While Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has reinstated a mask mandate, and communities around America are doing the same, I am not going to wear one. As Erick Erickson wrote yesterday, “like hell will I wear a mask.” I earned the right to say that.
For months during the heat of the pandemic in 2020, I masked practically everywhere. The only place I didn’t wear a mask was at home or in my private office at work. I masked at Walmart, Publix, Kroger—and did my one-person shopping expeditions like a Bushido warrior on a family honor mission, alone and fully equipped for battle. My family huddled at home, and we even did a round of the “bleach the groceries” game.
Despite all my countermeasures and care, I got COVID-19 in October. I think I picked it up at Sam’s Club, while I touched a shirt in a pile of shirts, and likely failed to properly and immediately apply hand sanitizer soon enough. Either that, or Sam’s Club was such a saturated viral playground that they should have encased it in a sarcophagus with an exclusion zone around it like Chernobyl.
I got COVID-19 and it sucked. My wife and kids got it. My oldest kid didn’t immediately get it, and in a Kafaesque twist of absurdity, uninfected he would have needed to quarantine 28 days to go back to school, but only 10 days once he tested positive. So we stopped quarantining him to get him back to school faster.
I still experience some “long COVID” effects. Allergies hit me harder. I sometimes get a wave of fatigue in the middle of the day. It took me a month to get my smell and taste back. My average heart rate, which hovers around 55, spiked to over 60 during my bout with the disease. I missed three weeks of work. My sleep has not yet recovered. I’ll say it again, COVID-19 sucks, and I wish it on nobody.
Six months after having COVID-19, my son’s school made him quarantine for a week because someone in his class, with whom he spent maybe 15 minutes during an art class inside the six-foot social distancing bubble, tested positive. We knew who it was because all the parents in our neighborhood talk. The school wouldn’t disclose who it was, and they took on a threat posture when I asked about their contact tracing and decision-making processes. Some kids got quarantined, some did not, and having had COVID-19 was not a defense.
As soon as I could get vaccinated, I made an appointment to get the one-and-done J&J/Janssen shot. I had to travel 90 minutes away to find a health department that had that vaccine—all the J&J in Atlanta metro was gone in days. I took two days off from work; one to get the shot, and one to recover. I needed that second day. The vaccine was like a truck hit me. I could barely lift a glass of water the next day, and was stuck in a recliner for six hours. Then I was better (except for the “long COVID” effects, which seemed to worsen).
Now I am fully vaccinated. My wife is fully vaccinated (two shots of Pfizer). My kids are too young (one just turned 12 this week and will get his shot soon). Why in hell do I need to wear a mask? Who am I protecting from a viral load that I have a—from the science I hear—1 in 10:000 or more chance of carrying? The chance of me being a double-breakthrough case (have any even been reported?), asymptomatic yet shedding viral load, is beyond the risk tables that actuaries use to calculate insurance premiums. It’s asymptotic to zero.
The only reason someone like me should mask is to declare some kind of solidarity with those who are mandating masks for people who need to mask. I am supposed to feel like my masking will give them some kind of moral support, some ammunition to use against the hicks and rubes who refuse to take the vaccine. Here’s my answer: No.
The “hicks and rubes” apparently include some 40 percent of New York City Department of Education workers who have not been vaccinated. Why do they still have jobs? My wife’s employer won’t hire teachers who aren’t vaccinated. She had to get her shot to keep her job. Why is NYC not showing solidarity with the government who wants everyone to get a vaccine or at least mask up?
If they won’t get a shot, why should I mask up?
I am a danger to nobody. The risk of me being a danger is basically nil. The only reason someone like me has to mask up is to be a social warrior for masking or getting vaccinated. I might as well stand on a street corner holding a sign “Get Vaxxed!” as wear a mask.
Now that I’ve said all that: if you haven’t earned the right to be me—to be a danger to nobody—and you refuse to take the vaccine, then you don’t have the right to not wear a mask. If you haven’t had COVID-19, and you are unvaccinated, you are a clear and present danger to yourself and those around you. You can very easily get the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that’s floating around like the Sam’s Club where I probably got infected.
