In light of the pervasiveness of the omicron variant, we seem to be back to mandates for mask wearing and/or proofs of vaccinations – with some even calling for renewed lockdowns. It will all be for our own good, of course.
It’s about time we recognize that these mandates are little more than posturing by politicians who are responding to demands they “do something” about COVID and an opportunity for elitist do-gooders to demonstrate their moral superiority and inclination to butt into other peoples’ business. If these mandates were truly effective, they would have arrested the pandemic when they were first tried two years ago.
Omicron seems to be the most contagious variant of COVID, with estimates that as many as 150 million Americans may catch it. That’s about 46% of the population. It also seems to evade vaccinations better than other variants, although the vaccinated appear to have fewer symptoms than the unvaccinated.
The omicron variant also appears to be less virulent than other variants, with symptoms similar to a head cold or moderate case of the flu. Yes, some will suffer more severe cases, and there will even be some deaths caused by this new variety of COVID. However, the incidence of severity and fatality more closely correlates with common influenzas than previous iterations of COVID.
These is no need for mask mandates and proof of vaccination or “vaccination passports” are just examples of empty political theater. In controlled laboratory conditions, masks have been found to be able to reduce, but not eliminate, the respiration of molecules the size of the coronavirus. However, in the real world, previous mask mandates have done nothing to stem the tide of COVID. COVID has waxed or waned depending upon the season, rather than because of any attempted mitigation tactics.
Regardless of what society does, or fails to do, COVID will continue to spread until it runs its course. The omicron variant may actually be a bit of a blessing. It will spread widely and rapidly, and will infect a large portion of the population. In fact, it may spread so completely that there will be little to no time for any mutations to develop and take hold. If enough of the population catches the virus, it may play itself out through a form of herd immunity.
One has to wonder if the mitigation mandates of the past two years has prolonged the pandemic, by causing infections to be delayed and giving the virus time to mutate into more contagious and virulent varieties. If omicron continues to run through the nation like wildfire, it will probably drive out other variants and then die out itself.
Vaccinations and boosters appear to lesson the symptoms of omicron, even if they don’t provide complete protection against it. Masks and social distancing are more questionable strategies. Although masks may filter out a certain quantity of viral particles, they don’t filter out all, and that’s a best-case scenario if the masks are handled and worn properly. There is no empirical data supporting social distancing. The two-meter (six feet) recommendation is completely arbitrary and is based upon the likely distance droplets may travel. Since most COVID infections are caused by inhalation of the aerosolized particles, the six feet distance is meaningless. Both mask wearing and social distancing act more as social placebos than as meaningful protective measures.
The best protection against serious coronavirus cases continues to be vaccinations. Yet, for various reasons, some still prefer to remain unvaccinated. That’s their prerogative. They can choose not to accept vaccines, but they also must recognize the risks they assume and be responsible for their own choices. There should not be a necessity for society to accept more mandates solely to protect those who choose to remain unvaccinated.
Masks, vaccination passports, and even social distancing mandates make no sense. First of all, omicron is so contagious, it is likely to tear through the population regardless of any precautions people take. Most people who contract omicron will experience mild to moderate symptoms, which they may very well mistake for other maladies.
Secondly, mask mandates and the like will only be feel-good measures in which the illusion of protection trumps actual protection. If individuals are vaccinated, chances are that they will avoid catching COVID, or will only develop mild symptoms to an infection. If persons go unvaccinated, they have already demonstrated their willingness to accept the risk of infection, so masks are again of limited use. It is unlikely that an unvaccinated person would be able to render substantial harm on to a vaccinated individual. And a vaccinated person would be less likely to carry a viral load substantial enough to hurt an unvaccinated individual. Mask and other mandates wouldn’t materially alter this equation.
Besides the obvious questions of liberty surrounding the issue, vaccination, masking, and other COVID-related mandates are ineffective. Some will choose to remain unvaccinated, whether or not it’s a good idea. Others will choose more protection – namely staying up to date on vaccinations and boosters. Masks won’t change these facts, nor will masks have any significant impact on arresting the ultimate spread of the virus. We will have to endure the omicron variant and hope it continues to cause minimal symptoms as it spreads. Artificial mitigation attempts will be a waste of time, and will most likely cause more damage to businesses and schools in our nation.