Dropping mask mandates is a misstep

Illustration by Lukas Belzeski

Illustration by Lukas Belzeski

By Lukas Belzeski

The Jag

The mask mandate for the Blue Springs School District was discontinued on November 12, by a unanimous vote of the school board. The mandate had meant that all staff and students in the school district were required to wear an appropriate face covering while at school for its duration. This decision was made following a vote of 5-4 by the Jackson Country Legislature to rescind the county-wide mandate.

The county and the district’s decision to rescind the mask mandate is a mistake with potentially severe consequences for the health of the public and for some families in particular. Masks are still necessary, and they should be mandated at the county level, and if not for the county than at least the district, and if not the district than at least just staff.

To demonstrate that masks should be mandated, one must demonstrate that masks do indeed work. This is rather easy, assuming the listener trusts doctors and government. Assuming one trusts medical professionals, then this is a homerun. The IPA (Innovations for Poverty Action) is an American non-profit organization that conducts research in an effort to reduce global poverty. The IPA and Bangladeshi researchers ran a randomized trial of mask promotion in Bangladesh and found that increased use of masks lowered symptomatic infections. From the abstract, “Mask distribution and promotion was a scalable and effective method to reduce symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections.” The CDC says on their official website “Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” Right there in plain text, trustworthy academic and governmental institutions recommend and back the use and effectiveness of masks.

Illustration by Lukas Belzeski

Masks should be mandated at a county and school level because they are proven to effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. Masking is recommended by the CDC and health officials. If one does not trust the CDC, that is not entirely unreasonable. But it is not reasonable to discount the work of the CDC, health officials worldwide, most doctors, and most American allies. Distrusting all these people would require that they are all stupid, which if our doctors are all idiots then we would have all been surely doomed by the swine flu, or they are all engaged in a massive worldwide conspiracy involving every countryside doctor to the highest echelons of global society. This second option is, as should be apparent, silly and requires a massive stretch of the imagination.

There is a reasonable concern, though, that any such mandate is restricting freedom by its nature. But is one not more free if they can live in a world where they need not fear disease for themself and their loved ones? Is one truly freer in such a world? What freedom do they have which we do not besides the freedom to get sick?

 There is no counterargument not rooted in conjecture or fallacy, usually describing a new totalitarian America perfectly emulating “1984”, all started, like a flood originating from a dripping faucet, by mandatory masking. This fear is base conspiracy and entirely irrational, unfounded, and ridiculous. This idea is founded on a “Slippery Slope” fallacy, basically when one claims that a little thing, i.e., masks, will lead to a conceptually unrelated but conspiratorially linked, i.e., fascist dystopia. This basic claim recurs anytime the government creates any legislation affecting the lives of the public, from the New Deal to income tax to the freeing of the slaves to the new U.S. Constitution.

The reader must understand that this piece is not an attempt to accuse, to degrade, or to offend. Skepticism is necessary and encouraged in regard to laws which, in writing, limit the freedom of the public. However, skepticism has a healthy limit. When the idea which you are skeptical of is justified by science and empiricism, when the safety and health of your neighbors is threatened, that is the time for your skepticism to acquiesce to reason.