We Were Supposed to Be Wearing Masks Now

Remember back when the likes of Leana Wen were arguing that we should stop masking to give people a break so when COVID gets bad again, we could mask up again? Admittedly, “bad again” is open to very different interpretations. For people who want to avoid long COVID* or just can’t afford to get sick for a couple of weeks in America 2022, Year of Our Gritty, “bad again” has been around for weeks now. But the definition of ‘bad again’ that we all supposedly agreed on was ‘hospitals are overwhelmed.’

Well, those not-happy days are here again.

Nationally, pediatric wards are being slammed by multiple respiratory viruses, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is considering setting up tents to treat the overflow. Massachusetts is also experiencing problems, and D.C.’s Children’s Hospital, along with other D.C.-area hospitals has excessive wait times.

If there’s any good news, it’s that most of this surge doesn’t appear to be due to COVID per se (though it’s not helping, especially when the specialized pediatric doctors and nurses can’t work because they’re infected with COVID), but due to other respiratory viruses–the spread of which also can be limited by masking.

This is precisely the situation when we were supposed to return to masking–and there was supposed agreement on this. If we are not going to impose masking requirements or even make strong suggestions to wear masks when children can’t get medical care, then we are never going to impose masking requirements. Those who made the argument that we would return to masking when things get bad have been revealed as liars (though that was somewhat clear at the time anyway).

So protect a child and wear a mask**. It’s just not that hard to do. Because our sociopathic leadership, such as it is, isn’t going to do a damn thing.

*The best estimate from my read of the literature (e.g., here and here) is that one to two percent of vaccinated and boosted people who become infected will have long COVID–which is considerably better than not being up to date on vaccination.

*RSV is more likely spread by droplets and fomites–and masking prevents spread and inhalation of droplets as well as making it harder to touch your face. That said, the bulk of data supporting that position date back to the 1970s and 1980s, so who knows?

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