The following column has been authored by a non-clinician.
COVID Is Back. Masks aren't. The number one weapon for fighting COVID is in a box in the front hall closet, in my house and in plenty of other people's houses.
Why aren't people being required to wear masks?
What's the difference between COVID now and COVID when you had to wear masks?
The answer, it seems, does not require a degree in medicine. It's politics, plain and simple.
Masks aren't back because mandates are unpopular. Nothing scientific about it.
I've read all the reports. The public health officials are all "recommending" masks.
They say things like "strongly urging" people in groups to wear masks.
We used to say we wore masks to protect other people. There are other people who still need to be protected. We're just not protecting them anymore.
We are doing a better job than we did in the bad old days of taking care of people with COVID. Immunizations and medication have reduced hospital admissions and mortality. But here's the rub: RSV and flu are making up the difference.
Flu was down in 2020 because we all wore masks. Now it's back.
"You didn't see a lot of people walking around with masks in a bad flu season pre-pandemic, and as you know, not everyone is amenable to wearing a mask," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recently told The Washington Post.
Amenable to wearing a mask? I don't even know what that means.
The other crisis that this pandemic has caused is a crisis in confidence in the public institutions that are supposed to promote and protect public health.
Were they wrong to mandate masks for as long as they did?
And if they weren't wrong then, what are we all doing walking around without masks now?
Are we being foolish?
There is something troubling when you hear public health officials openly acknowledging the politics that is at the core of the decision-making process.
What are people "amenable to"?
That's what happened when Nassau Community College tried to reinstate a mask mandate.
The County Executive immediately opposed the move: "For most people, there's COVID fatigue and they want to move on," he told the press. "I'm not against masks. I'm against mandating masks."
The college quickly reversed itself.
It recommended masks, and some students were reportedly wearing them, and some weren't. Not as effective as if everyone were masking, which they'd be doing --- if it were required.
Since it isn't, we don't.
We obey the rules without really trusting the rulemakers.
We do what we're told when we're told to put on masks but gripe about no one knowing anything when we're left to our own devices. Does anyone really know something?
Best I can tell, if COVID admission to hospitals increases, we should be looking at mask mandates. But the mandates depend not on flu and RSV admissions (they have lower mortality rates than COVID), but solely on COVID admissions. Which are inching up.
According to the same health officials, that is, who we really don't trust because they've now admitted to what we always suspected: which is that politics plays a key role in their recommendations.
Merry Christmas. Stay well.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.