Exactly a year ago today/Craig Medred photo

And so the year-long mask-charade ends with a big question: Can you trust your fellow citizens?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday said the vaccinated can now go largely mask free. President Joe Biden called it “a great day for America.”

But how is one to identify the vaccinated versus the anti-vaxxer’s simply taking advantage of newfound freedom from masks? They could still be out there spreading SARS-CoV-2, and though the vaccines have so far proven unbelievably successful in protecting people against the new pandemic disease, they are not perfect.

Eight fully vaccinated members of the New York Yankees baseball team just tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. but only one of them became ill, according to NBC.

They are not the first vaccinated individuals who have developed COVID-19, the disease spawned by the virus in some but not all.

Earlier warnings

So what happened to COVID-guru Dr. Anthony Fauci’s warning of less than a month ago that it might be good to stay masked up for years?

The vaccinated “might get infected and get absolutely no symptoms, not know you’re infected, and then inadvertently go into a situation with vulnerable people.

“And if you don’t have a mask, you might inadvertently infect them. Now, there’s a small risk of that, but it’s there,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 18.

The same day he went on CNN’s “State of the Union” to warn that “the other reason for wearing a mask is that there are variants that are circulating. And although they’re unusual, we are seeing breakthrough infections. But we’re also seeing variants that are a bit disturbing.”

Did those variants somehow vaporize in the last 28 days? Or did the administration of new President Biden just get tired of American’s arguing over masks that are in the opinions of some a bothersome waste of time and in the opinions of others the difference between life and death.

Mary Kathryn Grabowski, an assistant professor in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, told Poynter Institute’s fact checkers just two months ago that going without a mask is so dangerous it would even be unsafe to study masking.

“Randomized controlled trials are pretty much the gold standard, but they’re not always ethical,” Grabowski said. “We can’t just send people out without masks in the middle of a pandemic in the same way we can’t randomize people to not use a parachute when they jump out of a plane.”


Going without a mask during the pandemic is as dangerous as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute?

Not exactly.

It’s hard to tell which is worse here. That someone trained in the sciences would make such an absurd statement or that a journalist would write it down without thinking.

Here are some things every journalist should know about SARS-CoV-2:

SARS-CoV-2 is nothing like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, although there are people who have jumped out of airplanes without a parachute and survived.

Stuntman Luke Aikins made national news when he did it in 2016. He became, according to NPR, “the first skydiver to jump from a plane without a parachute or wingsuit and live to tell the story.

“In a stunt called “Heaven Sent,” the 42-year-old daredevil leaped 25,000 feet to Earth – setting a world record. To accomplish this feat, Aikins had to direct his body in free fall using only the air currents around him to land safely on the high-tech 10,000-square-foot net (about a third the size of a football field) laid out to catch him.”

Overall, unfortunately, the odds of surviving a fall or jump out of an airplane without a parachute are near opposite the odds of surviving COVID-19; there’s a 98 percent or better chance you will die when you fall out of an airplane without a parachute.

Still, Grabowski must be in shock at the latest government advice. She is likely not alone.

Masked divide

For a year the country has been feuding over masks with the true believers in one camp; the freedom fighters (we’d rather die than wear a mask in another); and the skeptics somewhere in the middle.

The Northeast masked up early and heavily and death rates there still lead the nation: 292 per 100,000 dead in New Jersey; 273 per 100,000 in New York; 255 per 100,000 in Rhode Island and 253 per 100,000 in Massachusetts. 

Those are the highest rates in the U.S.

Norway largely ignored masks and has a death rate of 14 per 100,000, about two and a half times lower than the 35 per 100,000 in Hawaii. Hawaii has the lowest rate in the U.S.

It did what Norway did and really cracked down on letting people onto the islands. Both figured out early on that masks weren’t the best solution.

The best solution was to keep potentially infected people away from others.

“Increased distance and fewer close contacts are two key measures to reduce transmission in the coronavirus pandemic,” the Norwegian government warned its citizens. “Increasing the distance between people and reducing the number of contacts reduces the risk of being infected by people who were unaware they were infected.

“The risk of infection is higher indoors than outdoors, especially in small and poorly ventilated rooms.”

The U.S. masked up, went on about its business, and plenty of people got sick and died while Americans argued over masking.

Not that Norwegians ignored masks. They recognized them as a possible aid in situations where there were no other alternatives,  but they accepted that masks weren’t as good as seatbelts – or parachutes – for saving livings.

