd?

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  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    At the end of the day you can point to this, and you can point to that.
    But the unassailable fact is that we are where we are because of Trump.
    This is the Trump Plague.
    There are no two ways about it.
    150,000 lives. It didn’t have to be like this.

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  15. Moosebreath says:

    Proving that irony is not dead, mask opponent Louis Gohmert test positive for COVID-19:

    “Rep. Louie Gohmert — a Texas Republican who has been walking around the Capitol without a mask — has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to multiple sources.

    Gohmert was scheduled to fly to Texas on Wednesday morning with President Donald Trump and tested positive in a pre-screen at the White House. The eighth-term Republican told CNN last month that he was not wearing a mask because he was being tested regularly for the coronavirus.”

    2
  16. CSK says:

    If you look at any rabidly pro-Trump website, you’ll see that the anti-maskers harbor two convictions. One of them is that science has established that masks are totally ineffective in preventing transmission of the virus. The second is that our socialist overlords have compelled us to wear masks so that we’ll become accustomed to obeying the dictates of the state.

    Overarching these two convictions is the firm belief that this whole pandemic–or scamdemic–is a charade specifically engineered to destroy Trump’s chances at re-election, the Russia hoax and other devious plots having failed to take him down.

    That is what they believe, and you can’t persuade them otherwise.

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Moosebreath: he was not wearing a mask because he was being tested regularly for the coronavirus.”

    I think that’s called, “closing the barn door after the horse is gone.”

    3
  18. @James:

    I agree that Trump is not solely to blame. Clearly, as I wrote at the start of July, American political culture (you aren’t the boss of me!) plays pretty heavily into the discussion. And, yes, guidance from the CDC and Fauci early on were major problems.

    Still, I think you are letting Trump more off the hook than is deserved. If he had pivoted on this issue months ago we would be in a far better position than we are. Even after his lukewarm endorsement, he is back to retweeting nutcases who dismiss masks.

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  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    he is back to retweeting nutcases who dismiss masks.

    AND DEMON SPERM!!!

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  20. steve says:

    “So, yes, what they did three months ago was absolutely wrong. Unforgivably wrong.”

    I am probably a bit biased here since I work with Covid patients. I have a bunch of ICU docs working with a lot of Covid pts. I am not nearly so sanguine about the idea that people would not have gone out and hoarded masks, including the N 95s, if it had been announced early that masks worked. I think that hospitals would have been making choices about caring for pts w/o PPE. So I think it was a pretty difficult decision. In general I prefer transparency so I would like to think if I had to make the decision I would have announced they worked and then tried to deal with the consequences, but I dont think this was as clearcut as you make it. Maybe if I knew I had reliable people in charge who would immediately gone into action to make sure we were working on new sources of masks, but that doesn’t describe this administration.

    Also, for what it is worth, there were some physicians who thought the data on masks was a lot softer back then than it is now.

    Steve

    10
  21. Not the IT Dept. says:

    In the early stages of this pandemic, there was a strong effort by experts to reserve masks for healthcare professionals who were on the front line and to stay home instead. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers that.

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  22. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    And “spirit wives” cause impotence in men.

    @Not the IT Dept.:
    I recall it.

    5
  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    American political culture (you aren’t the boss of me!) plays pretty heavily into the discussion.

    Sure…but ultimately Trump exacerbated this inherent problem.
    He could have made it less of an issue…Cult 45 will basically believe anything he says.
    But he did the exact opposite.

    6
  24. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Proving that irony is not dead, mask opponent Louis Gohmert test positive for COVID-19:

    My Freude is over-Schadened

    5
  25. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    but ultimately Trump exacerbated this inherent problem.

    Which is why I wrote above:

    Still, I think you are letting Trump more off the hook than is deserved. If he had pivoted on this issue months ago we would be in a far better position than we are. Even after his lukewarm endorsement, he is back to retweeting nutcases who dismiss masks.

    And why I have written more than one post criticizing him for his mask stance.

    2
  26. gVOR08 says:

    Louie Gohmert (R-Lower Hogwaller) who did not wear a mask around the Capitol has tested positive. In the spirit of OTBs commenting rules I wish for a speedy recovery for Louie and the hopefully dozens of his fellow GOPs he infected.

    Do the rules allow me a heartfelt bwha ha ha ha ha?

    4
  27. Joe says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Sheesh. Your write about DEMON SPERM!!! one time and the Internet just never lets you forget it.

    1
  28. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Yes…I am in agreement…to expand, it is a difference of degree or perhaps semantics…and the difference between solely responsible and primarily responsible.
    In a nationwide pandemic no one can possibly be solely responsible.
    But there is no doubt that Trump is primarily responsible for where we stand today.
    Certainly Bush43 was not responsible for Hurricane Katrina, or the levees that broke. But ultimately the botched response came back to him. As it should with Trump and this Virus.

