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Destroying What We Are Trying to Save

There is a cost to everything. We have made changes to society that will outlive the virus.

The Texas governor announced residents will no longer be required to wear masks. Some 15 other states—Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee—also do not have mask orders in place.

Criticism of Texas (there are not enough votes in the other states to warrant much criticism) was swift. Joe Biden called the unmasking “Neanderthal thinking.” Photogenic loser Beto O’Rourke said the unmandate is a “death warrant killing the people of Texas.”

We’ve seen this all before. About a year ago, when Florida reopened its beaches for spring break everyone was going to die. The Republican convention was to be a superspreader event, as was the Super Bowl, and some motorcycle rally. Excluded are BLM protests, which were never labeled superspreader events, giving away the whole lockdown grift.

Each new variant of the virus was to be the end of us, each expansion of dining options a death sentence. Everyone was going to die. Except they didn’t. 

It works the other way, too. Places proclaimed the gold standard for COVID precautions ended up with their own upticks. The numbers from place to place should be as dramatically different as the measures implemented, but they are not. In states such as New York, with the most draconian rules, people are still dying in significant numbers. This all used to be the former president’s fault, but inconveniently more than one-fifth of all the COVID-19 deaths occurred since Biden took office.

Democratic New York consistently leads the nation in virus hospitalizations per one million people, and that’s despite the state’s fraudulent undercounting. In November, right before New York’s winter spike, Gov. Cuomo trumpeted that mask compliance was 98 percent. Seven out of 10 states with the highest number of COVID deaths per capita have mask mandates. California, formerly an example of the positive impacts of viral fascism, had among the worst winters in the world.

A year’s worth of data show lockdowns had little effect other than to drive taxpayers out. Making the pro-lockdown argument even weaker was that the same thing happened with several heavy lockdown nations, most notably the U.K., which suffered at least as badly, if not worse, than everyone else did. We’re left with something that too many people refuse to consider: The data suggest lockdowns and masks have very little effect on COVID; global waves come and go, seemingly independent of what we do or don’t do. Nature finds a way.

I’ve conducted my own sort-of research. In the last year, one of my relatives who is a medical professional was exposed to COVID. She tests negative regularly. I see her in person whenever I can, hug her, we eat together as unmasked as a newborn baby’s behind. And we live in NYC, ground zero for COVID. Until the company was forced to shut down by the government, in my day job I worked with people from all over, including enough Chinese from China to fill a Seuss book.

In the last few months I was hospitalized twice (heart, not COVID) and saw doctors as an outpatient multiple times. I went to the gym until the government closed it. I ate in restaurants until the government closed them. I stayed in a hotel and drove a rental car in two states. I attended what the media would have called a superspreader event if it hadn’t been organized by Democrats. I wear a mask only when the hassle factor from the scolds, Karens, and COVID cops rises to the point I can’t get whatever I’m doing done.

I took two long airplane trips. No one had any idea if anyone was infected because the only check was a questionnaire and a temp with no medical training with a temperature gun. Waiting a few minutes to board we were aggressively kept six feet apart (while the A/C and ventilation was moving air six feet away toward me) before sitting down for hours zero feet apart. At altitude we were encouraged to spread out but only within our paid for cabin; the nearly empty business and first-class sections stayed nearly empty. Food was served to the whole cabin at once, meaning everyone removed their masks to breathe recycled air for the same 40 minutes. I haven’t heard from the airline through its contact notification system that anyone got sick.

The experience was not that different from using the NYC subway, which was never shut down. There was no need; a recent study shows riding in a poorly ventilated metal tube with often unmasked strangers and no social distancing demonstrated no correlation between subway ridership and COVID spikes. If you weren’t going to get sick that way, you are not going to get sick in most others. The lifesaving precautions were mostly health theater, stopping infections that never were going to happen the same as TSA stopped terror acts that never existed outside Facebook.

And I didn’t win the health lottery, one winner out of millions. My experience of not dying from COVID is shared by some 327,500,000 Americans. I like those odds.

Questions about the value of masks and lockdowns are worth at least some discussion instead of being dismissed as Neanderthal. Follow the science, we are told, even as the decisions which control our lives are made by self-serving politicians and not scientists. We have 50 different “solutions” to the same problem. They can’t all be correct, yet we assume one variety is, even when faced with contrary data.

At the same time we ignore the deadly psychological effect the “solutions” have on our society. Here’s one that is both indisputable and unconscionable: Kids are dying because of what we are doing.

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24. Since the pandemic began, the CDC reports the proportion of pediatric emergency room visits for mental health increased 31 percent. Reasons include isolation from friends and family and the effects of parental stress and economic hardship. Government, for the most part, controls those factors, making conditions worse for children while providing ambiguous protection against the virus. Schools in many areas have been closed for a year, even though the political guidance finally matches what doctors have long been saying: If schools follow basic public health precautions, there is very low spread of COVID—like the subway!

A peer-reviewed study found “social distance and security measures have affected the relationship among people and their perception of empathy toward others.” That science concludes “a careful evaluation of the potential benefits of the quarantine is needed, taking into account the high psychological costs.” The WHO found “economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty.”

In the United States, that poverty risk is government-made, sweeping non-science based decisions to unemploy people by decree and subject them to surviving on skinny payouts and sparse stimulus checks. As for the future, the National Institutes of Health warns “the impact of long-term school closure is yet to be seen.” The American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association acknowledges “an escalating crisis.” Other studies speak of a “lost generation.” Domestic violence is up. Drug overdoses are up. Crime is up. Academic performance has tanked. Our elderly die alone in solitary confinement.

Remember 15 days to slow the spread? Our nation has been suckered into ignoring a tormenting real public mental health crisis in favor of slapped together efforts at social distancing based on as much political as scientific factors (the mayor of NYC is more concerned about “racial equity” in locating vaccination centers then in how many shots can be administered.) False heroes and villains were created. No one is allowed to seek the calculus, the balance, of prudent protections versus recognizing the cure is worse than the disease. We are literally destroying our society believing we are saving it. Too many are convinced there is zero doubt there is a significant positive result from taking away basic freedoms.

It’s troubling when people decide I must be making a political statement, or am a QAnon member, unmasked. You wear a mask, or hang garlic on your belt if you wish. I’ll get vaccinated when politicians make it easier to get an appointment than front row Springsteen tickets. I do not want to die this year. I don’t want to kill you. But I keep thinking critically and asking questions at a time when I fear too many have either stopped.

COVID solutions and lockdowns have not clearly lead to limits on death. They have tanked the economy and brutalized the people. There is a lot more going on here than inconvenience over wearing a mask. You’ve been played, folks. The virus is a threat. Yet at the same time, we made fundamental changes to society that will outlive the virus. It is not only possible to hold these two ideas in mind at once, it is vital.

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi PeopleHooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.