Mask Mandates Are Hurting Public Officials’ Credibility
This weekend, Athens, Georgia, the town I have lived in for nine years, a charming, active, very pleasant place that I am delighted to have as my home, reinstated its mask mandate for public places and “private entities that choose to opt into the requirement.” I was out of town this weekend and didn’t learn this until I returned to town, and even then, I learned it not from the local news or from being an idiot who walked into a place of business without a mask on, but instead from someone on social media who was making fun of the mandate. This is the only time I see mask mandates show up anymore: When someone’s mocking them.
And here’s the fun part: It wasn’t until I’d seen the mockery that I learned that the mandate had in fact already been in place since June 18. The new mask mandate wasn’t new at all; it was just a renewal of the previous mandate. A mandate that I — despite living in Athens and visiting many of its fine establishments, both private and public — had no idea existed.
I am empathetic to both Athens officials and officials nationwide: This has been an impossible time, and they’re all just doing their best — they’re just trying to help. But we have reached the point of this pandemic in which it is increasingly clear that whatever public officials say, about masks, or vaccines, or even social distancing, is being completely ignored by the wider public. That is not to say that everyone is on the same page. Some people are still wearing masks; some people are still not vaccinated; some people are still rarely leaving their homes. But they are making these decisions individually. They have decided, based on their personal risk preference or whatever quixotic viewpoints they may or may not have, what they are going to do — now, and moving forward. There are obvious problems with this, particularly with constant new variants and fluctuations in case loads that defy just about every modeling of the pandemic of the past two years. People might or might not necessarily be making the best decisions for them or themselves in how they handle this stage of the pandemic.
But they have decided. And there is nothing, at this point, that any sort of government…