    6
  29. MarkedMan says:

    @steve:

    Also, for what it is worth, there were some physicians who thought the data on masks was a lot softer back then than it is now

    “Soft” doesn’t begin to describe it. At the time, there had only been a couple of studies looking at the effectiveness of surgical and N95 masks when worn by regular people (i.e. non medical staff) doing their daily routine. Both showed some positive effect but it wasn’t a slam dunk. This might be because they were looking at it from an epidemiological POV and looked at whether telling a large group of people to wear masks had an effect on the general population, and therefore didn’t separate out ones that actually complied from those that didn’t.

    More importantly, there had never been any studies involving cloth masks (and as far as I know, there still aren’t) for the very practical reason that it never occurred to anyone that an advanced country would have a shortage of PPE for any significant length of time. (7 months in the US and counting). It would have been unethical to ask people to tie a rag around your face rather than put on a real mask. The difference between cloth masks and even surgical masks, much less N95 maskes, is substantial. First, they are woven rather than being the non-woven material filtering masks are made from. Woven material are essentially a mesh and therefore have a pattern of holes. While these may not be apparent to the naked eye, to a single airborne C19 virus they may as well be the size of airplane hanger doors. And surgical masks do not pass liquid. A cloth masks does. So it is unknown what happens if a droplet containing C19 particles lands on a cloth mask and is drawn into the inside, against your skin. Are cloth masks a net positive or a net negative for the wearer? We don’t know. However, and this is why I wore one for months until I got a good supply of surgical and N95 masks, there is very good reason to think they are beneficial to others if the wearer has C19.

    I can’t repeat this often enough. The fact that we still don’t have a sufficient and inexpensive supply of surgical or N95 masks is perhaps the biggest failure of the federal government, or at least indicative of every other failure. History books will show pictures of the population of the US wearing cloth masks 7 months after the onset in the same way we show pictures of civil war era surgeons with ungloved and dirty hands.

    7
  30. inhumans99 says:

    I have made a choice to ignore the other comments on this thread but if someone (or someones) are annoyed that James sounds like he is being an apologist for Trump I know that is patently not true. My takeaway is that Trump turns to a lot of dyed in the wool members of the GOP for advice and instead of folks like Mark Meadows saying Mr. President get out there right now(!!) and loudly proclaim that everyone should wear a mask and then put one on in front of the cameras, instead he hears from a bunch of GOPers that they refused to go all in on wearing masks because of freedom, Benghazi, and but her emails.

    As we speak I believe that a Governor is trying to sue the Mayor (or vice versa) of the state they are in because this individual wants to mandate that everyone wear masks in public. That is just beyond nuts this far along into a pandemic.

    Sure, it would have been nice if Trump had taken the lead on the wear masks mandate early on but the reality is that so many GOPers are able to manipulate Trump and play him like a fiddle that if they told him to go all in on wearing masks the reality is that Trump would have gone all in on mask wearing.

    Especially if they whispered in his ears that wearing masks equals re-election. Why, it is almost like Republicans are not trying very hard to get their guy re-elected…but that is a discussion for another day.

    3
  31. reid says:

    Many people are rightfully laying a lot of blame for the anti-mask attitude at Trump’s feet. Yes, he’s the president and has the loudest megaphone and ability to change minds. He’s a huge failure there, and no one is surprised. But I want to also point the finger at so many GOP members in Congress and in the red states. Many (most?) of them also fed this anti-mask narrative. At best, they did nothing to encourage the use of masks. And, of course, the right-wing media has also played a toxic role as they always do. They should all be tainted with this, not just Trump. And not just because of the mask issue, but also because of pushing the idea that it’s a hoax, that quack medicines can work, etc.

    So many people have gotten sick and died that didn’t have to because this issue was politicized.

    8
  32. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @inhumans99:

    annoyed that James sounds like he is being an apologist for Trump I know that is patently not true.

    I think people in this country don’t really get how fuqing bad the response to this has been. And because of that Trump is getting cut slack. Is James being an apologist? No. Is he cutting him way too much slack? An emphatic YES.
    We are orders of magnitude behind other countries. 6 months later – we can’t put 9 guys on a baseball diamond without having an outbreak. We are having major discussions about if it’s safe to go to school. If this had been handled with even basic competency we wouldn’t have to think about it.
    We are officially a shit-hole country…we are not allowed to visit Canada or Europe.
    And it all comes back on Trump. He should be getting excoriated. Instead, like on every other one of his failures, this country shrugs and goes, meh…¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    150,000 dead…two Vietnams…in 6 months. Meh…

    12
  33. Monala says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I have been wearing masks since March, and it wasn’t just because people in Asia do it. I have asthma, and two years ago when the wildfires were raging all over the West Coast, it was tearing up my lungs. I read an article at the time about N95 masks, so I bought several boxes. It saved my lungs, and didn’t in any way make it harder to breathe. They do get hot and uncomfortable, so when wearing them, periodically I just step somewhere safe for a minute to remove it and cool off, then put the mask back on.

    Due to my asthma, I am prone to respiratory infections, and when I get sick I am usually sick for weeks. Not being any kind of expert, I still put together in my head that if the masks helped protect me from wildfire smoke, they would probably help protect me from respiratory ailments going around. I started wearing them when there were bugs going around, and haven’t really gotten sick since 2018. (That’s a huge record for me. I used to get a respiratory infection at least two times a year).