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20 replies »

  1. Craig- Do you think it is ethical, in the face of scientific consensus that understands community masking to significantly reduce spread, to undertake a double blind study to interrogate that understanding. Such a double blind study would probably involve selecting certain communities to receive shipments of innefective “placebo” masks, or perhaps providing misinformation to somehow affect the free will of the public.

    I honestly can’t come up with any sort of idea for a randomized double blind mask study involving this specific virus that begins to be feasible or ethical. Various studies well be done around the edges that help us understand, but can you tell me you don’t see the ethical concerns posed by a randomized control trial as mentioned by Grabowski?

    If you can see the ethical dilemma perhaps the whole focus on the lethality of free fall is a bit of a red herring.

    • The Danes did that study and found no evidence masks did anything:

      There is no ethical dilemma. I’m sure there would be no problem finding volunteers to go maskless. It’s not comparable to free fall in any way.

      First, you have to catch the COVID. By no means a given.

      Then you have to be one of those with an immune system that can’t push back the virus to the extent you become sick instead of asymptomatic.

      And then if you do get sick, you’re odds of survival remain over 98 percent.

      If you step out of airplane without a chute, the odds are 99.9 percent that you D-I-E. Period. End of story.

      The whole masking debate is so couched in confirmation bias and fear it’s kind of a waste to even discuss it. People believer what they want to believe.

  2. “Can you trust your fellow citizens?” Really??

    Come on, Medred. Eliminating the mask mandate increases liberty. That means the vaccinated are free from the face diapers and the unvaccinated are free to spread their virii at will.

    The fun part is, we the vaccinated, DON’T CARE. I’m not catching nor spreading Covid, neither am I catching or spreading Polio. I am immune to both. The masks are meaningless to me.

    The unvaccinated can say whatever they want, if they get sick it’s on them. They can’t make me sick so I say “Go with God. You do you.”

    Meanwhile I am LOVING the fresh air on my face.

    • The masks may well have been meaningless all along. There’s no real evidence to indicate they did anything. With the CDC encouraging everyone to ignore aerosols, deaths rose even in places where everyone was faithfully masked.

      One could make an argument that, as in wildlife populations, SARS-CoV-2 hit hard at the weak and old and that the young and healthy largely survived whether masked or unmasked.

      The vaccines are a medical breakthrough, but they’re not perfect. Real world results on Pfizer/BioNTech are putting it at 85-90 percent at this time. We’ll find out how that holds down the road.

      SARS-CoV-2 is constantly mutating, much like the flu, and we have a lot of data on the efficacy of the ever-changing flu vaccines. Long-term, I’d be happy with 70 percent on Pfizer/BioNTech, which is what I got shot up with. And I can only cross my fingers that there are no long-term problems on down the road for young people who took that shot.

      Meanwhile, the data strongly indicates that it’s protective to lose the fat and stay in good physical condition.

    • Well, except that a lot of them wore the mask, hung out around only others who were masked, and it didn’t appear to do anything.

      And if you believe the University of Vermont study, masking might well upped the death toll instead of lowering it.

      • While just a layman, I am more inclined to believe Dr. Knut Wittkowski’s assertion that masking (if it actual did do anything) caused more death. As an epidemiologist he still to this day asserts that universal interventions caused more death. That the worst thing to do and cause more death was to close schools. That focused protection (as Florida eventually did) was the right way to allow community spread among the healthy and try and isolate the vulnerable. Instead, we equalized the risk across the population. Something, that to me explains why masking didn’t do squat for death rates in the Northeast. Maybe they can statistically help with transmission, but maybe you don’t really want to do that universally when looking at total harm. Very view vocal experts out there were even voicing concerts of “total harm”. Dr. Katz (Yale) of my state of Connecticut was one of those few and offered an excellent rational thesis on policy. I will patiently await for the smoke to clear and see who was more in the right or wrong. My money is on non-government payroll experts.

  3. The same people that shutdown and wanted to shutdown more pipelines during a fuel shortage while saying “fuel delivery is more efficient and safer through a pipeline” are the same morons making Covid policy. Yet you trust their judgment to inject an unknown into your body? Not to mention these same fascists creating runaway inflation, debt, and a border crisis like we have never seen before, in addition to weakness around the world.

  4. How can any person really take these over educated authority and leader boobs seriously. They have already out contradicted the Bible by a long shot.

