July 26, 2021

Mask Mandates

“The United States is in an ‘unnecessary predicament’ of soaring COVID-19 cases fueled by unvaccinated Americans and the virulent delta variant, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert said Sunday… [Dr. Anthony Fauci] said recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is ‘under active consideration’ by the government’s leading public health officials.” AP News

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From the Left

The left generally argues that strongly incentivizing people to get vaccinated will be more effective than mask mandates.

“[Joseph Allen, an environmental epidemiologist at Harvard] worries that encouraging vaccinated people to keep masking undermines confidence in the vaccines. You can’t claim you ‘believe in science’ unless you also believe in the science of vaccine efficacy… What’s more, the masking endgame seems unclear. Vaccination has slowed to a crawl, so when do we stop masking? If mask mandates return, [Brown University School of Public Health dean Ashish] Jha says, cases will go back up again when they end. ‘This is not a long-term solution,’ he says. ‘The long-term solution is to get more people vaccinated.’”
Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

“Somehow Los Angeles County is reacting to Delta by trying to re-impose a county-wide mask mandate but hasn’t mandated vaccination for its own sheriff’s department. In D.C., we’re hand-wringing about schools in the fall but we’re not mandating vaccination for teachers or kids over 12. [We should also] Offer people some money and some time off to get their shots… For all the talk right now, we’re really barely doing the minimum to encourage vaccination.”
Matthew Yglesias, Slow Boring

“Private businesses should require proof of vaccination (or a medical note explaining why someone can't get it) to use their services. A bunch of conservative states have actually passed laws forbidding businesses from doing this, but this is almost certainly an unconstitutional infringement of property rights…

“Health-care workers are another obvious category of people who have no excuse to not get their shot, since they are routinely interacting with the public in a medical setting. Some private and public hospitals have required vaccination, and others are reportedly mulling the idea. Similarly, as Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall argues, any objection about personal choice is even weaker with regard to cops, since part of their job is forcing people to interact with them. The NYPD, for example, has a pathetic 43 percent vaccination rate… In general, every government employee of any kind should be required to be vaccinated to come to work.”
Ryan Cooper, The Week

“Tougher restrictions will inevitably lead to cries that constitutionally guaranteed rights are being violated, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that private businesses and employers are within their rights to mandate vaccines. And there is also solid legal precedent for sweeping government vaccine mandates. In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that smallpox mandates issued by Boston and Cambridge during a 1901 outbreak were a reasonable infringement on personal freedom.”
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

Those in favor of a mask mandate argue that “the simplest solution is to require those who are unvaccinated to wear masks, and several states have adopted this policy… But that bifurcated approach doesn’t work well if unvaccinated individuals are unlikely to follow mask requirements when the vaccinated no longer need to wear masks…

“Given mask resistance, a universal requirement may be the only effective approach. When everyone is required to wear a mask, businesses, government offices and employers do not need to worry about vaccine verification and unvaccinated people cannot easily avoid masking. It may feel unfair that individuals shunning the vaccine and masks could cause us all to have to mask up again. But until vaccinations are more broadly required, policies like the federal rule that everyone wear masks on planes, trains and buses is the most viable option.”
Peter K. Enns and Jake Rothschild, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

The right opposes both mask mandates and vaccine requirements, arguing that those who are vaccinated face little risk from the unvaccinated.

The right opposes both mask mandates and vaccine requirements, arguing that those who are vaccinated face little risk from the unvaccinated.

“Yes, the number of coronavirus cases has risen. But, while the number of new cases has spiked since mid-June, this is not the deadly disease it once was. The number of deaths has declined. Nearly 70% of adults have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Many additional people — we don't know for sure how many — are protected by natural immunity, from having previously contracted the virus and recovered. Natural immunity is often forgotten in this context, but research shows that, so far, it is effective and durable. If a federal response to the rise in cases (not deaths) is even necessary, focusing on children and vaccinated adults is pointless. Both groups are at extraordinarily low risk.”
Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

Vaccines are widely available to everyone who is eligible. Early data proves they are highly effective against the delta variant. Nearly everyone who has been hospitalized by the delta variant has been unvaccinated. In other words, if you are one of the 162 million people who has been fully vaccinated or developed natural immunity against the coronavirus, you have nothing to worry about…

“As of [last] Sunday, there were only two counties in the United States reporting 10 or more coronavirus deaths. There were only 249 total deaths across the country as of Wednesday. Hospitalization rates remain stable, and intensive care capacity is well over 70% in most parts of the country. These numbers are very similar to U.S. influenza rates. This is what success looks like… It is well past time we move past the hysteria and get on with our lives.”
Kaylee McGhee White, Washington Examiner

“The official gloom boosts vaccine hesitancy, too. Why get jabbed if life is going back into lockdown — and if you’d still have to worry about every new strain, as politicians and public-health officials imply when they insist even the vaccinated must re-mask?… As Biden rightly notes, ‘The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.’ He should rein in Fauci and his other allies undermining vaccine confidence: 90 million eligible Americans still haven’t gotten a jab, and their lives may depend on it.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

“Polling routinely indicates that the unvaccinated are far less concerned about the prospect of COVID infection than the fully immunized, which makes sense given the lack of risk-aversion inherent in refusing immunization… the resumption of mask mandates is designed only to satisfy those who advocate ‘doing something,’ regardless of what that something is…

These mandates will be observed primarily by the already vaccinated and promise to have only a negligible impact on the spread of COVID-19 in the best circumstances. At worst, disparately observed and entirely unenforced mask mandates threaten to accelerate the spread of this disease [by creating incentives for the unvaccinated to gather among themselves].”
Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine

Dated but relevant: Regarding vaccine requirements, “Many Americans, particularly of the conservative stripe, loathe the notion of some sort of national pass card required to go about our daily lives. We instantly flash back to every World War Two movie where the SS officers get on the train and not-so-politely demand, ‘your papers, please.’ Most Americans recoil at the idea of having to show proof of vaccination to just live their life, and the fact that it’s a little cardboard card, filled out by hand in some situations and easily forged, makes the proposal seem rather ridiculous.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

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