    So it made sense to me to mask up when coronavirus started going around. I donated my last box of N95 masks to a hospital and ordered some cloth face masks pretty early on.

    Of course, until there was a mask order from the state, I always embarrassed my daughter whenever I wore a face mask. So yeah, orders from above make a difference.

    7
  34. Blue Galangal says:

    @steve:

    Also, for what it is worth, there were some physicians who thought the data on masks was a lot softer back then than it is now.

    We have seen decades at this point of people in Japan and China wearing masks as a part of their daily routine. I cannot imagine anyone thought the data was “soft” on this. Americans are selfish nincompoops – I think there’s a lot more data to support that hypothesis.

    5
  35. ImProPer says:

    “If you acted on the best information you had at the time and then later you get new evidence that points in a different direction, does that mean what you did three months ago was wrong? Well, existentially, yes it was. But it was based on the evidence we had at the time,” Fauci said in an interview Friday.

    This is not a philosophy the American public was brought up to have, and are uncomfortable with it, to say the least. We are well into an age of relentless propaganda or ad hominem to communicate our ideals, values, and even health advice. The mask devide, is as unsurprising as it is foolish. A big problem is those that were fooled, are mad as hell now. Initially they were made cocksure, by the many videos of quacks, spreading bad science, and dubious methods of gathering statistics, convincing them its all a hoax. The President of the United States, being chief among these. Now with reality harder to deny, it is a matter of pride for them. Understanding that the mask’s most powerful function is stopping the wearer from contaminating others, isn’t a strong selling point either.
    While we have protests, and dialog to reimagine our system of Justice, I hope it can be done on our education system as well. It is the only solution to problems like this that I can think of.

    2
  36. Monala says:

    @reid: This is a good time to repost my comment on yesterday’s open thread, quoting from the article, Trump is the symptom, not the disease, from the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money:

    [Quoting Paul Krugman]Rational policy in a pandemic, however, is all about taking responsibility. The main reason you shouldn’t go to a bar and should wear a mask isn’t self-protection, although that’s part of it; the point is that congregating in noisy, crowded spaces or exhaling droplets into shared air puts others at risk. And that’s the kind of thing America’s right just hates, hates to hear.

    Indeed, it sometimes seems as if right-wingers actually make a point of behaving irresponsibly. Remember how Senator Rand Paul, who was worried that he might have Covid-19 (he did), wandered around the Senate and even used the gym while waiting for his test results?

    Anger at any suggestion of social responsibility also helps explain the looming fiscal catastrophe. It’s striking how emotional many Republicans get in their opposition to the temporary rise in unemployment benefits; for example, Senator Lindsey Graham declared that these benefits would be extended “over our dead bodies.” Why such hatred?

    It’s not because the benefits are making workers unwilling to take jobs. There’s no evidence that this is happening — it’s just something Republicans want to believe. And in any case, economic arguments can’t explain the rage.

    Again, it’s the principle. Aiding the unemployed, even if their joblessness isn’t their own fault, is a tacit admission that lucky Americans should help their less-fortunate fellow citizens. And that’s an admission the right doesn’t want to make.[end quote]

    But if Trump had never been elected, it’s not as if there’s much reason to think that the nation would have responded that differently. All of the basic fundamentals would still be there except that there would be a Democrat in the White House. But even with the clear and massive difference that federal leadership would have made, you still have 35% of the country all in for fascism. Hillary would be portrayed on Fox and any Republican media site as the monster killing Americans, no matter how responsible her actions were. There would be no relief package because Republicans would be smelling electoral victory. Not wearing a mask would be even more of a political statement than it is now. And as many people have noted, the same people who demand their rights to carry a high-powered gun anywhere they go because of FREEDOM can’t even be bothered to wear a mask. This is why I’ve been resistant to the entire narrative of the national failure on COVID being about Trump. It’s a whole lot of the narrative, absolutely. But not all of it. The problems are just so much deeper in this broken nation.

    The thing we have to understand in the end about Trump is that he is the platonic ideal of what Republican voters want. That’s why they spent the previous eight years searching around for someone truly crazy they could vote for instead of John McCain and Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. This is how you explain Sarah Palin and Herman Cain and Ben Carson’s presidential run blips. And also Donald Trump. Trump wasn’t really more crazy of a candidate as those others, it’s just that he won and then “won” the presidency. And here we are.

    When Trump leaves…. nothing fundamental changes. Sure, our lives will be somewhat better simply because of a different person (an actual semi-functional human being!) in charge of executive power. …

    But even with the best case scenario, 35% of the nation hates caring about any other person but themselves so much that they will respond to massacres of first graders by pushing for more pro-gun regulations. They will cough in your face during a pandemic for a laugh. They will chuckle at immigrants dying in the desert. They will cheer for one of their own running over and murdering Black Lives Matter protesters.

    This is simply the reality of what we face. Trump is the symptom of this malignancy, but he is not the tumor. Until we face what it is going to take to cut this out, we are going to be caught unawares when Republicans nominate and perhaps win with a fascist who is actually competent and intelligent in 2024.

