In mid-July, the Biden administration extended a January 2020 COVID-19 “public health emergency” declaration through mid-October of this year. An official administration justifies the renewal of the “emergency” declaration because it “continues to provide us with tools and authorities needed to respond” to the virus.
But COVID-19 is no longer a “pandemic.” It’s become “endemic,” like the flu or the common cold. The latest variant of “concern,” BA.5, continues to follow the usual path of viral evolution, becoming more contagious but less deadly. While cases are increasing, hospitalizations and deaths remain near low points since this thing began.
And yet around the country, at all levels of government, we see which “tools and authorities” remain in vogue: Mask mandates and “advisories” are sprouting back up.
At this point, however, our masters are fresh out of true “public health” excuses for such mandates.
The state of “the science” on masking as of the beginning of the pandemic was summed up by NIAID director Anthony Fauci: “[T]here’s no reason to be walking around with a mask…. Wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet. But it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.”
Despite herculean efforts on the part of “public health” advocates to make science conform to the politically motivated desire to mandate masking over the last two years, the actual science remains the same. There wasn’t good evidence that masking reduces the spread of viral disease as of early 2020. There’s no such evidence now.
So, why the continued fascination with mask mandates?
Hanlon’s Razor — “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” — tempting as an explanation, but it’s unsatisfactory. Government “experts” have access to the same peer-reviewed scientific studies the rest of us do. In fact, they largely funded those very studies. They know that the evidence for masking is about as good as the evidence for lucky rabbit’s feet or St. Christopher medals.
The next best explanation is that for any issue, politicians and bureaucrats always feel the need to “do something,” whether that something works or not. Mask mandates are “something.”
But now that the COVID-19 “issue” is fading into just another endemic condition that kills a few and produces minor, if any, illness in most, a third explanation makes the most sense:
It’s about power. Our rulers seized a lot of it using the pandemic as an excuse, and they don’t want to give it up.
We’re still taking off our shoes in airport lines on command more than 20 years after Richard Reid’s unsuccessful attempt to blow up a plane.
If the political class has its way, we’ll still be donning ceremonial headgear on command 20 years from now.
If the Biden administration won’t shut down this “emergency” nonsense down in law, Americans should shut it down in action. It’s time to take back the powers we let the government seize, and then some. Resist the “new normal” they’re trying to foist on us.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).