Unmasked Stupidity in Congress

Speaker Pelosi and House Republicans are waging separate battles with science.

WaPo:

Under new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated Americans can now mostly ditch their masks indoors. But not lawmakers on the House floor.

Asked by CNN whether the House’s mask mandate would be relaxed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said, “No. Are they all vaccinated?”

Her decision, which was outlined in updated guidelines issued Thursday night by Congress’s attending physician, drew swift backlash from Republicans who have long bristled at mask requirements. In a letter dated Friday, 34 GOP lawmakers urged Pelosi to drop the House’s pandemic restrictions.

“It’s about control,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Thursday evening. “She wants to control the House.”

The Republican pushback highlights the lingering partisan furor over mask mandates even as vaccinations and public health restrictions have helped drop coronavirus deaths and new infections to the lowest numbers since the onset of the pandemic.

[…]

But Pelosi (D-Calif.) pointed toward a lingering number of unvaccinated House members as part of the decision to keep mask rules in place on the House floor. Pelosi said last month that roughly a quarter of legislators have yet to receive a coronavirus vaccine and noted: “We cannot require someone to be vaccinated.”

Some Republicans have said they aren’t getting vaccinated because they’ve had covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and now have antibodies. Others, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) have publicly declined to take a vaccine.

Updated guidelines issued Thursday by Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician to Congress, say that the mask mandate will continue on the House floor “until all Members and floor staff are fully vaccinated.” His update also notes that per the CDC, “recovery from natural infection is not equivalent to completion of a vaccination.”

Monahan did say that, thanks to the new CDC policy, fully vaccinated staffers and lawmakers can gather mask-free in other House office spaces.

This is performative stupidity, pure and simple.

Representatives who aren’t vaccinated are being idiots, risking the lives of their children and grandchildren as well as those of those untold others who can’t get vaccinated. Monahan is correct that having had the virus in the past is not equivalent to vaccination. Although the possibility of re-infection is speculative, CDC definitely recommends vaccination once the person is fully recovered.

Still, there’s simply zero reason for vaccinated Members and staffers to wear masks at this point. The mandate is a stupid stunt. The fact that people are allowed to be unmasked in smaller spaces inside the Capitol but not in the larger, public spaces makes that clear.

FILED UNDER: Congress, COVID-19, Nancy Pelosi
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. CSK says:

    I assume Pelosi’s trying to force the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. This might also make them more recalcitrant.

    11
  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Screw the unvaccinated. Everyone in Congress, including staff, has had a chance to get vaccinated, and I’m sorry, but I have no patience left for idiots. They want to get sick? Cool by me. We have sufficient hospital beds now.

    An uncharacteristically dumb move by Pelosi.

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  3. steve says:

    Stupid on the part of Pelosi. The only people at risk would be there GOP who have not been vaccinated. They are dangers to each other, not anyone else. Let them take their own risks.

    Steve

    4
  4. CSK says:

    This is what happens when you allow your desire to be punitive override your more reasonable responses. She should just have said: “Fine. Take your chances. If you get sick, it’s on you.”

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  5. Chip Daniels says:

    This is an example of how almost everything for Republicans has become performative.

    All these ridiculous fauxtrages over transgender people, masks, Starbucks cups, Mr. Potato Head, etc., are all just proxy battles for their only real agenda, which is racial and cultural grievance.

    They can’t wage their culture war openly because their agenda is unpopular, so they can only attack from the margins and wage guerilla war of performative stupidity and toddler-level oppositional defiance.

    10
  6. clarkontheweekend says:

    First time poster, long time reader. Appreciate the work and posts of the hosts and enjoy the commentary of the readers. As far as this post, I disagree with the notion Pelosi should just say, in essence, fine, risk getting sick hen. It may be a reasonable peronal sentiment, but it’s not the posture any responsible elected official should publicy take right now.

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  7. @Chip Daniels: Unfortunately, all of this is performative at he moment.

    Pelosi is sending a signal that is just going to further deepen “mask equal Democrat.”

    I am with MR: everyone has had a chance to get vaccinated and so the Dems’ position should be that vaccinated equals maskless (and to bolster their self-image of the party that follows the science).