    10
  37. Kathy says:

    @Joe:

    IMO, if Trump the Moron had just said nothing about masks, things would have been much better. But he had to speak against masks.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    We are officially a shit-hole country…

    Not entirely. But we’ve established the US Constitution is a suicide pact.

    6
  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    I thought:

    A) Obviously masks are helpful if no other reason that they stop hand-to-face transmission. So I didn’t wait to be told. Because I’m a grown-up and I can figure things out all on my own.

    B) I assumed the down-playing of masks early on was to avoid a rush to snatch up N-95s which would devastate health care workers.

    9
  39. gVOR08 says:

    Look, Trump decided, as much as he actually decides anything, that COVID was bad for business, and therefore bad for his reelection, so he was going to run on freedumb!! and pretending it’s not serious. Talking about confusion among the experts and lack of clarity about the effects of mask usage is just a way of normalizing Trump by implying there might have been some pretense of a rational process.

    5
  40. MarkedMan says:

    The fact that we still don’t have a sufficient and inexpensive supply of surgical or N95 masks is perhaps the biggest failure of the federal government

    I want to reinforce this. The Roosevelt generation, emerging from a worldwide economic catastrophe, was able to get to work and raise US aircraft production from a few hundred a year to a few hundred per week. Ditto for tanks, and ammunition, and military vehicles, and gas masks and uniforms and boots and… you get the idea. They did not rely on the free market and Roosevelt used the equivalent of the Defense Production Act where ever it was needed. It was astounding. As a nation it was one of our finest moments.

    I call this generation of Republicans the Reagan Generation, because the corrosive philosophy they apply to all things got its popular start with him: government is bad, free market solves all problems. This Reagan Generation cannot meet the demand for surgical masks after 7 months. And the small progress that has been made has come at the cost of gowns and other PPE because companies can make more money making a hundred masks from the same material they made one gown from. The magic of the free market.

    10
  41. inhumans99 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I get it, I really do…I have an Aunt and other family members who live in Turkey, and I just googled, they have been able to get a handle on things (even assuming their #s are not wholly accurate, they are still doing noticeable better than the U.S. when it comes to Covid) while we seem to have taken one step forward when we asked folks to SIP/wear masks but now seem to have taken two steps back…as Kevin Drum noted in one of his posts yesterday, the increase in deaths in the U.S. did not have to happen.

    However, we just conveniently forget that the GOP is in the Majority in the Senate and there are a whole lot of Republicans (also including some but not all Republican Governors/mayors) who were/are in a position to provide sound advice to President Trump. He may not listen to folks who play for Pelosi’s team but we know he listens to folks with an R in front of their name.

    We know that President Trump is a clueless boob more often than not, but what about all of those Republican politicians who have not chosen to do right by their constituents? That is just beyond the pale and if there is any justice left in the U.S. many of these politicians will be voted out of office come this November.

    1
  42. Northerner says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I’ve been wearing a mask indoors (except for my own home) since early March (experience with SARS, advice from my family doctor, and simple common sense). For much of that time I was arguing with people who said (based on what the WHO and Dr.Tam said) that I was increasing their risk of infection by wearing a mask.

    My problem with the WHO and Dr.Tam is that they were following their feelings (or more likely, politics) when they said wearing a mask was dangerous WRT Covid-19 — there were no studies on the effect masks had on Covid-19 at the time, so there was no science for them to follow. They didn’t know if they worked or not, but also didn’t know if they were dangerous or not. Why not just say so at the time?

    Science is great. Misreporting science or simply making it up (ie pretending to know that masks were dangerous wrt Covid-19) is bad.

    What we know about masks and Covid-19 may change. That’s to be expected, science works that way. However, when official health organizations make claims that have no scientific validity, then it brings into question everything they say later on. Of course that hurt them when they changed their minds about masks — not because the science changed, but because their initial claim that masks were dangerous were not science based in the first place.

    5
  43. ImProPer says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    @<a
    I thought:

    A) Obviously masks are helpful if no other reason that they stop hand-to-face transmission. So I didn’t wait to be told. Because I’m a grown-up and I can figure things out all on my own.

    B) I assumed the down-playing of masks early on was to avoid a rush to snatch up N-95s which would devastate health care workers.

    Practical deductive reasoning for one's self. Hopefully it spreads. Pun not intended

    3
  44. inhumans99 says:

    Mods…I accidentally used my real name in a post I just created that was replying to a post of Daryl’s. If you end up removing the post out of moderation is there any way to change the name over to inhumans99 (the initials of my name in the post tagged for moderation are CH). The contents of this post mention the country Turkey, if that helps.

  45. Kingdaddy says:

    The pandemic has made it very, very clear that there are public officials who are willing to sacrifice citizens before they sacrifice their political careers. We kept waiting for them to do the right thing in the face of presidential corruption, cruelty, and other misdeeds. It didn’t happen. We then saw them cling to their positions rather than tell people to wear a mask, or support the scientists, or do anything else that might endanger their current career choice. They didn’t even gain the whole world before losing their souls. They just got to continue being the governor of this, or the representative from that.

    I don’t know what the remedy for this is, other than electoral censure. Divine retribution is about as likely as them having a change of heart.

