Niagara has flattened the curve. Until there’s a vaccine or cure, let’s keep it that way.
Among the many things that Donald Trump has poisoned in his three-and-a-half-year assault on western democracy is public trust in expertise. Not that a certain segment of Americans, in particular, needed much pushing. There’s a longstanding and well known anti-intellectual tendency in the US, seen most prominently among what the satirist and newspaper columnist H. L. Mencken called the “booboisie.” (In 1931, the Arkansas legislature passed a motion to pray for Mencken’s soul after he had called the state the “apex of moronia.” This tidbit brought to you by the internet, which Mencken surely would have reviled.)
Boobs and idiots arguing over flag burning and whether women should stay barefoot and pregnant—a phrase coined by a doctor in Kansas, slightly northwest of Arkansas—is bad enough. Introduce a highly infectious, deadly disease into the American maelstrom of nitwittedness and now we’re talking real problems.
How does anyone with any sense dispute the efficacy of masks to reduce the spread of a respiratory illness? By politicizing it. This “debate” has been turned into yet another Trump-fueled blaze in the culture wars, and we should all be concerned that embers from it are floating north.
Many Asian cultures have no problem with masks, and their COVID-19 stats are telling. Take Taiwan and Japan. With a population of 24 million, Taiwan has reported 449 cases with just seven deaths. In Taiwan, one in every 53,452 citizens has tested positive. In Japan, with a population of 126 million, there have been 19,841 confirmed cases. In Japan, one of every 6350 citizens has tested positive.
Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves. It is about protecting everyone we encounter.
Now come Canada and the US. With a population of 37 million, Canada has had 106,000 confirmed cases. One in every 354 Canadians has tested positive. In the US, with a population of 328 million, there have been 2.93 million confirmed cases. One of every 111 Americans has tested positive for COVID-19.
Yes, there other factors at play—Japan, in particular, has always been a hygienic society, and one with little handshaking. But Japan never went into lockdown. Like New York City, Tokyo is home to millions. Yet Tokyo never saw infection rates anywhere near those in New York.
The CDC recommends wearing masks. The WHO recommends wearing masks. A roundup of new data, submitted on Monday, by 239 scientists from 32 countries to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, strongly argues that micro-droplets of exhaled breath containing the virus linger in the air for far longer than originally thought.
Even Trump’s chief legislative enabler, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, argued for the use of masks last week, saying, “Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves. It is about protecting everyone we encounter.”
Niagara Regional Council will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces. The answer is yes—“enforceable” or not— because it’s the choice most likely to provide the widest public health benefit as the province continues to reopen, and as Niagarans increasingly find themselves in more crowded public spaces. Will council make the right choice? Don’t hold your breath. ◆