    8
  8. Mikey says:

    @steve:

    The only people at risk would be there GOP who have not been vaccinated. They are dangers to each other, not anyone else.

    They are dangers to anyone who cannot be vaccinated. Every immunocompromised person who can’t take the vaccine is dependent on the rest of us breaking the chain of infection. The best way to do this is vaccination, but for those fools who refuse, the next best is wearing the mask.

    Now that we know the fully vaccinated won’t spread COVID, it’s fine for us to go unmasked. But if that’s the condition to remove masks, we all know the non-vaccinated Republicans would lie and say they’ve gotten the vaccine. If Republicans were decent and honest, Pelosi could employ the honor system, but one can’t use the honor system where half the people involved have none.

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  9. ptfe says:

    Um, unless I missed something, DC hasn’t moved since May 1. The House guidelines continue to be in line with the jurisdiction in which the body meets.

    5
  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    guerilla war of performative stupidity and toddler-level oppositional defiance.

    Exactly. That idiot Taylor Greene, to pick one example, is from an R+28 district. This nonsense protects her from being primaried by someone even loonier. One of the lessons of the last several years is that there’s no limit to crazy, there’s always room to your right. Plus she’s dumb enough it comes naturally. (She became a successful business person the same way Chuckles Koch and Barry Goldwater did it. She inherited it.)

    GOPs from more competitive districts still have to get past a GOP primary every two years and hope they can motivate base turnout high enough to survive the general without motivating a backlash.

  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    While I hesitate to contradict Dr. Joyner’s decades of experience as an epidemiologist, I would like to point out that Pelosi’s “stupidity” is in fact the current consensus view of the field:

    Hundreds of Epidemiologists Expected Mask-Wearing in Public for at Least a Year

    When federal health officials said on Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks in most places, it came as a surprise to many people in public health. It also was a stark contrast with the views of a large majority of epidemiologists surveyed in the last two weeks by The New York Times.

    In the informal survey, 80 percent said they thought Americans would need to wear masks in public indoor places for at least another year. Just 5 percent said people would no longer need to wear masks indoors by this summer.

    In large crowds outdoors, like at a concert or protest, 88 percent of the epidemiologists said it was necessary even for fully vaccinated people to wear masks.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Mikey:
    If you lie about having gotten the shot when you didn’t, then you can’t own the libs.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    It’s stupid because it’s untenable. You cannot repeat, ‘trust science and the CDC’ endlessly then turn around and announce you’re going to overrule them. The end result will be Republicans maskless, and Democrats masked with no end game.

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  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If the science says to do X and instead you do the opposite because doing X “is untenable”, then you’re not trusting science. I’ll stop masking when the experts say it’s safe to stop, not because someone made a political decision because a bunch of Republicans got too butthurt.

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  15. Teve says:

    Just FYI, I keep seeing ‘immunocompromized people can’t get the vaccine’ but that doesn’t make sense to me. People who are immunocompromised might not form an adequate immunity from it, but they typically can get the vaccine. It’s mostly people with certain allergies who can’t get it.

    (But IANAD)

    1
  16. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: immuno-comprimized people were near the head of the line in Washington state. Whether all of them can take the vaccine or not, I have no idea.

    I assume the “immune-compromised who can’t get the vaccine” is shorthand for “immune-compromised who cannot get the full benefits of the vaccine or are too young to get the vaccine” plus allergies are an immune response.

    So, close enough to my understanding of the world that I don’t see the phrasing as bothersome in anything other than a pedantic manner.

    Also not a doctor.

    1
  17. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @Stormy Dragon: I’ve read the story. The CDC is the agency we’ve designated to make this call. They have historically been quite conservative in their calls.

    @ptfe: Congress tells DC what to do, not vice versa. Local
    government rules do not apply on federal land.

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  18. Gustopher says:

    Maddow had an interview on Thursday with the head of the CDC. Paraphrasing a key part:

    Maddow: so, if I work in an office, unmasked, and the person next to me is unmasked, it’s all safe if I had the vaccine and they didn’t?