    12
  46. gVOR08 says:

    A question. In addition to a mask, I glove. Costs next to nothing and might help. Visited a doctor’s office and they asked me to take the gloves off, “secondary spread”. The girl was obviously just repeating what she’d been told so I took them off and didn’t pursue it. Any validity?

  47. Scott says:

    @gVOR08: I kind of view gloves as a one time throwaway. Like with a grocery store cart or filling up the tank at the gas station. Think of food service workers with gloves on. Are those gloves any cleaner after a couple of minutes than someone regularly washing their hands and serving the food?

    2
  48. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: Most of the recommendations I’ve read say that wearing gloves doesn’t do much; this has changed the more we’ve learned. The general consensus now is that airborne transmission/talking is the biggest transmission factor, and that you are far less likely to get covid from touching surfaces.

    I can’t find it right now, but there was either an article or study I read that said that wearing gloves can actually preserve and transfer the virus because it keeps the lipid outer shell intact, and that bare hands, washed frequently was a better deterrent. That’s when I stopped wearing gloves to the grocery store. I’ll see if I can find it, and will share here if I locate the piece.

    1
  49. EddieInCA says:

    @gVOR08:

    Visited a doctor’s office and they asked me to take the gloves off, “secondary spread”. The girl was obviously just repeating what she’d been told so I took them off and didn’t pursue it. Any validity?

    I have been told by our Covid Compiance Officer to avoid gloves, because it gives a false sense of security. If you wear gloves, you should be washing your hands (with gloves on) as often as you would without gloves on. Both companies I am currently working for/with have mandated no gloves except for those working directly with cast (Hair, Makeup,Wardrobe), and the gloves have to be discarded after every use.

    I just had 45 people start work today, under very strict conditions. Every one had to have a test that showed negative within 48 hrs. Everyone has to test every four days. Everyone has to be signed into the PASS system and answer a questionnaire, and have a temperature check before being allowed on the facilities – every day. Masks are mandatory. Each dept is it’s own pod, not allowed to interact with any other dept, and cannot leave their designated work area(s). So far, it’s working.

    I give a simple speech before any department starts work, “If you want to keep working, follow the rules: Masks, social distancing, no congregating. Period. Full Stop. If you don’t do that, you go home. This is not a negotiation.” I’m in two red states working, and I’m getting zero pushback. Funny. You tie masks ito their livelihood and paycheck, no one complains outwardly. Some of these people haven’t worked or gotten a check of any kind since February or March. If someone decides to get out of line, or flaunt the rules, the other crew members will probably beat them with a 6 foot stick.

    8
  50. inhumans99 says:

    @gVOR08:

    That reminds me…I have disposable gloves but almost never wear because using my phone with gloves on is a royal pain (especially at Safeway where I am constantly accessing the app. to see what is on my list).

    I get that wearing gloves is a great way not to pick up any cold/flu/covid left behind by someone (avoid touching your face, and simply peel off gloves and trash then thoroughly wash your hands) but good luck getting me to glove up more often than not.

    Also, what Kingdaddy said about punishment at the ballot box…yup, unless the GOP gets another pounding at the ballot box in November nothing will change which is kinda genuinely frightening to think about.

  51. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    Yes. Think about it. Your gloves pick up traces from everything you touch. So do your hands, naturally, but you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

    It’s not a bad idea to wear gloves when you go out, provided you still use hand sanitizer on the gloves, and you remove them and wash your hands when you get home, or before interacting with other people.

    When a doctor wears gloves, the intent is not to contaminate the patient with germs that may be on their skin, even after scrubbing or washing.

  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA:
    If we actually sell this effing TV series I am going to pump you for info on Covid compliance. Personally I favor a compound, like the NBA at Disney World. A closed environment, preferably at a four star or better resort hotel. But that’s probably just me.

  53. Gustopher says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    James. it’s disheartening to see someone as intelligent as you proffer the argument that public health experts should have known all along what we know now. I’m not going to refute your points one by one, just will ask you to learn how science works.

    If a myth of previous errors and blaming public health experts for not foreseeing the future is what the right wing needs to pivot on masks and hygiene, I’m all for it.

    Not that James is exactly right wing, but he’s more plugged into that media than most of us, and more likely to pick up and integrate themes from right wing media than the rest of us.

    My brothers are quite convinced masks are harmful. I don’t care what we have to tell people like that to get them to start wearing masks. “They should have known to tell everyone to wear masks, any idiot who looked at the data could see that” would be preferable to what’s happening now. They aren’t going to understand nuance and science being imperfect.

    I would also be ok with a snake oil salesman explaining that their miracle cure made from koala ear wax suspended in a hypoallergenic oil needs to be held in front of the nose at all times to prevent infection… and that the best way to do that is put two drops on a mask and just breath in that sweet, sweet koala earwax purified air.

    3
  54. ImProPer says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    I don’t I don’t know what the remedy for this is, other than electoral censure. Divine retribution is about as likely as them having a change of heart.

