The state of Oregon just descended further into lunacy by proposing that temporary rules on mask mandates be applied indefinitely. The proposal by Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) would amend the current rule, set to expire on May 4, and require that the mask mandate remain in effect “until repealed or revised.”
According to the proposal, such revisions would take place when it was “no longer necessary to address the COVID- pandemic.” Yet what exactly is meant by “necessary” is left to the imagination. So essentially Oregonians shouldn’t expect to be allowed to breathe freely again until unelected state health bureaucrats say they can. Until then, shut up and mask up.
Oregon’s chilling proposal illustrates what is at risk if wily power-mongers succeed in exploiting the pandemic to impose a permanent health emergency state. Governors like Greg Abbott of Texas and Mississippi‘s Tate Reeves have taken a step in the right direction by ending their states’ scientifically dubious mask mandates. They should be applauded for moving toward closing the curtains on this charade.
Yet it remains unclear why, a year into the pandemic, given high survival rates, the availability of therapeutics, and the administering of vaccines, Americans should have to wait around for any individual governor to rewrite the rules and save the day. Emergency orders are intended for a swift and decisive response during short-lived emergencies, not for pandemics that stretch into months and now years.
Relying on governors further risks a situation whereby recalcitrant mayors, city councils, health departments, and other officials can persist with mask mandates in opposition to governors’ orders. Instead, it’s high time that state legislatures, the arm of government closest to the people and vested with lawmaking authority, step up and end the mask tyranny.
Oregon’s heart-sinking masks-forever proposal is the direction in which leftists in public office, bureaucracy, and the press are leading this country. The recent repeal of mask mandates in some states put a spring in the step of the nation’s lockdown and mask-weary population but prompted a predictable meltdown from the usual players.
President Biden labeled the rationale behind the governor’s announcement as “Neanderthal thinking.” Dr. Anthony Fauci condemned it as “inexplicable,” and California Gov. Gavin Newsom called it “absolutely reckless.” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes described the decision as “disturbing,” “foolish,” and “maddening,” and CNN derided it as “anti-science.”
Fauci is going as far as to push double-masking even for those who have been infected with the virus or fully vaccinated. When Sen. Rand Paul asked him during last week’s committee hearing why he was perpetuating this “theater,” Fauci’s response was based more on alarmism and conjecture than on science.
Mask Mandates Rest On Poor Evidence
Yet even for those who have not acquired immunity through prior infection or vaccination, the supposed mitigation benefits of masks are not based on any conclusive scientific evidence. Back in March 2020, Fauci, Surgeon-General Jerome Adams, and Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the U.S. coronavirus task force, all assured Americans there was no need to wear masks. Adams even suggested wearing masks might be counterproductive.
In early April, the CDC suddenly changed course and began advising the opposite. The new recommendation was eventually echoed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The policy shift was attributed to the argument that, firstly, masks work in curbing the transmission of disease, and secondly, that asymptomatic spread is a significant factor. Yet two large scale trials, the results of which were released in November and largely ignored by the corporate media, tell a different story.
In Denmark, a large randomized-control trial to assess the efficacy of masks in protecting against COVID-19 infection found no statistical difference in infection rates between mask-wearers and non-mask wearers. A Wuhan, China study of 10 million residents found that asymptomatic positive cases was very low, there was no evidence of transmission from asymptomatic positive persons to traced close contacts, and no asymptomatic positive cases in over 96 percent of residential communities.
Back in June, when Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, similarly acknowledged that asymptomatic spread was “very rare,” there was some rapid back pedaling. But although the original claim was massaged, it was never actually repudiated.
Even the CDC recently reported that its study of state-issued mask mandates between March and December 2020 found that mandates were associated with a paltry 0.7 percentage point decrease in daily COVID-19 death growth rates 1-20 days after implementation, and less than 2 percent within periods 21-100 days after implementation. The numbers for case growth were similarly measly. Yet the CDC is absurdly continuing its recommendation for masks.
Unchecked Executive Power Is Tyranny
At this point in the pandemic, the decision-making process to put an end to this sorry affair should not be left to the executive branch. Expanded executive power in times of disaster is not meant to justify an indefinite series of arbitrary and coercive decrees issued by individual governors, acting in consultation with a team of faceless, unelected, and therefore unaccountable public health officials. Lawmaking authority is vested in the more deliberative and democratic legislative bodies, not the executive.
Furthermore, relying on the executive paves the way for petty dictatorships to crop up at the county and municipal level. For example, although Abbott has made it difficult for local officials to enact individual mask rules because his order explicitly prohibits penalties for failing to wear a mask, the situation in other states is more nebulous.
At the recent CPAC conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted that Florida was a “an oasis of freedom.” Relatively speaking, he is correct. But as long as places like Tampa and Key West are still stubbornly forcing people to mask up, ludicrously even outdoors, Florida can hardly be considered free.
Similarly, in Montana, newly elected Gov. Greg Gianforte promptly delivered on his campaign promise to end the statewide mask mandate. Nevertheless, Democratic strongholds like Missoula County and the city of Whitefish are pressing on undeterred.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced late last week the full reopening of his state. A statewide mask mandate was never instituted, but mayors and local jurisdictions implemented their own mandates, and the Arizona Department of Health Services issued an emergency measure in November requiring masks on school campuses.
Even the judiciary is inappropriately weighing in on mask requirements. In South Florida, judges are egregiously factoring in mask rules when deciding child custody cases. Broward County Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen indefinitely suspended parental timesharing for mother Melanie Joseph for being “one of these anti-mask people” and for having the “audacity” to post a photograph on social media in which she was not wearing a mask.
State Legislatures, Get Your Rears In Gear
Hence, we need state legislatures to take action on masks to curb executive, bureaucratic and even judicial overreach, and represent the will of the people. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. If not, we will only ever be one gubernatorial—or mayoral—election, one departmental edict, or one judicial decision away from our right, literally, to breathe freely being once again revoked or suspended based on whim, political expedience, or fear mongering.
In a number of states, the legislative wheels are already turning. The North Dakota House, tackling the issue head on, recently passed a bill that would ban mask mandates throughout the state. The bill is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
Likewise in Ohio, a bill has been introduced that would terminate the existing mask mandate and prohibit a new mandate unless approved by the General Assembly. In Wisconsin, the legislature voted last month to repeal Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate, only to have the governor issue a new one within minutes.
Lawmakers in other states including Texas, Idaho, and Arizona are moving to more broadly curb emergency executive powers. Even the Democratic-controlled New York legislature just passed a law curtailing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers.
Evidently the dominos are falling, despite consternation from the usual parade of tyrants, fear mongers, and superstitious hypochondriacs. Instead of waiting around for governors and health bureaucrats to allow people to breathe freely again, state legislatures should reinvigorate their constitutional authority, curb overreach, and do away with oppressive and scientifically unsupported mask mandates.
Carina Benton is a native Australian living in Washington state. She is a practicing Catholic and has taught for many years in Catholic and Christian schools. She is a mother of two young children.