Masks are not the only weapon we have against COVID-19

As I have said many times, I was wearing a mask in public places before it was mandatory. I supported and defended the statewide and local mask mandates in 2020 and early 2021. Masks are a useful weapon to limit the spread of COVID-19, and this was especially true in the first year of the pandemic. However, masks are not the only weapon we have, and they are most certainly not the ultimate answer to this pandemic. Pretending otherwise is wildly irresponsible and will cause people to get sick, and some will die.

As an example of this mentality, look at this article from the Washington Post. A teacher took off her mask for a few minutes to read to students in her class, and then a bunch of those children were infected with COVID-19. But the Post obsesses over the mask and ignored the fact that the teacher was in class to begin with, despite the fact that she was experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Had she stayed home, she would not have been capable of exposing anyone in the school to the virus.

We need to be realistic. Had the teacher’s mask never came off, she still would have infected children in her class. The Centers for Disease Control recommends self-quarantine for people with COVID-19, and given that the Delta variant is much more transmissible than previous variants the masks are not as effective as they were against the other variants. The mask is not magic, and masks are only one weapon in the fight against the virus. Obsessing over the mask is essentially treating it as religious iconography.

There are other examples of the obsession with masks. A letter to the editor last week claimed that “mask-wearing is absolutely essential to avoiding disease and dying.” This puts far too much emphasis on masks. And while I have mentioned it before, I will mention it again because it was so absurd: For a “university” to tell students to wear a mask during sex is anti-scientific nonsense. When two people are that intimate, a mask will do absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of a respiratory virus from one partner to another. But the “university” would not dare cross the cult of sexual licentiousness.

We need to be brutally honest. We have exactly one path out of this pandemic. It is not masks and never was. The path is herd immunity, and we can achieve that though the safe and effective vaccines developed in unprecedented time. All of our energy should be focused on getting people vaccinated, not on the stopgap measures we were using to slow the spread of the virus while we waited for the vaccine to become available. If you want to do your part, get vaccinated. That will not only protect you, but it will also help prevent you from infecting others. Getting shots in arms is how we reduce severe disease and save lives.