Silver Bullets for Mask Mandates

After the 10:00 a.m. service at Annunciation Catholic Church in Washington D.C., a parishioner asked a visitor why he wasn’t wearing a mask. He replied by explaining that there was no medical reason to wear a mask; that it has been amply proven that masks are completely useless in normal circumstances, such as people gathering at a church service. He also said that he was resisting tyranny—soft tyranny, perhaps, if there is such a thing; perhaps soft fascism. (Can fascism ever be soft?) He said it wasn’t proper to do things that were meaningless just because we, the citizens, have been told to do them by government officials.  

The parishioner was unpersuaded. The visitor asked her why she was wearing a mask. She replied that she was wearing a mask to protect other people. “Which other people?” the visitor asked. She paused for a moment and then said anyone who might be vulnerable. She said even people who had been vaccinated could get the Chinese Flu—though she didn’t refer to it that way.

The visitor replied that people who had chosen not to be vaccinated had chosen to take their chances with the disease and there was no reason why everyone else should wear masks to protect them. There was also very little chance that people who had already had the virus would contract it again (the CDC estimated in April only about one percent), or get a case serious enough to produce serious consequences. 

The CDC website says that as of August, 182.5 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. It also says that fewer than 0.004 percent of fully vaccinated people have had a breakthrough case that led to hospitalization and less than 0.001 percent of fully vaccinated people have died from a breakthrough COVID-19 case.

That means that about 1,825 people have had “a breakthrough case resulting in death.” And it is probably fair to say, based on what we know about the people who died without getting vaccinated, that most of the people who died after getting vaccinated were old and had a comorbidity. 

In comparison, in most years, the U.S. death toll from the regular flu is about 34,000 to 43,000, but we don’t wear masks to protect people from the flu. And in comparison, last year 38,680 people were killed in highway accidents, more than 21 times the number of post-vaccine Chinese Flu deaths—and 4 million people (!) were seriously injured in highway crashes. 

We could probably reduce the number of highway deaths and injuries from accidents significantly if “we” (whoever “we” are) lowered speed limits significantly and enforced them. But we don’t. Why not? It’s not an idle question. 

The answer is because we value some things more than the mere preservation of life. We might phrase it as “valuing living more than life.” We “allow” people to engage in dangerous activities. Some people work themselves to the bone (and to an early grave) supporting their families, because supporting their families is more important than the length of life itself. Some people engage in death-defying sports, which in the end (for them) don’t succeed in defying death after all.

For the woke, death is a disaster: it is the end. Game over. For the woke, therefore, prolonging life is essential—well, maybe not for useless grandmas, or, of course, very young children—but certainly for adult, active wokies. 

But merely prolonging life is not, presumably, the goal of the people who gather each week at Annunciation Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. For them the purpose of life is to get to Heaven. And that means, while they should not be careless with life, they should put preservation of life in context. And probably you don’t have to be a Catholic to value living more than just life.

The parishioner said to the visitor that the cardinal of the Washington diocese, Wilton Daniel Gregory, had said that masks had to be worn inside churches, and asked why the visitor wasn’t willing to obey the cardinal. If the cardinal said not to eat meat on Fridays, would the visitor eat meat anyway? 

Fair question, perhaps. The answer is that the cardinal can make rules in his jurisdiction. But requiring masks is a political matter, and the cardinal has no special expertise, or jurisdiction, in politics. Would the parishioner never drive faster than 45 miles per hour if the cardinal asked her not to? Unlikely. 

Mask mandates are now very political. They are very political precisely because they make no medical sense. The mask mandates are just instances of politicians misusing their powers in an attempt to control the population. Free people should not give in to that—if they want to remain free people. And Catholics especially shouldn’t give in to the pols, who increasingly are woke and therefore oppose almost every essential thing Catholics believe.

The parishioner pondered for a moment, then thanked the visitor profusely for stopping so long to explain his position—though why shouldn’t he have? 

It’s true she didn’t hear him say as he departed, “Hi-ho, Silver! Away!” But even so she may have wondered, “Who was that unmasked man?”

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images