Biden’s Clarion Call: One Hundred Days of Mask-A-Lot
Historic “twofer” at year-end puts annus horribilis 2020 behind us
“On the first day I’m inaugurated, I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days… Secondly, this team will help get… at least 100 million COVID vaccine shots into the arms of the American people in the first 100 days.”
— President-elect Joe Biden proclaimed on December 8, 2020.
That day happened to be the 40th death anniversary of John Lennon, the Beatle peacenik. So, one can only “imagine” how he might have reacted in these times of tremendous national discord, in which the simple wearing of a face mask in the midst of a raging pandemic has turned into a highly-charged political choice. With apologies to John, we can only, “imagine all the people living for another day” and yes, imagine many more lives that could still be saved if we just — heeded what scientists and medical professionals are advising us to do — mask up. In fact, let’s give Biden’s clarion call a catchy caption, by harking back to a thousand days of Camelot, and call it: “one hundred days of mask-a-lot.” Moreover, quoting the current president’s favorite line, “What do you have to lose?” To which, the stark answer could very well be, “only your life!”
Masks will save lives while we await vaccinations and return to normalcy. Besides, this is a once-in-a-century pandemic that requires all of us to temporarily sacrifice some of our freedoms, including “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” in bars, retail establishments, places of worship, schools, etc. where science informs us that close human proximity significantly enhances the risk of either being infected by the coronavirus or asymptomatically infecting others in a group. The extent of our sacrifices has to be primarily determined by science at a federal level and secondarily by the situation on the ground — not by politics — at the respective state/local levels. It’s because science can save your life, while politics is more likely to either destroy it or turn it upside down — as the president, many in his inner circle, and people across the heartland are belatedly finding out.
But we the American people, have to be smarter than the politicians who represent us. It’s one of the great paradoxes of the past few years that the United States — one of the most scientifically and technologically advanced democracies on earth — elected numerous local, state and Congressional representatives, who frequently chose to disregard data, science and the truth, often putting their own political careers before the broader national interest in clear violation of their oath of office. The handling of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 at various local, state and federal levels is a stark example of widespread political stupidity and dereliction of duty. Our pandemic numbers — as presented on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on the morning of December 11, 2020 and shown below — offer clear proof of this political malpractice.
As can be seen in the above graphic on the left, U.S. COVID-19 deaths surpass all combat deaths in all of our major wars since the Civil War. Thousands of the COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided, if President Trump had instituted a national mask mandate at the very start of the pandemic. A “Journal of Econometrics” paper, “Causal Impact of Masks, Policies, Behavior on Early Covid-19 Pandemic in the U.S.,” authored by an MIT professor and two professors from the Vancouver School of Economics, was recently published online by ScienceDirect. The October 17, 2020 paper’s main abstract states:
“Our main counterfactual experiments suggest that nationally mandating face masks for employees early in the pandemic could have reduced the weekly growth rate of cases and deaths by more than 10 percentage points in late April and could have led to as much as 19 to 47 percent less deaths nationally by the end of May, which roughly translates into 19 to 47 thousand saved lives.”
This is what masking could have done early in the pandemic cycle to alleviate the U.S. death toll. But there is scientific reasoning why Biden is calling for Americans to mask up for 100 days going forward. It’s laid out in the NIH Director’s November 3, 2020 blog post, “Face Coverings Could Save 130,000 American Lives from COVID-19 by March,” which in turn cites a study, by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, as follows:
“If 95 percent of people in the U.S. began wearing masks in public right now, the death toll would drop by March from the projected 510,000 to about 380,000.
In other words, if most Americans pulled together to do the right thing and wore a mask in public, this simple, selfless act would save more than 130,000 lives in the next few months alone. If mask-wearers increased to just 85 percent, the model predicts it would save about 96,000 lives across the country.”
These projections of a reduced death count should be taken seriously. As the above MSNBC graphic on the right shows that daily COVID deaths on December 9th and 10th now rank 4th and 5th in major deadly events ever recorded in the U.S. In fact, both days surpass the 9/11 death count and December 2nd through December 4th daily deaths are slightly below the 9/11 tally. Also, Americans witnessed in horror as November 2020 turned out to be the single most disastrous month since the pandemic began. In November over 100,000 COVID cases were recorded every day since Election Day. The nightmare continues in December with the COVID case count surpassing 200,000 on a daily basis. We seem to be at a precarious stage, with COVID cases skyrocketing, as the Washington Post graphic below indicates:
If we don’t get our act together quickly as a nation on the mask issue, the good news coming out of our imminent vaccination deployment will be overwhelmed by an ever-increasing death toll. A vaccine can’t help much, if you are clinging to life in a hospital’s ICU. Wearing a mask might just help you from getting there and the vaccine can then ensure that you might never require to be admitted to an ICU because of COVID-19.
To those people, who refuse to mask up in public places — which now require you to — because you believe it impinges on your freedom, here’s something to consider. Your freedom does not include putting the lives of your fellow citizens at risk. Just as you have a right to own a gun and even “open-carry” it in some states — however, you can’t use it to kill other people, except possibly when you are forced to use it to defend your own life. Similarly, you must think of a mask as a nationally licensed “open-carry instrument” that you must wear in public, as long as this pandemic is still raging. Like an open-carry gun, a visible mask helps defend you — with a high probability — from being attacked, in this case, by the coronavirus. More importantly, when you take off your mask while, even in lightly crowded public situations, you are likely harming other people. It’s like you are “shooting” your germs at them, which may or may not infect or kill them. Consequently, depending on the actual outcome of your mask less negligence, your actions could be tantamount to voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
So, please mask up in public, because it’s not only the right thing to do, but also “it’s the patriotic thing to do,” as President-elect Biden reminds us. As I conclude this commentary on December 11, 2020 there is a twofer of great news breaking on TV. First and foremost is that the FDA has approved the first COVID-19 vaccine, jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, for emergency use in the U.S. The second equally important breaking news is that the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election by seeking to bar four key swing states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — from casting their electoral votes for President-elect Biden. It seems kind of karmic that a president, who:
1. lost his reelection bid primarily because of his gross mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and,
2. then tried to use the Supreme Court to overturn the will of the people, whom he had clearly failed to protect from the coronavirus, and so,
3. is roundly rebuked in his desperate attempt to subvert democracy by the selfsame Supreme Court to which he had appointed 3 of 9 justices, who he astonishingly expected to vote in his favor just because he had nominated them!
Fortunately, the Supreme Court established that we are not a banana republic with sycophantic judges whose jurisprudence is suspect. So, it’s a great day for democracy, including the health of our nation and its people. On the day that Texas Attorney General filed this frivolous lawsuit, which was later joined by 17 other state AGs and the president himself, I had tweeted as follows:
“Good God! Can #SCOTUS please stop this farce & let us move on? It’s over! #POTUS & his cohorts are embarrassing US globally with desperate tinpot dictator tactics to hang on to power — sane #GOP leaders, if there are any left, please put a STOP to this ASAP.”
In the same vein, I had published my previous article on December 5th, “Power Play: Trump, Lies & Videotape.” It’s message was simple — the people have spoken, the courts have ruled… it’s time to move on! Now, that the Supreme Court has finally closed the chapter on the election and we have the first approved COVID-19 vaccine, let’s all look ahead to a wonderful 2021 and put annus horribilis 2020 behind us. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all of you!