Saturday, June 27, 2020

“I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear.”

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“I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear. Things got to breathe.” 

That cringe-inducing quote is from a Michael Daly column about a public hearing this week in Palm Beach County on a measure to require masks in public. And there was plenty more where that came from. The anti-mask contingent cited everything from devil love to the deep state to the divine plan as reasons why their unfettered exhalation trumped the health and safety of everyone else.

As they were ranting and shaking their fists, Florida was setting new records for new cases; the number of people positive for COVID-19 doubled in a 10-day period as young people embraced Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rushed reopening with fervor followed by fever. One shudders to think what Florida’s numbers could be like in August, when President Trump is set to accept the nomination in Jacksonville.

Of course, coronavirus was also on the upswing in Oklahoma when Trump touched down there last weekend for his first rally since the pandemic began—one that, to the relief of disease trackers, was sparsely attended. He joked (maybe?) that he told his team to “slow down” all the testing so things wouldn’t look so dire, although our D.C. squad reported that his coronavirus czar, Dr. Deborah Birx, told governors two days later that more testing is needed.

Trump’s next stop was Arizona, to a church that falsely claimed its air filter kills COVID-19 (as David Axe reported, it was tested on the common cold, not the deadly pathogen that has killed nearly half a million people worldwide). Few of those in attendance wore masks as Trump declared victory over a virus that was about to reach levels not seen since April. 

On both Wednesday and Thursday, the nation added 40,000 new cases, and the curves in a bunch of states began to look like the ascent of the scariest rollercoaster you’ve ever seen.

Among the most frightening was Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott finally saw fit to pause (though not roll back) reopening, where a judge got slapped for suggesting a shopper wear a mask, and where one hospital worker told The Daily Beast, “Clearly our state has decided, ‘Whatever, it’s in God’s hands. If people die people die.’”

Meanwhile, New York, where some 30,000 people have died, is on the other side of the rollercoaster—cautiously reopening while celebrating a dramatic reversal in case counts following a strict, protracted lockdown. Manhattan finally got its hair done, but as Olivia Messer reports today, it’s far from clear what will happen next. 

Pandemic expert Dr. Irwin Redlener told her that other states now coping with surges would be wise to take note of what New York did right, and where it went wrong. “We eventually got down to these low levels, but we didn’t take those steps soon enough, and we totally overwhelmed our healthcare system,” he said. “We lost a lot more people than we should have.”

Tracy Connor, Executive Editor
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