  5. So thankful I live in a place (Sodak) where many folks did not buy into the panic and paranoia. Been pretty much business as usual here (if you wanted it to be) for the last year. Weddings (including my own with 50 friends), concerts. Share a 12×15 office with my boss. Going out to eat and hitting the breweries with friends and family. Wear you mask and get your shot if you want, just don’t judge the others who haven’t

    • Tman,
      Funny thats pretty much the same argument that some people have with seatbelts.
      No thought given to the person who might have to pry your face off a pole.More power to you,as long as you dont cost me $’s

      • DaveMc, seatbelts save lives, masks have been proven to, well, do nothing.

      • Some of us did a lot of driving before seat belts were mandated and live to tell about it. OTOH, they have worked pretty well and been (mostly) obtrusiveness outside the annual police fundraising via click it or ticket drives.

        Belts are used in most aircraft. High performance jets require a harness assembly to connect your shoulders to the parachute.

        The real argument ought to be about airbags. Cheers –

      • Dave, As stated there is actual proof that seatbelts save lives. I have witnessed that first hand when I hit a bridge at 70mph. I also gre up on dirtbikes and won’t jump on a bike w/o a helmet. I started riding road and mtn bike 35+ years ago and as soon as the first good cycling helmet came out I started wearing them. I have also spent many hours dressed in MOPP4 for NBC training and know what it actually takes to be safe in a contaminated environment. And it IS NOT a piece of fabric over your face. I follow my friends and family that are in the medical field, they are diverse. Doctors, EMTs, a pharmacist an anesthesiologist a dentist, one even runs a lab at a large hospital. All of them have laughed at the mask mandates. Several were at my previously mentioned wedding last October 😉

      • Tman,
        While I may not have lived before seatbelts were mandatory,I do well remember the angst caused by the relatively new laws that required them.Back in the day they didn’t have shoulder belts, it was lap only.
        And many many people then refused to wear them.So with 50 yrs worth of data, its pretty easy to say “see they work”.
        That was not the case in the ’60’s.So jettison this “logical” data point revelation, with regards to seat belts.
        Ive been through HAZMAT training as well as fire suppression(of course had to shave beard for fit test, SCBA)also, not sure how that really fits into the discussion.
        Not sure how they do it in South Dakota(tnx google),but out west the smarter RDH’s have been shields and masks for several decades.Talk to anybody who works as an ICU nurse and its mask central.
        Lots of opinions out there, and its fairly easy to find one that fits your frame of mind, but let me know when you find a peer reviewed scientific study that masks undoubtably are completely useless, or even near useless.
        Theres so many variables,its near impossible to prove either way.

      • It really depends on what you call a mask, a bandana or neck gaiter are not a masks and studies have shown they do not help protect people. Actual masks do help, as long as the user wears them correctly. Much like any tool they can be used incorrectly and abused easily. Masks, like hammers and guns are inanimate objects and the failure to use proper tool or use the proper tool correctly is the failure of the person not the inanimate object.

  6. Mental illness and to think people listen to this nutcase. Please stay in NY.
    “I feel like I’m going to have to rewire myself so that when I see someone out in the world who’s not wearing a mask, I don’t instantly think, ‘You are a threat,’” Rachael Maddow said. “Or you are selfish or you are a Covid denier and you definitely haven’t been vaccinated. I mean, we’re going to have to rewire the way that we look at each other.”

    • Funny how Biden is having such a disastrous Jimmy Carter week and all of a sudden, “hey, look over here, not over there, you can remove your mask now, yah”. .. Fauchi frauds all of them.

  7. What I love about all this is those that are “vaccinated” are the ones screaming the loudest about those not “vaccinated”. I mean, you are “vaccinated” right? Even “vaccinated” the loons are fearful of removing their masks for a virus with a 99.987% survival rate. Ah shut-up you whiney Lefties:

    “Part of what they did today was great, saying these vaccines are wonderful, once you get the vaccine you can choose your own adventure, you can go out and take off your mask and do all these things. I think that’s exactly the right message,” Wen said. “The only problem is that also needed to be tied to proof of vaccination, because what I really worry about is, essentially, the CDC today eliminated mask mandates and social distancing. They’re saying it’s all an honor code from now on.”

    She went on to claim the CDC’s move was actually going to be a disincentive, saying a lot of the people who never wanted to be vaccinated or wear masks can now just claim they are vaccinated without having to show any proof. She argued people who are more vulnerable or who are also unvaccinated will be more at risk, and that the overall decision actually takes the country further away from herd immunity. “

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