Liberals' Bizarre Fear of an Unmasked Nation
During last year's campaign, Joe Biden promised to "listen to the scientists." He repeatedly said his coronavirus-response policy would be "informed by science and by experts."
On issues from the environment to teaching evolution in public schools to the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, liberals often accuse conservatives of putting emotions ahead of facts. While recognizing that the scientific process of acquiring knowledge and putting hypotheses to an empirical test can and often does lead to shifts in consensus, we on the left claim to trust scientists such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert and unlikely media icon.
After Fauci and other authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told us to wear masks, Blue America listened. As of late June 2020, 86% of Democrats wore a face mask whenever they left home, compared with 48% of Republicans.
Now scientific consensus has changed. But lefties are choosing to ignore the new reality -- not that it's new. Beginning nearly a year ago , in July 2020, the CDC stated that wearing a mask outdoors was unnecessary unless one was less than six feet away from someone else. Aside from crowded events like rallies, sports and concerts, risk of outdoor transmission is lower than a rounding error.
Clarifying its long-held stance, the CDC said on May 13 that people need not wear a mask outdoors, unless they are in a crowd of strangers, or inside with their "pod" of friends and family members. Masking outside is "optional," Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told The Washington Post -- optional as in unnecessary.
Let's pivot toward hope. Nearly half of American adults have been fully vaccinated, and Pfizer is vaccinating children ages 12 to 15. We can go outside, have fun and socialize within the new liberalized guidelines, yet too many people remain traumatized and grimly coasting on paranoid inertia. "It's the return of freedom," said Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Weeks after the latest CDC guidelines were issued, however, normalcy and freedom are still in short supply in liberal bastions like my neighborhood in Manhattan, where Biden won 91% of the vote. In compliance with the CDC, I walk outside without a mask because it's unnecessary. Moreover, I'm fully vaccinated. Rules require that I put one on when I go into a store or ride the subway.
Furrowed brows, glares and general stink eyes still abound. My neighbors are ignoring the CDC as much as right-wingers in West Virginia did last summer.
One would expect attitudes to evolve with the passage of time, but that hasn't been the case so far. When a fellow tenant confronted me recently about my masklessness in the lobby -- where I'd been alone prior to her arrival -- I informed her that I'd been fully vaccinated. "Everyone in the building has probably been vaccinated," she said, "but here we still wear them." I asked why. "It's just the right thing to do," she replied.
At a full-serve gas station in Manhattan, the attendant demanded that I put on my mask before giving me a fill-up. "We're outside," I pointed out. It was windy to boot. "The CDC says you don't need a mask." "I don't care what the CDC says," he told me. "I'm going to keep wearing a mask forever, like in Asia."