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Douglas Andrews / May 21, 2021

The Misery of the Maskaholics

Some folks just really aren’t going to let go of COVID protocols anytime soon.

Meet Joe. He’s a professional photographer and musician from Albany, and he got his COVID-19 vaccination earlier this month. And yet even today, he sticks to a safety protocol he’s had for 14 months. Whenever he goes out, he dons an N95 surgical mask, then a cloth mask over that, and then a pair of goggles. And he plans to keep doing this for at least the next five years.

As the New York Times’s Sarah Maslin Nir writes, “Even as a combination of evolving public health recommendations and pandemic fatigue lead more Americans to toss the masks they have worn for more than a year, [Joe] is among those who say they plan to keep their faces covered in public indefinitely.”

Indefinitely? What gives?

We’re not mocking this man; we just want to understand. As Nir continues, “For people like [Joe], a combination of anxiety, murky information about new virus variants and the emergence of an obdurate and sizable faction of vaccine holdouts means mask-free life is on hold — possibly forever.” (Leave it to the Times to choose “obdurate” when “stubborn” would’ve worked perfectly well.)

There’s clearly a political component to all this. Progressives have been more willing to abide by their government’s masking and lockdown orders, while conservatives have been less so. Think: blue state versus red state, tyranny versus Liberty. In fact, when we overlay two U.S. maps, one showing the level of mask compliance and the other showing 2020 voting preference, we see remarkable similarity. Joe Biden is Mr. Mask, after all, and Nancy Pelosi has, to use Timesspeak, obdurately refused to lift her masking rule on the House floor, despite the CDC’s clear guidance to the contrary.

Indeed, the only thing Pelosi finds more appealing than power is hypocrisy, and the latter was on full display yesterday afternoon, when she doubled down on her anti-scientific masking mandate: “What is this, the honor system? The honor system, as to whether somebody’s been vaccinated? Do you want them breathing in your face on the strength of their honor? … We have a responsibility to make sure that the House of Representatives chamber is not a Petri dish for the, uh, because of the selfishness of some not to be vaccinated.”

Later that day, though, she was seen chatting away, unmasked and mere inches away from other unmasked lawmakers. At least one of them appeared to be a fellow Democrat, Ted Lieu, and perhaps the others were, too. Which means Pelosi’s “Petri dish” fears are phony, and so are her “honor system” objections — except for members of her own political party.

But politics can’t explain it all. This dawned on this writer just last weekend, when he saw a young, healthy-looking couple walking down the middle of a quiet residential street, both of them masked up, and nary another soul near them. What possible political statement is being made by that?

Allahpundit tells of an even more bizarre occurrence in San Francisco, where a resident, Rebecca Kee, recently decided to take a neighborhood walk sans mask. “Then a man with two children, all masked, darted into the street to avoid her. When she told him there was new guidance, the man told Kee she was lying and he hoped her family would get sick and die.” So there’s that.

National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty thinks it’s time for a mass deprogramming. “It’s as if a circuit has been fused,” he writes. “While caution and restrictive behavior can be justified by a conscience informed by the risks, the human mind can also make calculations based on superstition. And one frighteningly common one is the equation of science with truth, fear with realism, and caution with virtue.”

As for the science, one-time lefty Glenn Greenwald’s observation was typically spot-on: “For the last year, anyone questioning let alone rejecting CDC/WHO guidance on COVID was vilified as an anti-science crank, to the point of being censored off the internet. Yet it’s now totally common for liberals with no scientific training to go on TV and reject new CDC guidance.”

Hmm … politics might not explain it all, but it seems to explain a lot.

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