We need to lock in a sustainable new normal
I no longer participate in Covid Theater. I am fully vaccinated, with a booster. I however will not wear a mask unless I am legally mandated to do so (and then, only if its a do it or be kicked out way). Basically, I wear a mask on airplanes and half-assedly in airports, only because my job requires me to fly.
I will not put on a mask in any other place except for a medical establishment.
The simple fact is, the only reason we wear masks is to protect the very idiots that are unwilling to get vaccinated and I don't give a fuck about them.
Before someone mentions kids.... the risk is miniscule. Yesterday I decided to look up excess deaths my age, and the mortality rate for children is 15-20% lower during Covid that it was before Covid.
The ridiculous amounts of Covid theater we go through are more likely to cause a civil war or permanent split in our country than any other issue.
I've come to the conclusion that blue-state Covid worrying progressives are more irrational than anti-vaxers.
All the anti-vaxers I know at least acknowledge there is some risk, but at the end of the day, they were willing to take it, and that living a normal life is more important. I might not agree with their risk tolerance and evaluation, but I understand it.
Its the young progressive vaccinated people who wear masks everywhere, and avoid leading a normal life that I don't understand. Sacrificing enjoying life, for risk that is equivalent to pre-covid times is ridiculous.
Yesterday in Twitter, I saw someone post a comment from someone who lives in Pasadena who were terrified because they had to bring their two year old kids to Idaho next week. TERRIFIED.
Idaho has had zero children die from Covid. Child mortality is down 15-20%. There child is safer coming to Idaho during the pandemic that they were just living in Pasadena pre-pandemic.
Ok... since I travel. Here is my list of useless pandemic theater
1. the wipes they give you on airplanes even though they say they do super cleaning on planes
2. hotels that won't let you serve your own breakfast, but instead make you stand in line so some person can hand you your plate
3. mask requirements in drive-throughs
4. hotel key disinfectant boxes
5. insisting on contactless payment
The whole world is crazy and I refuse to play it's game.
When Greece reopened brothels last year (prostitution is legal there, although most establishments operate without a license) the government advised customers to pay by contactless card if possible
This is the subtext of Matt’s post, but I really think we need to just start thinking of COVID like the seasonal flu. Early on in the pandemic, conservatives were idiots for claiming this. Now, as we approach 100% of the population with some degree of immunity (infection and recovery/vaccination), the comparison is more apt. And as for kids, while there are certainly unknowns in terms of long covid, death rates for individuals under 17 are comparable to the flu — ~500 deaths since COVID started, 500 in a typical flu season. (Although you probably need to adjust these numbers for the NPIs that have been in place since March 2020)
Typed by an unhappily-masked individual on public transit with fogged up glasses.
I saw a bunch of comments pointing out that we still have to take our shoes off in the security line at the airport (which is pretty dumb), but to take the analogy further...
I got into aviation around 2001 and applied for an ATC job around 2002 or so, and things were _way worse_ in aviation back then. You couldn't visit an ATC facility, and to become a controller you needed the same top-level security clearance that NSA and CIA candidates got, which backed up the hiring processing by over a year.
A friend of mine requested some info about ATC in Boston from the FAA because he was an enthusiastic hobbyist and the FBI knocked on his door. Your kids could not see the cockpit if they took an airplane flight. I felt like I'd discovered aviation a year too late and the door had been slammed shut. Everything was just "no" and "fear".
_Almost_ all of this has relaxed to a large extent. Access to the cockpit during flight is still restricted (and in hindsight it was a little strange that it wasn't - professional pilots have a rule about not talking about anything except flying the aircraft when they're at the beginning and end of the flight so it's a little strange that in that phase a passenger could just open the door and be like "whazzzzzzzup". I lock my door when I'm in a phone meeting so my kids don't barge in) but your kid can come see the cockpit once the passengers have disembarked. You can get onto the tarmac if you ask nicely or visit an FAA facility.
