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For a Minnesota Mask Mandate
Gov. Walz is expected to issue a mask mandate this week. I've said very little about masks on De Civitate, because I've been unsure of the benefits. I think it's quite ridiculous how masks have been turned into a culture war totem -- on both sides. The level of mask-resistance and mask-shaming has been absurd, given how little we actually know about masks.
Most studies out there tell us very little about the efficacy of homemade cloth face coverings, and quite a few blithely compare mask mandates in the United States (where nearly everyone's mask is homemade) to mask mandates in East Asia, where every man, woman, and child walks around in a full-blown N95 respirator as a matter of longtime social custom. These are not apples-to-apples comparisons, and there's good reason to doubt that masks are going to be all that useful. Our own Dr. Osterholm has made this point repeatedly, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in with the general public.
I also acknowledge that a lot of people resist masks because they don't trust the "health authorities" that support masks. That's extremely fair. Both epidemiologists and the media have been extremely dishonest with the general public at various points in the pandemic. It's funny when you think about it: 90% of right-wing "conspiracy theories" about covid-19 were mainstream dogma just 1-3 months ago, and you were mocked for doubting them. (I'm old enough to remember when it was the "public health authorities" who were saying "it's just a flu" and that it was being exaggerated for political gain!) Now they want you to believe the new dogma is true?
You gave the authorities your trust, and they squandered it. However, I've always tried to be honest with you, and so have the few epidemiologists I still take seriously.
What they're telling me, and what the studies I'm reading are saying, is that there's pretty good reason to believe that masks -- even homemade cloth face coverings -- do some genuine good in preventing the spread of covid. That's not a promise that masks will end the epidemic. It's very clear that continued social distancing and avoiding indoor close contacts are more important behaviors. But, if, for the next year or so, everyone wears masks when in close contact with others, there's a pretty good chance that will save several hundred (perhaps even several thousand) Minnesotan lives, and it may spare our economy the trauma of another lockdown.
Meanwhile, the costs of masking are very low. Masks are annoying, but so are pants, and I had to wear those to Menard's even before the pandemic. I would much rather wear a mask than face another lockdown. One sizable pay cut per year is enough for me, thanks.
Because the cost is low and the benefit potentially quite high, I think a statewide mask mandate, renewable every 3 months for up to 24 months, is a good idea.