This is an opinion piece.
I started wearing a mask even before Dr. Fauci said not to.
Since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, best practices for stopping the spread have been debated at length, perhaps none more so than masks. Do they really work? Should the government force people to wear them? Since Gov. Kay Ivey issued a mask order last Wednesday, you might think the issue has been settled for Alabama, but like with everything surrounding COVID-19, the moment you think you know, you’re wrong.
If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t trust the experts. From the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, U.S. Surgeon General to Dr. Anthony Fauci himself, the trusted authorities have either issued conflicting guidelines on virus safety or outright lied to the American people.
Early on in the pandemic, Fauci said there was no need to wear a mask. He wasn’t the only expert saying that. And if you search for studies supporting that claim even now, you might find some compelling information.
Fast forward a few months, and Fauci said not only should people wear masks, but he’s in favor of a mask mandate forcing people to do so. When asked about his change in opinion, he admitted to lying to preserve the mask supply.
“I don’t regret anything I said then because in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct,” he said. “We were told in our task force meetings that we have a serious problem with the lack of PPEs.”
To be fair, he was probably right to try and save masks for front-line medical workers, but the way he did it hurt his credibility.
Since Alabama’s mask order went into effect, businesses have been putting up signs saying all customers must wear one to enter. Of course, they’ve always had that option, but now the government has given them no choice. Though Ivey said the order’s purpose was primarily to educate the public, disregard it at your own peril. It’s unlikely police would issue a $500 fine or jail time for not wearing a mask, as is the stated penalty, but the threat is still there.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth spoke out against the mandate, saying he agreed with what Ivey said just days before she issued the order, that a mask mandate would, at the very least, be impractical.
The mask debate has long since split along party lines, with the “freedom-loving” anti-mask side, likely Republicans, arguing against the “big government” pro-mask side, likely Democrats. I’ve seen every argument from both positions, from the outrageous to the specious, but hardly any getting at the heart of the issue.
To put it as charitably as possible, the former does not believe the government has the right to force them to wear a mask. The latter thinks doing so will slow the spread and save lives. You may be shocked to learn that another group of people hold both of those beliefs at the same time.
Mask wearing isn’t the civil rights issue of our time (see Portland, the McCloskeys, China, etc.). It isn’t as hard or burdensome an inconvenience as previous generations had to endure, but it’s also not as insignificant or trivial as “just wear a mask” mantra implies. If you’re adamant about masks being worn universally, sarcastically straw-manning the opposing view is not a recommended method of persuasion.
It’s not about whether or not masks work. From a risk management perspective, they almost certainly have a big benefit. With cases increasing and hospitals reportedly “on the brink” of overcapacity, some believe a mask mandate is the best if not only way to again flatten the curve, to say nothing of the potential for herd immunity, vaccines, hydroxychloroquine and Vitamin D. I’m sure you’ve got your expert opinions on all that.
It’s about who decides. Without positing conspiracies or threats of tyranny, from a Constitutional — and dare I say Biblical — standpoint, it ain’t the government.
If you’re worried about catching or spreading anything, then, please, wear a mask. Don’t not wear one just because Uncle Sam says so. Some say wearing a mask is being respectful to others but so is not villainizing a person over their choice to wear one or not.
Daniel Tayloris a staff writer for The Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @DnlTylr. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.