Mask mandates, over-policing and tattletale culture

To state the obvious: It was reckless and irresponsible for throngs of people to gather in the streets in Tampa to celebrate the Super Bowl win without wearing masks or social distancing. While we are already seeing 1.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine per day, we are not out of the woods and people should not unnecessarily put themselves and others in danger of catching the disease.

With that said, two things can be true at once: Pandemic mitigation is important and the reaction to the event has been disproportionate. For the vast majority of the country, foolish behavior in Tampa is not going to put you at risk of COVID-19, so being enraged about it is a disproportionate reaction. There will always be people who act irresponsibly. Let’s have a sense of proportion.

I said on Twitter that the New York Times’ coverage of the party was “tattletale culture.” Here are a few of the enraged (and deranged) responses I got:

“Pro-lifers” wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to endanger the lives of actual human beings

The pandemic is out of control because of crass, phony-tough cretins who will die denying reality as long as it means owning libs.

What’s sad is your ignorance and selfishness. I hope your grandma doesn’t get it and croak because of you.

right-wing christians have become a lot of nazi-loving cowards and faux fathers who wouldn’t budge an inch even for their own children and wives.

These responses, of course, are lies. I endangered no one’s life by disagreeing with tattletale culture. I was wearing a mask indoors in public places before it was mandatory. I have defended the statewide mask mandate and reasonable occupancy limits to slow the spread of the virus. I defended temporarily closing businesses and churches in the early days of the pandemic when there was much more we did not know. I have never once denied the reality of COVID-19 and I have supported measures to combat it. Criticizing the nation’s “newspaper of record” for acting like a tattletale does not negate those facts.

And while I am pro-mask, I am not going to go along with efforts to expand mask use when there is no benefit to doing so. So despite what the First Lady says, I will not wear a mask when I am walking around outside and not close to anyone. I will wear a mask indoors in public places, but not outside by myself. That is anti-scientific nonsense, treating masks as a religious sacrament, not as pandemic mitigation.

What irritates me is that this anti-science nonsense causes people to not take pandemic mitigation seriously – and we should take it seriously. The mitigation policy and personal behavior has worked. We have crushed influenza in the 2020-2021 flu season, thanks to social distancing, masking and other policy and responsible personal behavior. Remember, influenza spreads the same way as COVID-19. But when people see this overbearing nonsense, they stop taking public health “experts” seriously and pandemic fatigue sets in.

Let’s be clear: That is causing people do die.

But tattletale culture and anti-science foolishness from the Biden Administration is not harmful policy. No, the award for that goes to the mayor of Tampa, who promised to send the police after people who partied in an irresponsible way. Yes, at a time when we are having serious conversations about over-policing and reducing confrontational interactions between law enforcement and the general public, she is actually going to send men with guns after people who did not wear masks at Super Bowl celebrations.

The event is over, so sending armed agents of the state will not do anything to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19. We need to be perfectly clear about this: If you are sending the police after people, the end goal is an arrest. Not only is having the police department “handle it” purely punitive and will do nothing, arresting people and sending them to jail – in a closed, overcrowded environment – will cause more infections, obliterating the mayor’s supposed policy goal. Great job!

Look, as I have said hundreds of times, pandemic mitigation is important. We have had nearly a half million Americans die of COVID-19. But at the same time, some of the “safety” advocates have become radicalized, treating efforts to stop COVID-19 as a religious crusade and damning all those who disagree with them in even the smallest way as heretics and witches. Well, if the fact that I can think for myself makes me a heretic and a witch, so be it. I will continue to practice heresy and witchcraft. I am not joining your cult.