It took a long time and from a rational standpoint a lot of the restrictions were dumb and should have been dropped sooner or never been born, but I think over time humans, when faced with a risk that doesn't happen, start to ignore the risk, both in the case where the risk is imaginary (terrorists decide that the best way to commit an act of terror is to go through the multi-year process of becoming an FAA employee) or real (e.g. listen to Tim Harford's account of flood evacuation in New Orleans pre-Katrina).
I had hoped that when some of the grosser TSA stories came out (e.g. like the ones where they were stealing things from checked luggage) that the whole organization would be disbanded and that would rip off the final bit of security theater cruft but it does seem like we'll be stuck with the shoes forever. It's dumb but not that costly to any one person so it's easier to not change things.
I agree with argument here, but I want to push back against one thing, because I see it all the time: "It’s true that having this rule in place [masking between the door and table[ also doesn’t particularly harm anyone." I think the idea that this doesn't harm anyone is mistaken in a way that fundamentally structures so many of our culture wars over COVID
There are a lot of people out there that don't mind wearing masks at all, or only a little bit. By contrast, I hate wearing them, and I get the impression that they don't get it; they think I'm being peevish or just giving vent to toxic masculinity if I complain.
I wish there were a way to prove it to people, to show them the depth of my discomfort - I'd rather be forced to smell sewage than wear a mask. If that were an option I'd do it. Thus, I'm closely attuned to arbitrary absurdities of our pandemic control measures. Every inconsistency, every disproportionate piece of hygiene theater undermines my faith in our public health authorities, reducing the likelihood that I will trust them in the future.
I think this qualifies as harm, though maybe not in the sense invoked in the quote.
Ongoing Covid precautions are very similar to the performative security theater at airports. Smart people know that taking off your shoes in a security line is pointless in the same way that wiping down tables and bagging remote controls is pointless. The problem is that no one wants to be the first mover to make a change because they will get pilloried for it by the media. In so many facets of life we pile on layer after layer of useless regulation. Why should Covid be any different?
I fear it will never wind down. We've all taken off our shoes to get into the airport for like nineteen years after ONE guy tried ONE thing ONE time. No one in any position of power seems to ever have proposed getting rid of that rule that I know of. Besides, while the partisan divide is the most visible one, in my anecdotal experience (in a very blue area) the people most militant about Covid theater (outdoor masking and making sanitizing wipes easily available at CVS, respectively) are older people with other stuff stressing them out in life, which is to say an incredibly powerful voting constituency nationwide. The college policies are pretty telling and distressing – does anything we've heard about colleges in the last five years give cause to believe students will be able to claw back a grain of liberty once the college administration has a new excuse to treat them like children?
“Baby wait do you have protection?”
*Pulls out N95*
There definitely seems to be a vocal minority of liberal people who have developed purity intuitions around getting covid. I’ve gotten into arguments with people about how dangerous (or rather, not dangerous) breakthrough infections are for the vaccinated, and some people seem to view getting sick with covid *at all* as unacceptable. This was all online though. IRL, all the people in my mostly liberal circle are sensible and going back to restaurants, movies, indoor socializing, etc. after being vaccinated.
It’s funny, a year ago I was exasperated with people for flying or eating out indoors, and now I’m exasperated at people who see those things as unacceptable risks.
I have to add my own two infuriating covid theater observations:
1) My daughter is in a DCPS elementary. She returned to in-person in February (others didn't, which is a whole other convo). The hybrid schedule had students doing remote learning on Wednesday, under the premise the school would be cleaned. Most parents just found other childcare options for that day.
In other words, the kids left class, each hanging out (read: were exposed to) with a totally different group of people on Weds, and then returned on Thurs, all for cleaning which does zilch to stop covid spread.
