If masks work, why the lockdown? If masks do not work, why are we forced to wear them?
I see that question a lot on social media. The answer is this: Slowing the spread of the virus is a multi-pronged strategy. Masks and social distancing limit the spread in a group, but are not 100% effective. When the virus was spreading rapidly and threatening to overwhelm the health care system (and masks were in short supply) we had a temporary lockdown to slow it down.
Note the language above: Slow the spread. We cannot stop the spread and it is foolish to try. We might as well try to stop the earth from rotating. Viruses spread. That is what they do. The goal was to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed by too many severe COVID-19 cases. The goal of the “flatten the curve” models was to spread out people getting the disease over time. Most people would have a mild case, and we would move on.
No, elected officials who want to open the schools are not willing to sacrifice the lives of children. Statistically speaking, children are not nearly as vulnerable to the Communist Virus as adults, especially if they do not have underlying health conditions. (There are exceptions to this rule, obviously.) The most vulnerable population is senior citizens. So we may need to take steps to protect faculty and staff, but no one is trying to put children in danger. Plus, there are benefits to having children in school. Online instruction is not as effective as in-person instruction and many children need social interaction with their friends..
But there is another problem with that meme. It is deeply immoral. We do not see those we disagree with politically as people who have a different opinion or who may be wrong on policy. We see them as evil. It is bad for the country, bad for our political system, bad for society and bad for individual relationships when we take the posture that someone cannot be wrong on policy without having evil motivations.
Calling the cops
We have heard a lot about over-policing and police brutality. If you call the police on people not wearing a mask, you are part of the problem. Police should not be enforcing such things. Enforcement should be up to individual businesses, and the county Health Department can fine businesses who are not enforcing mask orders. It unnecessarily spreads police thin when they should be reserved for a true emergency, and it creates distrust toward the police.
When you call armed agents of the state on someone, remember: This could escalate quickly and lethal force could be used. No, I am not exaggerating. Remember, Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes and Elizabeth Daly was buying bottled water. (See here and here and here for more.)
Everybody chill out. We know more than we did seven months ago, but there is still a lot we do not know about the novel coronavirus. People are trying to balance competing priorities, such as protecting senior citizens, ensuring children get a good education, preventing deaths of despair and limiting the economic damage. Stop treating those who disagree with you on policy as evil.