COMPASS: Has mask theater come to an end?

April 19th, 2022

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate are still both in recess – but the courts are still at work. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the CDC’s mask mandate, citing the agency’s lack of statutory authority to implement it in the first place.

From Real Clear Politics:

For now, the travel mask mandate is no more. The White House may have, privately, sighed in relief. The controversial issue has been taken from them.

On Monday morning, a federal judge in Florida ruled that health officials had exceeded their authority when they mandated that every man, woman, and child over 2 years old wear a mask when traveling across state lines on an airplane. And yet, by Monday afternoon, despite the 58-page ruling, an eminently practical question remained.

What would the White House tell a traveler at an airport bar waiting for their flight tonight? Was a mask, that most enduring symbol of pandemic restriction, still required? It wasn’t clear if the government would appeal, and Press Secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t show the administration’s hand.

“We’re continuing to recommend people wear masks. I don’t have any update,” Psaki told reporters.

Ed O’Keefe of CBS News, along with a host of others, still wondered if the administration planned some sort of last-minute, rearguard legal action to save the mandate.

Within hours, the major U.S. airlines had dropped enforcement of the mandate, and so had TSA, Uber, and Amtrak. Some airports, however, are continuing to require masks. The bigger question is whether or not the ruling will maintain, or be appealed.

The Biden administration seems to see this as a bullet dodged, so maybe we are (finally) in the clear. In any case, as John Tierney wrote yesterday in City Journal, there is very little evidence that masks stop the spread of COVID (or any respiratory virus).

Meanwhile, we are all still dealing with the social destruction that our COVID policies have left in their wake. National Review reports that the Betty Ford Foundation has broken its 73-year admission record due to a pandemic related alcoholism surge.

“Though some of the patients are receiving treatment for use of methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, or opioids, DeRoo said alcohol-use disorder is the primary disease the foundation is treating.

“We’re hearing all of this in the media, about how people are suffering the consequences of a pandemic, but we’re actually seeing it here,” she said. “We’re at 100 percent [capacity] at all of our facilities. We’ve had more admissions than we’ve ever had in our entire existence. No longer do I have to look at the media and believe it because I can see the numbers here in our facility.”

During the pandemic, many Americans let their health needs slide, including treatment for substance-use disorders, DeRoo said, noting that many patients struggling with alcohol-use disorder had difficulty accessing doctor’s appointments, meetings, and other preventative health care.

“So when we’re seeing patients now that come in with alcohol-use disorder, or any substance-use disorder, we’re seeing that they’re sicker, that the acuity is higher with all of our patients,” she said, adding that Hazelden has seen more liver disease, more mental health issues, and more significant effects on the brain from long-term alcohol use and substance use.

Meanwhile, alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, increased to 99,017 in 2020, up from 78,927 the year prior, according to a study published last month by researchers with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health.”

Combine this with the kids who have been set back educationally, drug abuse spiking during COVID, an epidemic of domestic abuse during COVID lockdowns – and we could also include all the weddings and funerals that were missed, people who died alone, women who gave birth alone, cancer deaths that would have been preventable if people had access to routine screening – and we are truly just coming to terms with how life-altering and destructive our pandemic policies have been.

In so many cases, these policies were wildly out of balance with the level of risk posed by the virus, and urged and enforced by elite “laptop class” employees and decision makers to the detriment of the poor, the working class, the elderly, and the at-risk.

Humans are profoundly social. If we needed a brutal object lesson in how integral community is to survival, our COVID policies have given us one. Will we ever fully and honestly grapple with the decisions that were made, and unpack them in a way that prevents us from ever going down this path again? 

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