    CDC: it’s very safe for you.

    Maddow: And for them?

    CDC: I would advise them to get the vaccine.

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  19. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    I think the CDC says that people with weakened immune systems and autoimmune conditions should get the vaccine, because Covid can be worse for them. It’s people who could have a severe allergic reaction to a component in the vaccines who have to be wary.

  20. Teve says:

    @CSK: there are a whole lot of people on parler/gab right now bragging that they’re going to go wherever they want and claim that they’re vaccinated and the stupid libs will never even know!

    2
  21. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    I think this is called “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

    I have vague memories that sometime back in the 1980s, concerns about the toxicity of carbon tetrachloride were raised. In response, some fools would guzzle a bottle of it and then say, “See? I’m fine.”

  22. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am with MR: everyone has had a chance to get vaccinated and so the Dems’ position should be that vaccinated equals maskless (and to bolster their self-image of the party that follows the science).

    The messaging reversal has been so bad by the CDC that I think it makes sense to hold off, and schedule hearings with the CDC about how and when this decision was made, what the evidence was etc.

    And then likely unmask.

    But use hearings as an opportunity to educate everyone about the rationale, which the CDC has really not explained. It’s “Follow the science,” not “follow the scientists,” after all.

    Pelosi is playing this badly.

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  23. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher:

    I assume the “immune-compromised who can’t get the vaccine” is shorthand for “immune-compromised who cannot get the full benefits of the vaccine or are too young to get the vaccine” plus allergies are an immune response.

    My brother had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and any vaccination could possibly cause a recurrence.

    On the other hand, as he’s trying to decide whether or not to get the COVID vaccine, his doctor is basically saying “if the COVID vaccine didn’t trigger your GBS, it should be OK, you just never want to get the vaccine that actually triggered it.”

    So at this point he’s unvaccinated due to concern about a previous occurrence of an autoimmune disorder, but could potentially get the COVID vaccine safely. I suppose “immunocompromised” in a certain context would fit, but it’s probably not a good blanket term for all those who for whatever reason(s) shouldn’t receive a vaccine.

    Anyway. Not disagreeing with you, just trying to cast some light on what I was trying to say…

    2
  24. gVOR08 says:

    The latest CDC guidance says the unvaccinated should still mask in indoor public places, like Kroger – or the Capitol Building. Kroger has a conundrum, they can ask the unvaccinated to mask, knowing they won’t and knowing they have no way of knowing who they are. It’s public knowledge that many individual Reps are not vaccinated. The linked story says, but slides past, that the guidance was issued by the House Physician’s office. Were the Physician to say it’s OK for unvaccinated Reps to be unmasked he would be in violation of the new CDC guideline, not to mention professional ethics.

    2
  25. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: The CDC guidance is clear: the vaccinated do not need to mask. The House rule is that, until EVERONE is vaccinated, EVERYONE must mask. It’s simply absurd.

    4
  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @ptfe: Yeah you are. Your missing the I’m tired of wearing a mask, I’m tired of not going to restaurants, I’m tired of not going to movies part.

    1
  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: On the other hand, they’re not saying that part out loud anymore. That may be progress. Or evidence that they’ve found the dog whistle necessary.

    1
  28. michael ring says:

    @Mikey: \

    Covid has been triggering GBS. The Covid vaccine is different than the flu shot that has triggered GBS. https://www.gbs-cidp.org/covid-19-vaccines-and-the-gbscidp-community/

  29. Michael Cain says:

    @gVOR08:

    Kroger says that masks will continue to be required for all customers and employees.

    2
  30. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: One, your masking posts seem to flow from a feeling that masking is a problem and should be ended. Masking is, at worst, a trivial inconvenience. What is the downside to continuing the rule in the House?

    Two, I thought I made it sufficiently clear that requiring only the unvaccinated to mask is unenforceable. Were they reasonable people maybe, but they’ve proven they aren’t. Again, the unvaccinated are supposed to mask. Walmart can’t be held to enforcing it because they can’t know who they are. The House Physician pretty much does, by name. Is he to violate the CDC guideline and say it’s OK if they don’t? Is he to ask them to, but then ignore it when they don’t? Again, if Pelosi were to say it’s OK for people she knows are unvaccinated to go maskless, she would probably be overriding the House Physician and definitely would be violating the new CDC guidance. And if she asks only the unvaccinated to mask she’s wasting her breath.