The Delta variant is said to be 40 percent more, well, virulent, than the original 2020 version that swept through. If you are unvaccinated and haven’t already had some protection by having COVID-19, you most likely will get it. You will get sick. You might die. COVID-19 sucks, and I wouldn’t wish it on you even if you voted a straight Democratic ticket since Mike Dukakis popped his Greek head out of a tank.
If you choose to be a reckless vector for viral super spread, then that’s your business. God should have mercy on your soul because you are not doing your patriotic, brotherly, or human duty to not be a danger to everyone like you. But it’s a free country, and if you want to be reckless, then you can go out and drink a fifth of Jack Daniels and get behind the wheel, too. The consequences may or may not be deadly, but it’s the same attitude of “it won’t be me” at work.
Sorry, buddy, it will be you. You will probably get COVID-19 and spread it. Then you’ll have to live with the knowledge you did. If someone close to you gets it and dies, it can gnaw at your soul for a very long time. Do I wish this on you? No.
Like war veterans don’t wish war on anyone, including those who haven’t fought one, they also don’t like it when someone wears the medals and decorations they earned without having earned them. I earned the right not to wear a mask. People who’ve endured COVID-19, whether they choose to get vaccinated or not, have much more protection than those who have not been sick and not vaccinated. They have a right to say no to masks if they’re not sick right now.
Those who have been fully vaccinated have a right to say no to masks, otherwise what’s the point of getting vaccinated? If they choose, because of their own risk aversion, or because of standing in solidarity with people who should wear masks, to wear a mask, good for them.
But not me. I earned my right to say no, and I’m saying no.
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I'm of two minds on this.
First of all, what you (and Jonah Goldberg) published this morning is probably where I'm at in my heart-of-hearts. I don't like the masks (and need to quit forgetting to throw mine in the laundry for a wash!) and I was very pleased that Chicago was going largely maskless this summer as we did the right thing with respect to the vaccine. I got my shot, so regardless of how the next couple of months play out, I'm not worried about the safety of anyone I know in my immediate Dunbar set.
On the other hand, as I've laid out in previous comments, I am annoyed (and periodically) enraged by the lack of compliance with the mandates in the few places we reasonably have the masking still in place (mainly the public transit system). I live in a city and neighborhood that gets a lot of out-of-town and out-of-state traffic, so it's not like I'm just riding the train with fellow Chicagoans who - for the most part (58%) - have gotten the first shot or more, but also from neighboring states who continue to punch themselves in the crotch with respect to COVID. (I'm looking at you, Missouri. Also, happy Lollapalooza weekend!) I continue to believe that it makes sense for the ongoing mask mandates on things like buses and train cars, not so much for me, but for the 42% of my fellow Chicagoans who still need the jab, so I don't think it's theatre as much as some folks (and riders) like to prefer otherwise.
As an individualist, I'll choose to keep adhering to the mandates, because it's a VERY short-sighted individualist who doesn't recognize that collective actions also create permission structures that can encourage or deter behavior based on what others around you are doing. Given that no-one has ever provided Step 2 for the scary Mask Gnomes (Step 1: Get people to wear masks. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Ultimate Power!), I'm going to continue to give my local health authorities the benefit of the doubt. For all the words that have been wasted on the. tyranny of masks, it's just a mask. Asians have been using them productively to protect themselves for years, and Americans going full crybaby over them really doesn't say anything positive about that vaunted American Toughness.
I think that if we start to see mask mandates expand out from where they are here, it's going to be a BIG political fight, even in this Democratic enclave. And I think it will be right to be a big fight. After putting the entire city on pause for a year, it's just getting back on its feet and I expect just about every business owner to shout that they've done their part, and they would be correct to do so. I expect the mask mandates to be political losers compared to the alternative approach of allowing businesses to requiring proof of vaccination for services. My hope is that we don't get to either point, but the fact that we're having this conversation is evidence of the lunacy of the world we live in.
As one of my friends once told me, we live in The Stupidest Timeline. I was hoping that a change in national skipper would have pulled us out of it, but we're collectively bound and determined keep authoring cautionary tales.
Jonah Goldberg has a good piece out at the Dispatch, where he gives his well reasoned views on the recent mask mandates. Broadly speaking, it tends reflects my own views as well. It is worth a read.