Rich Lowry / January 28, 2022

The Left’s Coming Defeat in the Mask Wars

Many leftists have a deep attachment to masks based on an a priori commitment to them as a totem of public safety and private virtue.

The people in contemporary America who most pride themselves on their alleged commitment to science and public health are also the most superstitious and immune to evidence.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the debate over masking kids at school, an ongoing, flagrant example of collective irrationality.

The supporters of mask mandates are fired by a righteous certainty that if a child comes to school unmasked, his or her school and community are at risk of a devastating outbreak of the coronavirus, that parents who don’t want to mask their kids are selfish and uncaring boobs who need to turn off Fox News, that public officials who block mask mandates, or carve out exemptions for objecting parents, have blood on their hands.

The mask proponents either have no idea that the U.S. is an international outlier in its school mask mandates (neither the European health authority or the World Health Organization go as far as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and that there’s next to no evidence for public-health benefits. Or simply they don’t care because they are too attached to the theater of masked-up kids, in some jurisdictions even while they are outside for recess.

The late economist Herb Stein famously said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Well, masking can’t go on forever, but that’s not stopping its advocates, who will very likely, when all is said and done, look nearly as foolish as the fierce proponents of school closures earlier in the pandemic.

Although there are still some holdouts who believe so-called remote learning was a necessary and costless mitigation strategy, it is now widely acknowledged to have had grievous educational costs with no public-health rationale. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine wrote a retrospective on the schools debate the other day headlined, “School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It.”

The mask mandates will fare almost as poorly, and the political and intellectual backlash is building, with huge fights over mandates in Virginia and New York State.

A notable piece in the Atlantic by three public-health experts eviscerated the case for school mask mandates. It related how a randomized trial in Denmark found no significant effects from masks on reducing transmission, and a study in Bangladesh found that surgical masks had some effect on reducing transmission. But importantly, the studies weren’t of children.

A Brown University study of schools in New York, Massachusetts and Florida didn’t find any correlation between student case numbers and mask mandates. The same is true of a study in “Science” magazine. Analysis of the data from schools around the country points the same way.

The mask mandates aren’t as harmful as the school closures, which were a debacle, but they aren’t without cost either, especially, as the Atlantic authors note, for kids “with cognitive delays, speech and hearing issues, and autism.”

They write: “Schools did not become hot spots when they reopened, nor when they reduced physical distancing, nor when they eliminated deep-cleaning protocols. These layers were peeled away because the evidence supporting them was weak, and they all had substantial downsides for children’s education and health.”

Mask mandates should join the litany of cast-aside school mitigation measures. If we are worried about the welfare of teachers, there’s nothing to stop them from getting vaccinated and boosted, and the vast majority are indeed vaccinated. Meanwhile, kids are at very low risk, and parents should be free to send their children to school masked if that makes them more comfortable.

But many on the left have a deep attachment to masks that isn’t based on evidence or on a calibration of costs-and-benefits but an a priori commitment to them as a totem of public safety and private virtue. That this feeling is less than rational makes it all the stronger. The science is beside the point, although eventually — after pro-mandate Democrats sustain more political damage — it will prevail.

© 2022 by King Features Syndicate

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.