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  31. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    The CDC guidance is clear: the vaccinated do not need to mask. The House rule is that, until EVERONE is vaccinated, EVERYONE must mask. It’s simply absurd.

    If the CDC guidance is so clear, then why did 95% of the epidemiologists the NYT contacted disagree? Are they all just frauds lying because they hate Republicans?

    2
  32. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am with MR

    Wow, Dr. Joyner, Dr. Taylor, AND Michael Reynolds! This blog is simply overflowing with expert epidemiologists who know why all the actual epidemiologists are full of it.

    2
  33. ptfe says:

    @James Joyner: My point is not the Congress must follow DC’s lead, but that the Capitol is operating under the same restrictions as the surrounding territory. Once DC lifts restrictions, she can point to that as impetus to change the rules. Until then, unless there’s a political motive to do it, she can hold the line in parallel.

    Also note that the comments were made on Thursday, but most states didn’t announce rules changes until Friday. There may well be a change come Monday.

    2
  34. Paine says:

    Our local market dropped its mask requirement for customers and I was surprised to see just how many people stopped wearing masks at the first opportunity. Impossible to say who was and was not vaccinated but I suspect a lot of people are just tired of masking up.

  35. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:

    But use hearings as an opportunity to educate everyone about the rationale, which the CDC has really not explained. It’s “Follow the science,” not “follow the scientists,” after all.

    Questions I would like to know the answers to:

    Were there predefined criteria for when masking could be eliminated and the CDC is changing the guidance because those criteria have now been met? Or was it just changed on a whim?

    Who was/were the specific official/officials who made the decision on changing this guidance? Were they actual scientific experts or were they political appointees?

  36. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: They were making a prediction before the CDC issued the guidance. The public policy call is the CDC’s, not that of random immunologists surveyed by a newspaper. We’ve been told for over a year to follow CDC advice. Suddenly, it’s not good enough? The Defense Department, which implemented an absurdly draconian policy (masking even outdoors and alone!) as soon as Biden took office, instantly reversed course yesterday in conformity with the CDC. Virginia, which has been pretty strict and was among the earliest adopters of masking, flattening the curve, etc. did likewise.

    @Stormy Dragon: This is just silly. Again, we’re echoing the CDC and saying Pelosi’s call goes against the CDC and seemingly out of pettiness.

    6
  37. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Is it your hypothesis that the CDC, which was holding fast to masking etc under the Trump administration, suddenly switched course under Biden for political reasons? That makes little sense to me. After all, if there’s a spike in cases following the change, it’ll make Biden look bad.

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  38. R. Dave says:

    James Joyner wrote: Still, there’s simply zero reason for vaccinated Members and staffers to wear masks at this point.

    I don’t understand why previously reasonable, cautious pundits are suddenly so all-fired certain about this point. We haven’t been doing any meaningful contact tracing of infections, so we don’t actually know under what circumstances most people who had COVID became infected. Conversely, we do know that at least some breakthrough infections and transmission are possible for vaccinated people, that transmission is more likely when exposed to a higher viral load over a longer period of time (i.e., indoor and close up with an infected person), and that more infectious variants are spreading because we still have such a large pool of infected people. So no, the risk to vaccinated people is not zero when interacting with unvaccinated people, particularly indoors. It may be a relatively low risk, but if you think it’s zero or near zero, you’re not actually “following the science”, so you should stop sneering at people who are advocating a more “wait and see” approach to unmasking.

    @James Joyner: The CDC is the agency we’ve designated to make this call. They have historically been quite conservative in their calls.

    This would be the same CDC that spent the first several months of the pandemic insisting that masks were useless for the general public because they wanted to preserve the supply for medical personnel, right? That CDC? Given their track record, I strongly suspect that they’re again engaging in another “noble lie” to some extent, this time trying to incentivize vaccination by drawing a starker contrast between the guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated people than a purely “risk to the individual” approach warrants at this stage of the pandemic.

