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Today the New York City Mayor’s Office announced that like it’s doing with restaurants, soon storefronts will be doing business outside. Just in time for the balmy months of winter, famously temperate and mild in the Northeast United States.
NEW: @NYCMayor is launching the "Open Storefronts" initiative, modeled after Open Restaurants, which allows other businesses to sell their wares outside.
— katie honan (@katie_honan) October 28, 2020
This is yet another anti-science response to COVID. Throughout contact tracing efforts, we’ve never seen grocery stores or other retail operations prove to be a hotspot for COVID, if they were, we’d all have had it in March and April.
I think to some extent, masks are another part of our COVID theatre. They have been billed as a magic bullet that will save us all, except, they aren’t.
The good news is that we are *way* more prepared to deal with this thing than we were in March.
The bad news is that MA was supposedly a place where mask compliance was among the highest in the nation.
Masks very likely reduce infection risk but they don't solve the problem pic.twitter.com/w0zLDTlEpR
— PoliMath (@politicalmath) October 27, 2020
It’s the same story in Europe. John McGuirk, an Irish writer and political commentator wonders:
We now have far more cases than we had in the spring, when the official consensus from Governments was that facemasks are bad.
How can this be so? Are there other explanations?
First, remember what the argument against masks was, back in the Spring:
Here in Ireland, HSE lead for infectious diseases Prof Martin Cormican recently reviewed guidelines on mask-wearing for hospital staff and came to the conclusion that there was no evidence to support the wearing of surgical masks by healthcare workers for close patient encounters and staff meetings.
Citing WHO advice, Prof Cormican suggested mask-wearing by people with no symptoms could create unnecessary cost and create “a false sense of security”.
That’s the HSE lead for infectious diseases, warning that masks might actually be counter-productive, saying that wearing them could lead to people dropping their guard.
Is that what’s happened? Is there a sense, perhaps, that wearing the mask is a good enough protection and that other attempts at self-preservation have fallen by the wayside? How many people, for example, still keep hand sanitiser in their cars, and use it immediately after getting in? How many people have stopped doing that, and now take their mask off using hands they’ve touched fourteen or fifteen surfaces with?
Repeatedly, in the spring, we were warned that facemasks would pose hygiene risks – that people would touch them, not clean them properly, and mis-use them in such a way as to actually heighten the risk of virus transmission. Do those warnings look more, or less, prescient, today?
Of course, there’s no going back. Because for most people, masks do provide a sense of security. But could it be that the sense of security is, in fact, what’s proving fatal?
This has been my thinking on masks over the last few weeks especially, as I’ve seen the social distancing we know slows the spread slowly fading, as folks around me relying on whatever protection they think they’re getting from their masks. This is an extension what I call COVID theatre, the games we play that make us think we’re safer, but really do little more than lower our guard.
Earlier in the pandemic, we saw another important part of COVID theatre taking center stage: temperature checks. At several local businesses, they were performed outside, and I always liked to sneak a peek at the number and laugh: usually our temperatures were in the 93-degree range; even in the heat of the summer. On one outing I noticed all of my kids’ readings were “too low” on the thermometer gun, which I saw as we were waved in for admission.
I recalled this today as I read a powerful profile of Herman Cain from BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray, and in her piece, she talked to Cain’s family about his decision to attend the President’s rally in Tulsa.
Melanie Cain Gallo believes he could have been more careful — after the Tulsa rally, she said, she questioned him herself about why he wasn’t wearing a mask in the photo he tweeted. He told his daughter that he felt comfortable enough to do so because of the event’s temperature checks, a measure that was popular early in the pandemic that scientists increasingly say offers little protection.
We know one effective preventative in the fight against COVID: physical distancing (which, frustratingly is more commonly known as social distancing). Regular hand washing and avoiding touching one’s face doesn’t hurt either. With all of the additional COVID theatre, I think at the tail end of this epidemic we’ll wonder how much it actually contributed to the death toll. At the best, we may learn it led to a feeling of complacency, and at the worst, we may discover it made viral transmission worse.Published in