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They Keep Moving the COVID-19 Goalposts: Will the Next Step Be Masks to Protect From the Flu and the Common Cold?

A sign instructing shoppers to wear masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19 is posted at a business in San Antonio, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

How did we go from “flatten the COVID-19 curve” to “shut up and wear the mask—or else” in just a few short months? Back in March, we were told that lockdowns were necessary to ensure COVID-19 cases would not overwhelm hospitals and, in particular, intensive-care units. In most parts of the country, hospitals were not only not overwhelmed, many were forced to lay off nurses and other employees because elective procedures were put on hold — a move that likely cost lives as people postponed health critical screenings and avoided going to the hospital when they had chest pains for fear of catching COVID-19.

Before we go any further, please hear what I am not saying. I’m not denying COVID-19 is a serious and sometimes deadly illness. It is, and many families are grieving the loss of loved ones who’ve died of it. And many families are grieving the loss of loved ones from the flu, from auto accidents, and from cancer. Death catches up to all of us eventually.

I’m also not denying that masks can slow down the spread of disease. They can.

But at the beginning of the pandemic, we were assured that once hospitals had things under control we could go back to our regularly scheduled lives, with the understanding that as things reopened and testing increased there would be a spike in the number of cases. Now it seems the goalposts are moving again and we’re being sent into further lockdown —in some cases more stringent lockdowns than before — by governors and other mini-tyrants who are in panic mode because people are catching a contagious (but not very deadly for most people) disease that is, you know, contagious.

Case in point, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who on Wednesday announced a statewide mask order that came with a threat: We’d all better obey him if we want schools to open in the fall.

Nice school you’ve got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

But while the number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 has risen in Ohio over the last month, hospital admissions haven’t kept up and the number of deaths has plummeted:

(Ohio Dept. of Health, July 22, 2020)

You have to dig around the Ohio Dept. of Health website to find these numbers. When you land on the site you’re greeted with a graph showing the cumulative number of deaths and hospitalizations, which make it appear there’s been a huge spike, when in fact it’s showing the growth of the cumulative total over time:

(Ohio Dept. of Health, July 22, 2020)

A Google search turned up no stories about hospitals being overwhelmed or nearing ICU capacity in Ohio, yet DeWine, who is the Democrats’ favorite Republican these days, went ahead with his mask order — the first statewide mask order in Ohio since the pandemic began. To hear DeWine talk (and tweet), you’d think hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients (who are probably lying on filthy FEMA cots) and we are all in very grave danger:

 

Meanwhile, in Wayne County, where I’m blessed to live, it doesn’t feel like we’re in grave danger—and the numbers bear that out:

(Ohio Dept. of Health, July 22, 2020)

That’s 55 total hospitalizations since the pandemic began. Last week there were two COVID hospitalizations recorded and no deaths. This despite the fact that nearly everything in the county reopened in mid-May and very few people are wearing masks. To date, we’ve had a grand total of 398 cases of COVID-19 and 59 deaths (most of them in nursing homes) out of a population of 117,710. Yet DeWine’s draconian new OMG-hair-on-fire statewide mask order is being forced on us here and we’ll all have to wear them while singing in church on Sunday and while smiling at babies in the park, who, by the way, are growing up in a world where frightened eyes peer at them over menacing masked faces.

What Are They Hiding? Ohio Health Dept. Says FOIA Requests Can Be Delayed Until 90 Days After COVID-19 Emergency Ends

So what is the goal at this point? Are we to wear masks until COVID is completely eradicated in the U.S.? Until we have zero cases? And once COVID is eradicated (it won’t be, but stick with me here), shouldn’t we continue to wear them until the flu is eradicated? And the common cold? Rotavirus? RSV? We’re being told that if we love our neighbors (and, by the way, you’re not a real Christian if you don’t’ want to wear a mask) we should be happy to wear a mask to protect them from COVID-19. If that’s the case, we’re going to have to continue to wear them until all contagions have been purged from the face of the earth—in other words, forever.

There’s risk inherent in living life. Each day we calculate the potential risk and make decisions about what we’ll do and where we’ll go. Most of us climb into a car every day and buckle up knowing that 1.35 million people worldwide die in car crashes each year and our morning commute could be our last. Some choose not to drive because the risk is too high. Others drive faster than the speed limit, making the calculus that the benefits of getting to where they’re going faster outweigh the risks.

Decisions individuals make about whether to wear a mask or stay home when there are contagions floating around are no different. Unfortunately, high on their own power, politicians like DeWine are gleefully soberly making those decisions for us. And now that they’ve done it with COVID-19, what’s to stop them from issuing other, more onerous, orders or locking us down every year during flu season or using health department orders to confiscating our firearms because gun violence is on the rise and PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS!!!

That’s what worries me most about these orders, many of which have, thank goodness, already been ruled unconstitutional. There’s a growing sense that this is the new normal—in fact, many of these mayors and governors have said as much. If that’s the case, we can kiss our liberties goodbye.

Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard

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