    7
  39. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    They were making a prediction before the CDC issued the guidance.

    If the CDC’s guidance is based solely on the science, why would other experts need to know what the CDC was going to do to decide what their expert opinion is?

    Suddenly, it’s not good enough?

    Actually, for me it never was: at the start of the pandemic, I started masking several weeks before the CDC issued guidance to do so because all the experts were saying the CDC was behind. I’ve upgraded my masks several times through the pandemic, again in each case before the CDC said to do so because other experts started criticizing the CDC’s then guidance.

    @James Joyner:

    Is it your hypothesis that the CDC, which was holding fast to masking etc under the Trump administration, suddenly switched course under Biden for political reasons?

    My hypothesis is that the CDC’s recommendation doesn’t match the consensus of the epidemiological community and that they need to explain why that is and why we should favor their guidelines, particularly where this has been an issue they’ve repeatedly underplayed throughout the pandemic.

    5
  40. Raoul says:

    Let’s just say that after the no mask debacle early on, CDC credibility is not at its highest. I see no downside in keeping a mask mandate a little longer. A little face cloth to save a life is certainly not the mountain I expected Dr. Joyner to die on.

    3
  41. James Joyner says:

    @Raoul: We’ve administered tens of millions of shots and had months to observe the effects. Fully immunized folks essentially can’t get sick from or transmit the virus. The CSC has been slow to issue guidance to that effect but has done so.

    My only concern is that this will essentially mean no masking for the unvaccinated, which is bad for kids and others who CAN’T get vaccinated. But that’s a non-issue in the halls of Congress.

    2
  42. Raoul says:

    @James Joyner: No doubt the vaccine is incredibly effective and as the numbers climb higher the need for masks will recede. Perhaps 4 more weeks of mask wearing is needed but until then not having the policy in place will jeopardize front line workers like cashiers. That’s the reason Walmart and other retailers and fast food joints are not changing their policy. The CDC is certainly not being the most conservative here.

    3
  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    One has to assess risks and accept the fact that the risk is never zero. Yes, there are breakthrough cases. A small number of vaccinated people may get sick, of that small number a much smaller number will require hospitalization. Fully vaccinated I’d suggest that my risk of driving down to Santa Monica is probably more dangerous. Have you driven LA freeways?

    We cannot insist everyone vaccinate and yet insist that they experience no direct benefit. It’s just not tenable, that’s not how humans behave.

    4
  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    Also, let’s back up and retrace our steps a bit. The reason we insisted on masks and social distancing and closing down venues for Covid and not for flu is hospitalization rate and death rate. Flu kills old people and the infirm, Covid kills a lot more.

    80% of Covid deaths were in people over 65. Another 17% were people 45-64, and less than 3% were people under 45. ~17% of the population is over 65. So, 80% of the bad shit occurred to 17% of the population. The next cohort is ~26% of the population, and that larger group was hit with just 17% of deaths. Leaving well over half the population experiencing a tiny number of deaths.

    We’ve vaccinated everyone in the first and second cohorts who wants a shot. There’s vaccine everywhere, people ready to stab you in the arm everywhere, Uber will take you for free and the shot’s free, so how long do we have to coddle people who can’t be bothered to protect themselves?

    As for the third cohort which includes everyone from babes in arms to guys having a mid-life crisis and represents more than half the population, the risk is tiny. Those aren’t the people dying or being hospitalized in large numbers, and the shot is available for the vast majority of even this low-risk group.

    The wearing of masks is about not shedding virus all over the place. Right? It’s not a political party or religion. Masks help a bit to lessen the likelihood that an infected person will sneeze coronavirus all over another person. More helpful is avoiding large numbers of people in confined spaces.

    But to take a hypothetical, there is no rational, scientific reason at all for a 100% vaccinated group to avoid attending a 500 person indoor orgy. The only person showing up for the orgy who’s a problem is the guy who has not been vaccinated. If that guy refused to get the shot, fuck him. Or in this hypothetical, don’t.

