By Jeff Deist
Enough is enough. It is time to stop wearing masks, or at the very least to eliminate mask mandates in all settings.
This is especially urgent for children in schools and universities, who suffer the effects of masks for long hours each day despite being at exceedingly low risk for death or serious illness from covid.
We have a responsibility, once and for all, to reject the ludicrous, ever-shifting narratives underpinning masks as effective impediments to the spread of covid infections.
Seriously people—STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus
The story changed from "masks don't work" to "masks may work," to "masks work and you must wear one." Now the narrative switches yet again: "Cloth masks don't work, so you should wear a surgical or 'well-fitted' mask," or even wear two!
Note that even as covid evolves into a less dangerous omicron variant, we are supposed to increase the hysteria level by wearing masks intended for surgeons maintaining a sterile environment over open wounds. We are told this by the same political, medical, and media figures who have been "frequently wrong but never in doubt" about all things covid over the past two long years. And they spoke with just as much bogus certainty then as they do now.
Perversely, the Biden administration recently ordered 400 million surgical N95 masks for distribution across the country. Since N95 masks are considered disposable, and meant to be worn at most for perhaps forty hours, it is unclear what happens in a week or two when 330 million Americans run out of their "free" personal protective equipment.
The UK has sensibly ended its mask mandates, both in public places (offices and other workplaces, bars, restaurants, sporting events, theaters) and thankfully schools. One young university student broke down in tears at the news, lamenting the inhumanity of her experience over the past two years. As British health secretary Savid Javid stated, "We must learn to live with covid in the same way we live with flu."
The arguments against masks are straightforward.
Masks don't work. Or at least cloth masks don't.
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now admits what Dr. Anthony Fauci told the world in February 2020: cloth masks don't work and there is no reason to wear one:
"The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you."
CNN's dubious medical expert Dr. Lena Wen, previously an übermasker, now tells us cloth masks are "little more than facial decorations. And heroic skeptic Dr. Jay Bhattacharya cites both a Danish study and a Bangladeshi study which found cloth masks show little efficacy in preventing covid.
Are we seriously prepared to wear tight and uncomfortable surgical masks all day to evade omicron?
Masks are filthy.
Humans lungs and our respiratory system are designed to inhale nitrogen and oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is literally a waste product, removed from the blood via our lungs. Masks may not trap injurious levels of carbon dioxide against our nose and mouth, but they certainly get filthy very quickly unless changed constantly. They also encourage mouth breathing, which can cause "mask mouth" symptoms including acne, bad breath, tender gums, and lip irritation.
Why would we ever interfere with natural breathing unless we felt sick, displayed symptoms, and were worried about infecting others? And in that case, why not just stay home?
Masks are dehumanizing.
Humans communicate verbally and nonverbally, and masks impede both forms. Masks muffle and distort our words. Our facial expressions are important cues to everyone around us; without those cues, communication and understanding suffer. Infants and toddlers may be most affected, as a lack of facial engagement with parents and loved ones impedes the human connections and attachments formed during childhood.
Perhaps most disturbing, however, are the symbolic effects when millions of Americans dutifully wear masks based on flimsy evidence provided by deeply unimpressive people. Facelessness—the lack of individual identity, personality, and looks—is inherently dehumanizing and dystopian. Like prison or military uniforms, masks reduce our personal characteristics. Mask are muzzles, symbols of rote acquiescence to an ugly new normal nobody asked for or voted for.
Risk is inevitable.
Risk is omnipresent, and heavily subjective (e.g., covid risk varies enormously with age and comorbidities). Nobody has a right to force interventions like masks on others, just as nobody has a right to a hypothetical germ-free landscape. Exhalation is not aggression, short of purposefully attempting to sicken others. People wearing masks arguably shed slightly fewer covid virus particles than those not, but this does not justify banning the latter from public life. As always, the overwhelming burden of justification for any intervention—including mask mandates—must rest on those proposing it, not those opposing it.
In sum, Americans are not children. Tradeoffs are part of every policy, whether government officials admit this or not. We know how to coexist with flu, just as we live with countless bacteria and viruses in our environment. We will similarly coexist with covid. The goal is not to eliminate germs, and zero covid is an absurdity. A healthy immune system, built up through diet, exercise, and sunlight, will always be the best frontline defense against communicable disease. But diet, exercise, and sunlight cannot be outsourced to health officials or mandated by politicians.
Whatever slight benefits masks may provide are a matter for individuals to decide for themselves. People who feel sick with symptoms should stay home. We can all wash our hands frequently and thoroughly. Otherwise it is time for Americans to assert themselves against the dubious claims and nonexistent legality of government covid measures.
It is time to get back to normal life, and that starts with visible human faces.
Originally published at The Mises Institute.
Jeff Deist is president of the Mises Institute. He previously worked as chief of staff to Congressman Ron Paul, and as an attorney for private equity clients.