Commentary: There We Go Again, Premature Going Back to Normal?

Students will still be required to wear masks, in California at least

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Yolo County announced on Wednesday that they were following the state guidance on masking by ending its universal face covering requirement in public settings and workplaces on February 15.

“The change comes after the recent surge of cases from the more contagious Omicron variant greatly surpassed the prior peak of a year ago, yet Yolo County hospitals experienced fewer hospitalizations,” a release said.

“Yolo County is lifting our masking order because the COVID-19 situation has changed thanks to effective vaccines, effective treatments, and a variant that causes less severe disease,” said Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson. “The Omicron wave is receding, but COVID-19 will continue to be with us. We must learn to live with COVID-19. Moving away from requiring everybody to wear masks indoors is a first step toward living with COVID-19. I still recommend that everybody wears a mask indoors in Yolo County, but it will no longer be required in most settings for fully vaccinated persons starting February 16.”

To which I dutifully respond: there you go again.  This is the broken record of the pandemic – we put restrictions in place, tighten things up, and the numbers go down.  But before the pandemic actually ends, we reopen things, people stop wearing masks, get complacent and, bam, a new wave hits.  We have never actually held the guidelines in place long enough to end the pandemic—if such a thing is actually possible.

The good news—the Omicron wave was very steep but brief.  In early January the daily average surged over 800,000 per day.  That number as of yesterday dropped to 227,000.  While that is less than a third of what it was, is still nearly at the high water mark of the entire pandemic up until this past month.

This stuff is still deadly.  Nearly 2600 people died yesterday.  Omicron is considered less deadly by experts, but the number of deaths rose to just under the January 2021 peak despite the fact that nearly 3 in 4 adults over 18 are fully vaccinated.

But politicians are responding to public sentiment, and public sentiment as captured in polling released on Monday in the NY Times shows “the public’s resolve to combat the coronavirus pandemic is waning.”

Nate Cohn on the NY Times writes, “The surveys depict an increasingly frustrated and pessimistic nation that is as worried by the specter of an endless pandemic as it is fearful of the disease. While a majority of voters remain concerned about the coronavirus, the balance of recent polling suggests that the desire to return to normalcy has approached or even overtaken alarm about the virus itself.”

For example, the Yahoo/ YouGov survey found a split—46 percent of respondents thought Americans should “learn to live with” it and “get back to normal,” while just 43 percent thought “we need to do more to vaccinate, wear masks and test.”

But how do you get back to normal when hundreds of thousands of people are dying from this?  My kids are stuck in limbo, waiting to get negative tests, and the soonest they can go back to school is Tuesday.

Is vaccinating—which people do all the time for all sorts of illnesses that are no longer deadly childhood threats—and wearing masks really that onerous?

Cohn points out that 70 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, “It’s time we accept Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives”—but what does that mean exactly?  I agree, for example, that COVID is here to stay, and getting on with our lives is what we are doing—what that looks like is open to debate.

The public is increasingly against vaccine mandates, falling from 53 to 43 percent support since September even though we have all sorts of vaccine mandates for other diseases.

Support for masking and social distancing guidelines has also dropped although it remains at 52 percent.

Cohn points out, “The polls create a delicate challenge for the Biden administration, which never regained its political standing since the rise of the Delta variant dashed last summer’s hopes of a return to normalcy. The growing unease with the pandemic seems to have added to the president’s political woes, and may help explain why the public disapproves of Mr. Biden’s handling of the coronavirus for the first time.”

So instead we go too quickly into a mode that will likely lead to another wave down the line as a new variant emerges, because we have failed to deal effectively with previous waves.

The new masking guidance from the state will require masking at specified settings: public transit, K-12 schools, childcare, healthcare, correctional, shelter, and long-term care settings.  That makes sense.

But, “Only unvaccinated persons are required to mask in all indoor public settings. Fully vaccinated individuals are recommended to continue indoor masking when the risk may be high.”

So that means that the people required to mask are those less likely to mask.  We have already learned that doesn’t really work.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a challenge for everyone over the last two years, and Yolo County residents have demonstrated their willingness to follow public health requirements,” said Board Chair, Supervisor Angel Barajas. “We will continue to support ways for residents to protect themselves and others from the disease.”

The county stated, “The end of a masking requirement does not signal that masks do not work. Masks work. We recommend that anyone who feels unsafe in any situation wear a mask that fits and filters well, such as an N95, KN95, or KF94 respirator or double mask with a cloth mask over a surgical mask. We also strongly recommended that everyone take the opportunity to get vaccinated and boosted.”

The problem is that we have not learned from history and this notion that we can move on when 2600 people a day are dying is a bit naïve.  But there we go again.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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9 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    I still recommend that everybody wears a mask indoors in Yolo County,

    I was about to tear into this, and the type of mask wasn’t specified, which we are supposed to know better now.  But, later it is said . . .

    “The end of a masking requirement does not signal that masks do not work. Masks work. We recommend that anyone who feels unsafe in any situation wear a mask that fits and filters well, such as an N95, KN95, or KF94 respirator or double mask with a cloth mask over a surgical mask.

    From what I’ve read N-95 etc. are FAR more effective than surgical.  Our officials should be giving us the information they know.

    Bottom line, this isn’t about everyone protecting everyone else by all wearing masks anymore.  And looking back, between the ineffectiveness of cloth masks combined with the eccentricities of human behavior on multiple levels, that was probably a joke.