    Bottom line for me, is that I have been exceptionally compliant, I’ve followed all the rules, even the ones that turned out to be irrelevant. I’m happy to do that to protect against the possibility that I might be a carrier, and to encourage others who might be carriers and represent a risk to me. But now I’m supposed to comply in order to avoid the exceedingly unlikely possibility that even after Modernas 1 and 2 I might – might – somehow still transmit the virus to a person who is either in a very low-risk group or too fucking stupid to just get the damn shot? No. Enough.

    6
  45. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    The public policy call is the CDC’s, not that of random immunologists surveyed by a newspaper. We’ve been told for over a year to follow CDC advice. Suddenly, it’s not good enough?

    When masking up has zero risk and zero cost, but removing the mask has unknown risk and potentially devastating costs… and when the news seems to blindside independent epidemiologists? Caution is in order.

    Is the CDC’s science bad, or is their messaging bad?

    If I had to guess, the CDC has been prepared to issue this guidance for a while, and watching infection rates to double check and be extra cautious, and just said “yup, we were right, no need to be extra cautious and longer.”

    It’s possible they were waiting for the massive outbreak in Michigan to get under control and didn’t want to mix messages.

    But we should know, and a little caution until we do know isn’t unreasonable. The CDC issues guidelines not commandments.

    Hearings that result in a dramatic unmasking would be fine.

    The CDC guidance is clear: the vaccinated do not need to mask. The House rule is that, until EVERONE is vaccinated, EVERYONE must mask. It’s simply absurd.

    The CDC also says everyone not vaccinated should be wearing a mask. How is Pelosi to enforce that when so much of the Republican House caucus refuses vaccination?

    I would be fine with vaccine passports, worn on lanyards, so everyone is wearing either a mask or a lanyard.

    This is likely to be a huge stupid political mess when MTG says the lanyard is the mark of the beast and refuses to wear either a mask or a lanyard and then we have to deal with that shit.

    2
  46. JohnMcC says:

    Noticed the the NY Yankees have had 8 coaches/players test positive. They were and are apparently asymptomatic because everyone thoroughly vaccinated. No one would have known that they were infected if not for the regular testing and tracing MLB does routinely.

    I have read that vaccinated persons are not contagious. Do I trust that as the Word From On High? Nope. Take a Missouri attitude; show me.

    If I were to be at this point unvaccinated I’d sure wear a mask indoors surrounded by the bipartisan congress. If I were a Republican however I’d insist that the CDC has ruled and a mask requirement is tyranny. Because stupid.

    3
  47. Mikey says:

    @michael ring: Wow, thank you so much! I will send that link to my brother.

  48. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Masks help a bit to lessen the likelihood that an infected person will sneeze coronavirus all over another person.

    Breathe, not sneeze. This is way more infectious than that.

    And certain individuals are super spreaders — the countries that have done decent construct tracing have discovered that there are a small number of individuals shedding a shit-ton of the virus and infecting everyone around them, while most of the infected were less infectious.

    What does that mean for public policy other than “try not to breathe around the random super spreader who sheds a shit-ton of virus”? I don’t know, I’m not an epidemiologist.

    I want this shit over too, but waiting for the general epidemiological community to come to consensus seems appropriate. They were mostly very surprised by the new CDC guidance.

    I expect this was bad communication and the CDC having access to information that others weren’t looking at. The scientists at the CDC are not idiots, they’re probably right. On the other hand, Trump has done massive damage to a lot of our institutions, and who knows what people were installed, and whether they have enough influence to push their anti-mask nonsense and cause some premature decisions.

    Meanwhile, Washington State is in the middle of a fourth wave, and it seems counter-intuitive to let up now.

    But now I’m supposed to comply in order to avoid the exceedingly unlikely possibility that even after Modernas 1 and 2 I might – might – somehow still transmit the virus to a person who is either in a very low-risk group or too fucking stupid to just get the damn shot?

    I think the question is whether you being unmasked gives the people too-fucking-stupid to just get the damn shot enough cover that they can not wear masks, and what the consequences to society at large are as a result.