2) I like to eat at the Whole Foods hot bars. They decided to require you to sanitize your hands and then put latex gloves on before getting food. Since its virtually impossible to put a glove on a wet hand, you would routinely have a dozen people surrounding this tiny sanitizer island, swearing profusely.
Before COVID, I had some hope for our world. No longer. We are dumb as hell and don't have the ability to do anything intelligently. If we once had that ability (i am not sure) we have it no longer.
We have many stupid arbitrary rules that do nothing, others that do the wrong things, and many that absolutely nobody will follow because they are entirely unenforceable or nobody is paying attention. The news lately the the FDA and CDC are going to "allow" the mixing of vaccine brands for instance implies we have some concept of what people are doing. That we are tracking it. We are not. We know exactly nothing about your health history.This makes everyone in charge look stupid.
We create arbitrary rules and enforce the arbitrarily. Unless you are poor, then you are really hosed. And unless you are rich, then the rules just don't apply.
We have real serious problems that we are incapable of solving so we just do a lot of petty nonsense while the real wounds fester. It doesn't seem to be in the cards that government will be able to play a role in creating rules that will help. So instead we are boned.
The lack of urgency to improve our ventilation systems is extremely frustrating. Businesses should stop spending money on hygiene theater and instead put that money into improving ventilation. Probably nothing will happen until it is mandated by building codes. That is going to take forever. Also, as pointed out by this article is all the unnecessary waste going into landfill. Which public officials should we put pressure on to make this change?
The point about stupid rules making effective rules less effective cannot be stated enough.
But we also live in a virtue signaling society and people and business care more about that. Putting remotes and towels in a plastic bag, and wearing a mask even when it’s pointless is telling the world that you or your business care and take Covid seriously to the point of doing pointless acts.
There are still 1600 covid patients dying every day and that number is shocking enough to sustain many of the restrictions. This is especially true of restrictions that only burden service workers, eg masks for waitresses but not for customers. However, 1600 people have died every day from tobacco use since before so was alive and yet tobacco is still legal. I put not getting vaccinated in the same your body your choice bucket as smoking tobacco. The risk of an unvaccinated person infecting and hurting a vaccinated person is similar to the risks posed by secondary smoke— fairly small but big enough that I understand why private establishments might ban smoking and require vaccination cards.
Colin Powell’s death has me questioning the death statistics. I don’t doubt that he had covid when he died or that covid hastened his death. But by how much? He was an 84 year old cancer patient. When would the cancer alone have killed him? Would he have made it all winter without getting influenza before covid? Wasn’t he exactly the kind of person who was at risk of dying if he caught basically anything?
In other words, the death statistics overstate the social cost of covid because a lot of the victims would have died anyway within a year and had a low quality of life to begin with.
Our society just isn't capable of collective action because our elites are so bad. Somehow we don't have any policy changes to fix what we did wrong. The most humiliating thing is not one public official (im thinking of one in particular) has ever admitted they did anything wrong.
What's happened is that the weakest people in society-the poor and children- have to suffer under pointless rules that do nothing except arbitrarily punish them. And you are right in that if you don't end them now, there will never be a time to end them.
Ultimately I do blame the media and tech companies for making people hysterical and stupid. The reason I subscribe to you is that you are able to think clearly about stuff rather than just repeat a bunch of bullshit.
I wish this were a public post so I could send it to everyone I know! I was a germaphobe before it was cool (serious hand washing, no face touching, clean touchscreens regularly, etc and of course flu shot every year) and I rarely get sick. I was working in a public building in NYC until March 20 of last year, with some people who got terrible cases of Covid-19, and I luckily didn’t get it.
I have friends in places like Montgomery County MD (90+% vaccination rate) who are vaxxed and smart but still won’t go to a restaurant. I still see a lot of people masked outside, even when alone. Even driving alone! Hygiene theater and masks as political signaling—I’m sure there’s some small number of people who really need to wear them everywhere, but I am dreading going back to work in January if I have to wear a mask all day every day—are just making everything worse.