    To be sure.
    Mr. Trump is the proverbial trapped rat. In November, he is more than likely out. No hope for a pardon and there is likely a cornucopia of potential, criminal charges he is worried about. If he were to repent now, and be straight with his base, they would more likely eat him, than be grateful for the truth. He is a man of instincts, and knows this. His only play is to keep his congregation faithful to the end, in the hopes he can create a disturbance so big the authorities will think it not worth it to prosecute. After that, there is money to be made
    He has always played the short con, then reinvented himself for the next hustle. He should of known that 4 years was a lifetime in his line of work. Oh “the best laid plans of mice and men”

    1
  55. DrDaveT says:

    @steve:

    I am not nearly so sanguine about the idea that people would not have gone out and hoarded masks, including the N 95s, if it had been announced early that masks worked. I think that hospitals would have been making choices about caring for pts w/o PPE.

    I think some of us are forgetting that, at the time of these statements, there was no such thing as “a cloth mask”, or any other face covering that was non-professional but would also provide substantial protection. When did the directions come out for how to make a mask out of a bandanna, a coffee filter, and a couple of rubber bands?

    Under those circumstances, I can understand wanting to reserve the masks that work for healthcare front lines. I do wish the messaging had been better, both at the time and subsequently.

    2
  56. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Michael Reynolds says:
    Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 14:21

    @EddieInCA:
    If we actually sell this effing TV series I am going to pump you for info on Covid compliance. Personally I favor a compound, like the NBA at Disney World. A closed environment, preferably at a four star or better resort hotel. But that’s probably just me.

    You won’t get crew. At least not enough good crew. Tyler Perry is doing this in Atlanta, but he has the facilities to do it, and he has small crews for his shows.

    One small feature in Savannah, in nearly a bubble, shut down when two crew members tested positive.

    Another show in Atlanta just got shut down because the idiot producer’s son, a grip on the show, tested positive, was sent home, along with his dad the Producer (they live together, with mom, and two sisters). Next day, idiot dad, who has been exposed to Covid by his son, shows up on set with HIS ENTIRE FAMILY. Actors freaked out, called SAG, and BOOM, show was shut down. And rightly so.

    As long as the hoaxer are out there, or the deniers, it will be hard to get to any sort of normal. Europe is up and running, sports going, public transportation open, etc. They wore masks and stayed home. We wanted hamburgers, and haircuts.

    Best bet for you will be to hire good people, and put together a crew that will take it seriously. I hope your budget allows you to shoot in LA or NYC, whose production people are taking it seriously.

    4
  57. DrDaveT says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    The pandemic has made it very, very clear that there are public officials who are willing to sacrifice citizens before they sacrifice their political careers

    I don’t know which is worse — the ones who are cynically aware of this and don’t care, or the ones who are sick and deluded enough to believe that the country is better off with a million dead but the GOP still in charge.

    Republicanism should come with a Surgeon General’s warning.

    1
  58. DrDaveT says:

    It occurs to me that Republican America is where employers can require their workers to work up to their elbows in toxic chemicals Because Capitalism, but where the government can’t make you wear a mask during a pandemic Because Freedom.

    Conservatism: the theory that it isn’t oppression if it’s done by your employer or your neighbors instead of by the government.

    5
  59. Kathy says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    The pandemic has made it very, very clear that there are public officials who are willing to sacrifice citizens before they sacrifice their political careers.

    Leaving aside party labels*, one yearns for people like Wendell Willkie, who’d rather lose the election than make national security a partisan electoral matter.

    Now some politicians, mostly Republicans, see a national crisis as fodder for partisan electoral politics. If people die, then they die. no one lives forever, right? In the long run, we’ll all be dead. more people die in traffic accidents, more people die of the flu, more people died in WWII.

    *The perites today are nothing like the parties that bore their names in 1940. Besides, Willkie was a democrat who ran as a Republican because he felt his party had changed, and he saw Roosevelt would not step down after his second term.

    1
  60. ImProPer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    “Even after his lukewarm endorsement, he is back to retweeting nutcases who dismiss masks.”

    The “Luke warm endorsement” was pretty shocking, and I think he did that to keep up his hedge of “see I told you” video snippets.
    Less shocking was his going nuclear by employing the wisdom of an actual witch doctor. His array of amateurs obviously hasn’t
    Gotten him his desired results.

  61. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @DrDaveT:
    As a point of reference: I was living in Florida when in 2nd week of March 2020, I went to the local Harbor Freight to look for painters masks. I found none, but was told that the previous week they had sold their entire inventory at the rate of 1 package of 3 masks per customer.
    Being a bit inventive, I thought maybe a short term solution might be a handkerchief, so off I went to Walmart. There, the clerk just laughed at me saying that all handkerchiefs and bandanas were sold the previous week. It was suggested that I check in the fabrics department to buy a square of fabric and make my own bandana. That was the second week of March.

    4
  62. SKI says:

    From yesterday’s column by Aaron Carroll: We Made a Mistake With Masks. Now It Could Be Tests.

    Clinicians — doctors, like me — treat patients one at a time. Our responsibility is to that individual. This is the thinking that led many of us to focus on only the most effective N95 masks at first. We knew we didn’t have enough for health care workers, and we knew that homemade masks wouldn’t work as well in the office or hospital. So we told people not to use them. Back in February I asked people on Twitter not to “waste” masks, to “leave them for those who have a real need.”