    Are we on track for R0 (number of people an infected person, on average, will infect) to go below one across the country, and any current rise we see in infections is just a lagging indicator? If so, it’s all good. If not… eeeeesh.

    I would think it would make sense to wait a few weeks for infections to be dropping if they were a lagging indicator, unless part of getting to enough vaccinations to cut R0 is that we have to give people a reward right now for getting the vaccine. That would seem risky.

    This feels like the “Mission Accomplished” banner. My feeling may be wrong. I hope it is.

    ETA: Yes, this is a feeling. That’s why I would trust a general consensus of epidemiologists.

    Part of the role of a public health organization like the CDC is to manage those feelings, however, and they did a poor job. If we got “in areas with a case count per 100,000 less than X, where infections are declining, this rule applies, check with your state. we are looking at whether we can expand it” guidance first, I would have a lot more confidence.

    5
  49. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    there is no rational, scientific reason at all for a 100% vaccinated group to avoid attending a 500 person indoor orgy.

    I think that any reasonable scientist would feel obligated to do so, to test the effectiveness of the vaccines. I don’t know whether they would be ethically allowed to shed their white lab coat though.

    ETA: “ow, I got poked with a clip board!”

    2
  50. R. Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: One has to assess risks and accept the fact that the risk is never zero. Yes, there are breakthrough cases. A small number of vaccinated people may get sick, of that small number a much smaller number will require hospitalization. Fully vaccinated I’d suggest that my risk of driving down to Santa Monica is probably more dangerous?

    Well, the rate of traffic deaths in the US is about 1.1 per 100 million miles traveled, and according to a recent CDC statement I saw, we have 132 COVID deaths so far among the roughly 100 million fully-vaccinated Americans, so I’m thinking you’re probably wrong. Also, I’m guessing you probably wear a seat belt when driving any significant distance or in any unusually dicey conditions, which I would argue is at least somewhat analogous to wearing a mask when interacting with unvaccinated people or in unusually infections conditions (i.e., indoors).

    6
  51. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: I got the J&J vaccine, which is considered 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death, but just 65% effective at preventing mild cases of Covid. However, even mild Covid cases can lead to long Covid symptoms. That’s not something I want to risk.

    In addition, how long the effectiveness of the vaccine lasts is still up in the air. Booster shots are being developed, but are not yet available, and it’s unknown how soon they will be needed to keep someone protected.

    A number of people have also pointed out that masking has helped to prevent colds, flus, and even some allergy symptoms. And people with kids too young to be vaccinated have said that keeping their own masks on helps their kids keep their masks on.

    I’m looking forward to going maskless at gatherings of friends who are also vaccinated this summer, and I already go maskless when I’m outside walking my dog. But for now, I will continue to mask up in public, indoor places.

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  52. Monala says:

    @Michael Reynolds: My understanding is that you rarely interact with people in public. I work with the public, many of them in vulnerable situations (homelessness, e.g.).

    I’m an asthmatic who was a sickly child, so I know the feeling of being unable to breathe or being bedridden for weeks because of some infection you just can’t seem to shake. With my vaccine, I most likely won’t end up in the hospital or die, but I could still get sick and could have lasting symptoms (since long Covid has been known to happen even to people with mild cases). I’m also the sole provider for my kid, who lost her dad a few years ago. Sorry, I’m not willing to risk my health for what is a minor inconvenience (masking in public).

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  53. Teve says:

    In my Trumper county in Florida, where seven out of every eight white people voted for Donald Trump, just 20% of the population has been fully vaccinated, despite the vaccines being available for months. Compare that to Sarasota county where 47% of the public has been fully vaccinated. Or Saint Johns county at 48%. Or Sumter County at friggin 62%.

    I’m not the most ethical person in the world, because a big chunk of me says, you know what? I’ve been fully vaccinated for two weeks. If these dumb assholes want to crowd into Wal-Mart w/o masks and cough on each other—which is exactly what they’re doing—ain’t nothing I can do.

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  54. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Monala:
    I sympathize. My daughter is a cashier in a grocery store.

    The question is how low the risk has to go to return to normal life. It’s not going to ever be zero.