    Now, it is about PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM OTHERS, and luckily with N-95s or similar, they do help with that.  It’s probably better that way, as everyone can decide for themselves and learn as much as they can for themselves.  Relying on others to protect us, be it our fellow public, our politicians, or our health care system — is clearly a bad joke in the United States of America.  And to the republic for which it stands blah blah blah . . .

    1. Bill Marshall

      Relying on others to protect us, be it our fellow public, our politicians, …

      Always has been a stupid, bad joke… so many think that we can rely on laws, government, others, to protect them… and insist they have a DUTY to do so…

      Fallacy:  if we’re lucky enough to get born into this world (some are not given that “choice”), we should expect others to make sure we prosper, live forever, be healthy… and if any of those do not come to pass (pun unintended), it is the “others” who are to blame… they should all go to Gehenna, Sheol, Hell, etc. … we have no responsibility… “Ask not what you can do for yourself, but demand what others must do for you”…

      Alan M has chosen a strategy to go N-95 (or better), vaccinate, and still pretty much self-isolate… that is a valid response…

      I/we have chosen another path, that for me and mine seems equally valid, including cloth or N-95 masks, travel on occasion, but following mask and distancing protocols… and we’ll continue to do so… if we become ill, we’ll become ill… but, we’ll minimize the apparent, or real risk to others… but we will not wear “moon-suits” (like for hazardous waste), and fully isolate… ain’t a happening thing, and anyone who insists we be compelled to go in that direction… well, that will be ‘picking a fight’… and I’ll play THAT game, too…

      It could well be, in the scheme of nature, that Darwin was ‘right on’… those of the human species who do not act reasonably, will step out of the gene pool…

      Alan M has been pretty consistent on his views, and I respect that… it is only when he gets close to telling me what my views must be, that I react.  Alan M needs to do (as to his behaviors) what Alan M believes is right… no problem there.

      I resent that the unvaccinated, unmasked, no social distancing folk have overloaded the healthcare system (to make everything perfect for them, despite any risks they take) where I cannot get much beyond routine care (mostly by video/e-mail) and I cannot get out-patient surgery to help resolve a physical issue… and I’d put that up against David’s “issue” as to schooling… but he wants everything perfect, and anyone who gets in the way, practically, or in opinion, are threats to that… I understand that ‘privileged’ mentality, and he is ‘entitled’ to it…

      All gets to “whose ox is being gored”… (or bush-whacked?)… but I’ll not go there, as it would be off-topic…

      1. Alan Miller

        Alan M . . . has been pretty consistent on his views, and I respect that… it is only when he gets close to telling me what my views must be, that I react.

        ???

  2. Ron Oertel

    For example, the Yahoo/ YouGov survey found a split—46 percent of respondents thought Americans should “learn to live with” it and “get back to normal,” while just 43 percent thought “we need to do more to vaccinate, wear masks and test.”

    Efforts to increase the latter are ineffective (and perhaps even counter-productive), at this point.  Who hasn’t already heard the message?

    Go tell that to the truckers blocking roads in Canada.

    But how do you get back to normal when hundreds of thousands of people are dying from this? 

    Not sure of the timeframe or scope of “hundreds of thousands”, but apparently – that’s “normal”.

    Though I understand that deaths are expected to drop significantly, as Omicron continues to wane – which is occurring rapidly, at this point.

    From what I’ve read N-95 etc. are FAR more effective than surgical.  Our officials should be giving us the information they know.

    They seem to share information that they believe has a realistic chance of mass adoption, rather than what’s “best”.

    And sometimes, they “hide” information, as they did early in the pandemic regarding the effectiveness of masks (in order to ensure that health care workers had a sufficient supply).

    In other words, they don’t trust us – probably for good reason.

    Well, I’m off to purchase a pallet of toilet paper, “just in case” another mutated virus appears.

    Next time, I’d suggest that neighborhood kids open a toilet paper stand, rather than the usual lemonade stand. $1/square. 🙂

    1. Alan Miller

      In other words, they don’t trust us – probably for good reason.

      Thanks to them not trusting us, we don’t trust them either, nor each other.  Great strategy, “Them”.

    2. Ron Oertel

      I would say that (in this country), there’s at least a “chance” of truth coming out somewhere along the line.  We’ve got a boatload of “muckrakers”, that the government can’t control.  🙂

      Not so much, within the country of origin. They do a much better job of “controlling” information, there.

      Of course in this country, business (such as big pharma) also influences messages and outcomes, sometimes in partnership with the government. (Another reason that people don’t always trust the “message”.)

      Another commenter on here used to say, “follow the money”. If anything, that’s probably the most corruptive influence of all in this country (and maybe anywhere).

      1. Ron Oertel

        I would also say that I’m increasingly-concerned about the clamping down of “misinformation” by social media companies.  And sometimes, the clamping-down of political discourse.

        If anything, that also increases overall “suspicion”. As with government attempts to “control” information, it tends to backfire and leads to further division.

        If we can’t allow some yahoo to say that vaccines don’t work, is the whole thing really that fragile?

        And actually, that goes for everything – including global warming. (Hell, Trump said that it would cool down soon, but did that really change beliefs in mass? Not to mention evidence?) Personally, I found it kind of entertaining.

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