    Of course, now we know that messaging was wrong. I should have leaned more heavily on my public health training. Public health experts focus more on huge groups, not individuals. They don’t need masks to work perfectly for everyone. They’re thrilled to see a smaller benefit in a larger population. And there are models showing that if masks are about 60 percent efficient, fewer than three-quarters of people would need to wear them to keep a disease like Covid-19 in check.

    5
  63. Scott says:

    It was suggested that I check in the fabrics department to buy a square of fabric and make my own bandana. That was the second week of March.

    My wife sews and she bought some fabric that had a lot of graphic art celebrating The Who. I love my mask.

  64. An Interested Party says:

    @Moosebreath: Oh, but this story gets even better! Gohmert blames getting sick from wearing masks…I wonder what a typical voter in his district thinks of him…

  65. CSK says:

    Well, I learned something interesting at Lucianne.com today: Hydroxychloroquine is the best preventative/cure for Covid-19 we have, so naturally the Democrats had to come up with a bunch of fake studies to prove it doesn’t work.

    Has Trump disavowed Dr. Demon Seed yet? Cult45’sreaction to her is interesting: Half of them are praising her as “a commanding figure” and the other half are trying to pretend she doesn’t exist.

    2
  66. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Cult45 thinks the test results are being faked.

  67. steve says:

    “We have seen decades at this point of people in Japan and China wearing masks as a part of their daily routine. I cannot imagine anyone thought the data was “soft” on this. ”

    There are lots of studies on masks, with most showing they have a positive effect. There are relatively few looking at non-medical people wearing them. In February there were none looking specifically at Covid. The behaviors in Japan and China are suggestive, but you really would like to have a study just in case it turns out that it was something else that seems to help there.

    I have been a mask supporter all along. If masks work for medical people I cant see any special reason they wouldnt work for non-medical people. Compliance might be an issue, but that doesnt mean masks dont work. Your antibiotic doesnt work either if you dont use it. That said, there are people more academically inclined than I who just wont support a therapy as being effective w/o better evidence. Some of that is matter of style and preference, but I amy also be less stringent than I should.

    Steve

    2
  68. Gustopher says:

    @An Interested Party: From your link:

    Following his positive test result, Gohmert didn’t immediately isolate and self-quarantine, as health experts advise. He reportedly returned to his office, saying he wanted to inform his staffers of the test result in person rather than having them learn from news reports.

    Louie Gohmert, ladies and gentlemen, the stupidest man in congress.

    7
  69. Gustopher says:

    @steve:

    I have been a mask supporter all along. If masks work for medical people I cant see any special reason they wouldnt work for non-medical people.

    Two full years of medical school are literally spent learning how to not choke to death on a mask.

    1
  70. Jen says:

    @Gustopher: Yep. Congressional offices are not that big, and he apparently openly mocked staff members who wore masks–they were basically discouraged from doing so. He brought them all together to let them know he has covid.

    4
  71. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott: @Jen: @EddieInCA: @Kathy: Thanks all. My practice is to keep a box of gloves in the car, put them on when I go into a store, and pitch them in the car trash basket when I come out. In the case of the doctors office, I had put them on walking thru the parking lot, so after being boxed up by the manufacturer they’d touched nothing but my hands and their door handles. So I can see the point about spread if I wore them all day, but they’re cheap, they’re now reasonably available again, and I think I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing. If somebody sneezed on a door handle just before I got there, I’m less likely to touch my mucous membranes with the gloves and I’ll pitch the gloves before I have a chance to wash hands. Does make waiting for the little girl at the grocery store to finish wiping down the cart handle feel a little silly.

    1
  72. ImProPer says:

    @CSK:

    “Has Trump disavowed Dr. Demon Seed yet? Cult45’sreaction to her is interesting: Half of them are praising her as “a commanding figure” and the other half are trying to pretend she doesn’t exist.”

    I don’t think he wants to do that, she is about the only one left on his side that is somewhat lucid. Actually I’m hoping she can conjure up some better economic, and foreign policy advice, while she still has his attention

    1
  73. Kathy says:

    @steve:

    In February there were none looking specifically at Covid. The behaviors in Japan and China are suggestive, but you really would like to have a study just in case it turns out that it was something else that seems to help there.

    Yup. That’s the difference between a serious study and anecdotal information. A rigorous study can determine what is really going on and what helps.

    There was a practice in Medieval Europe known as a weapon’s salve. If you had the weapon that had injured someone, you wiped off as much blood, gore, and any tissue that stuck, from the wound and applied it to the weapon (huh?). Surprisingly, to us moderns, this often worked better than other methods in use at the time.

    Why? Because it’s clear to us this required a thorough cleaning of the wound, and that helps both with healing and in preventing bacterial contamination.

    Had the people at the time been scientifically minded, someone would have done a study. not only comparing the weapon’s salve method to other methods, but also seeing if applying the salve to an unrelated weapon, or simply discarding it, also helped.

    Assuming we’re right and cleaning the wound was what helped, then the results would have surprised those superstitious primitives.