  55. Michael Reynolds says:

    @R. Dave:
    Dude, I am not accepting this as the new normal. I know we’re a fanatically harm-reductive society, but I go out in the sun and risk melanoma, I drink whiskey and risk cirrhosis, I smoke cigars and risk oral cancer, I eat red meat, I fly and absorb radiation, I drive, I use stairs, I smoke pot, I experience stress, I don’t exercise and I’m a good 20 pounds overweight.

    When I was a fugitive I had to think very pragmatically about risk. I could have hidden in a basement, but I chose to be perfectly public, working in restaurants, writing for the newspaper, eventually publishing books. I didn’t drive or fly or use my own name. That’s where I drew my line. Took on some risk in order to have a life.

    Life is risk. It can never be zero risk. I am not spending the rest of my life wearing a mask when the risk is reasonable.

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  56. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As a wise and decent man once said: “It’s an awful risky thing, to live.”

    1
  57. Jax says:

    @Teve: Something, something, “survival of the fittest”, “it’s obviously the time God wanted them to go”, more something something about “it’s your time to die if you get Covid”…..it’s really left me pretty exhausted on the sympathy front for relatives I care about who won’t get their shots.

    1
  58. R. Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Dude, I am not accepting this as the new normal.

    To be clear, I’m not advocating masks as the new normal. I’m just saying that I think we’re jumping the gun by a few months in easing the mask requirements / norms.

    1
  59. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Things that I have learned about mask wearing these last 15 months:
    1) Wearing a facemask (for me) is only mildly inconvenient.
    2) Wearing a facemask is something I’m used to in my occupation and occasionally in recreation.
    3) Wearing a facemask this spring significantly reduced my pollen reaction.
    4) Wearing a facemask appears to have protected me from cold and flu.
    5) Wearing a facemask is/was an outward sign to others that I cared about infecting them.
    6) Wearing a facemask further reduces the risk that I might contract low-grade COVID19.
    7) Wearing a facemask is a polite thing to do when engaged with others (similar to breath mints)

    So I’m inclined to mask up when mowing the lawn, when the pollen/particulate level is high, and when I’m outside my pod with persons of unknown health status.

    Wearing a mask is my personal preference right now.

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  60. Jax says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: My daughter has severe asthma and she’s reported no allergic reactions to pollen and such this whole time we’ve been masking up. We’ve only had one “cold” episode since last March, and it kicked our butts, but it was still way better than one or both children being sick with repeating colds/flu/strep throat from January to May of every year.

    Regardless of what the anti-masker’s think, that shit works.

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  61. James Joyner says:

    @Bob@Youngstown For a variety of reasons, including masks making it much harder to wear my glasses, my risk assessment is pretty close to @Michael Reynolds‘s. But I can absolutely understand someone wanting to wear a mask. I could well see myself doing so the next time I’m on an airplane again, even if it’s not mandatory.

  62. Jen says:

    @Teve: Also not a doctor here, but some/part of the issue with immuno-compromised people is that they may not be able to mount an adequate antibody response, despite receiving the vaccine.

    A friend of a friend has several autoimmune diseases. She was in the first tranche vaccinated, and because her immune system is such a mess, her doctor had her antibodies tested 3 weeks after she was “fully vaccinated.” She showed no antibodies, despite having two shots of the Moderna vaccine.

    Some people’s immune systems just don’t mount an adequate response, even if they CAN be vaccinated. This is apparently part of the issue.

    1
  63. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @James Joyner:

    making it much harder to wear my glasses

    Is your issue one of fogging? If so, allow me to share what I found.
    I discovered that the standard medical mask (blue/white pleated) from one manufacturer would fog my glasses while another manufacturer’s would not.
    Upon close examination I found that the wire or metal strip across the nose bridge was shorter in the mask that would cause fogging. Using the longer wire support mask permitted the upper margin of the mask to conform to my facial architecture better, and prevented my exhaled breath (warm & moist) from condensing on the inside of my glasses.
    No difference in the price, just different manufacturer.

  64. James Joyner says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: Thanks–and that makes sense. I’ve been wearing various cloth masks since last April but, yes, they lack the wire pieces.