    In the case of masks in a modern society during the COVID-19 pandemic, one must also ask what else might be at play, to make sure it’s the masks and not some other factor that keeps the infection from spreading too much.

    For instance, in New Zealand, which has kept COVID-19 at bay, masks are seldom worn. Here the answer was an early and thorough lock down, before there were many cases.

    1
  74. Kathy says:

    @ImProPer:

    Maybe economic downturns are a result of playing baseball with vampires in a dream.

    1
  75. Northerner says:

    @steve:

    I am not nearly so sanguine about the idea that people would not have gone out and hoarded masks, including the N 95s, if it had been announced early that masks worked.

    I understand that, but if you accept that they might have lied then about masks, why believe them about anything else they say about masks or anything else in the future? I think the long term loss of credibility does more damage than the temporary mask shortage that might have come, especially if they were open about their concern for a shortage — a surprising number of people will sacrifice for a good cause.

    4
  76. Northerner says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    For the first few weeks I just used a t-shirt folded into a mask … it passed the candle test, and oddly enough, was more comfortable than the elastic disposable masks now available. It did get me strange looks though.

    2
  77. MarkedMan says:

    @steve: Sounds like a sensible viewpoint. FWIW, though, I think there are good reasons why medical professionals can seem overly cautious as compared to the layman. People are reluctant to promote things not because they haven’t been proven effective but because they haven’t been proven safe. And people in that field have experience with all kinds of things that seemed obviously beneficial turning out to be actively harmful.

    On balance, I decided it was better off for those around me if I wear a cloth mask. I don’t have any opinion on whether it will help me. And I can probably think of ten reasons why it could be actively harmful. I would certainly feel better if a study ruled them out.

  78. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy:

    We are officially a shit-hole country…

    Not entirely. But we’ve established the US Constitution is a suicide pact.

    There are a whole lot of countries out there who say we come from a shit hole country and “NO! You can’t come in!”

    Jus’ sayin’…

  79. ImProPer says:

    @Kathy:
    Or the bad juju brought about by the legions of unbelievers in the power of great (you know what color) calf.

    2
  80. Michael Reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA:
    It turns out my producer partner has been working as (I think) line producer on a Netflix show being shot in the UK. He sent me his Covid plan. It’s 37 pages long.

    I was going to read it but I didn’t really relate to any of the characters and the plot was very slow-moving.

    2
  81. JohnSF says:

    Anecdata from the UK:
    Mask requirement came into force July 24;
    Lots of yawping in the contrarian communit/Brexity Trumpkins/Tory libertarians.
    But as far as I’ve seen compliance is near universal.
    Nobody likes the damn things, but the “ooh, but it’s inconsistent” idiocy is generally getting batted back sharply with “who cares, as long as it drives down the rate of spread?“.

    People recognize that the initial medical mask-scepticism was either flawed, or driven by silly “nudge theory” political sociology, or (mainly) by fear of panic buying.

    Even most mainstream Conservatives are onboard. Republican anti-maskery has not crossed the Atllantic, thank heavens.

    3
  82. JohnSF says:

    @ImProPer:

    “Now go do that voodoo that you do so well…”

    © Mel Brooks

    2
  83. Flat earth luddite says:

    @gVOR08: baw ha hahahahahahahaha
    Thanks.

  84. steve says:

    “I understand that, but if you accept that they might have lied then about masks, why believe them about anything else they say about masks or anything else in the future? ”

    Sure. That is why I think they had a tough call. Risk losing a chunk of your medical staff at what could be the start of a long pandemic or risk not having the public believe you in the future. I would have preferred transparency since that is my general preference, but I cant pretend that this was such an easy decision. A lot of good people would, and did, sacrifice but a lot of others would have hoarded.

    1
  85. Jen says:

    @Northerner:

    I understand that, but if you accept that they might have lied then about masks, why believe them about anything else they say about masks or anything else in the future? I think the long term loss of credibility does more damage than the temporary mask shortage that might have come, especially if they were open about their concern for a shortage — a surprising number of people will sacrifice for a good cause.

    I agree completely about the long-term loss of credibility (and frankly, add on top of that the conspiracy stuff that needs to be factored in). That’s why my first comment in this thread stated that if this is indeed the case, this needs to be used in every PR course as a cautionary tale. The damage done is immense.

  86. Gustopher says:

    @steve: Also, in February or March, the number of people infected was low. If there are N masks that can block some percentage of infection, you want to put them where they are more likely to have the opportunity to block infection.

    As the number of infections increase in the community, the likelihood that a given mask will end up being a barrier between healthy and sick also increases.

    I would have preferred them to be transparent also, but the factors being considered were different than now. Right now, the odds that a crowd of 25 random people has at least one with covid is 99% in some counties.

    https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/

    I don’t know that America was going to listen to a nuanced message, though. Look at the run on hand sanitizer and toilet paper*. Boosting production of masks, “just in case” would have changed the calculations to favor masks sooner.

    ——
    *: toilet paper is complicated by the commercial and household industries basically being different products.

    1
  87. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: Considering that the “typical” voter in Gohmert’s district votes for him

    1