By RICK WAGNER

It’s surprising what sorts of things acquire political constituencies these days but there’s no denying that face coverings/masks have become a strange battleground.

To mask wearers, those who do not follow the mandate to wear them when mixing with others in public are reckless maniacs operating like drunken drivers careening down a crowded street.

To mask refuseniks, face covering proponents are virtue signaling oppressors, using thin evidence of mask effectiveness to indulge their authoritarian impulses.

The two positions are obviously not easy to reconcile and to be fair to the refuseniks, there has been an enormous amount of conflicting information thrown by experts, such as the mischievous Dr. Fauci, who seem unconcerned about prior contradictory statements made with the same appearance of certainty.

As an example, we see Monday’s Daily Sentinel article about a flyer from St. Mary’s hospital addressing mask usage saying, “There Is No Evidence That Masks Protect People Who Are Not Sick.”

Upon discovery, the hospital went out of its way to point out that the flyer was generated way back in February, but now according to the hospital, was “debunked.” That is an unusual choice of words as debunked is defined as a process to, “expose the falseness or hollowness of an idea, myth or belief.”

That debunking apparently had not reached the World Health Organization in June when they noted, “At present, there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID-19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.”

Also in June, the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons published an article called “Mask Facts” which was essentially a summary of around 17 different studies on the effectiveness of various types of facial coverings in reducing the transmission of the COVID–19 virus.

The conclusions seem to be that most cloth masks are very minimally effective in preventing transmission of the virus, with some of that due to the weave of the mask being larger than the size of the virus and some of it from the fact that people do not wear them properly.

Those conclusions did not sit well with much of the online community who branded the research cited in the article as “cherry picked” and the association as being part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to apparently co-opt public health.

The constant about-face from portions of the expert community on topics like masks — or that it’s better to be outside than in to prevent virus transmission and the corollary that forcing people to remain inside may not work all that well — make it hard for people to know what to believe.

It is hard to sort through expert opinions, especially when there are political factors at play. We need to remember experts are people and have political agendas, religious beliefs and their own problems. In a country of our size you can find a couple of hundred people with impressive sounding credentials to say anything on about anything.

If you watch courtroom trials you will see one side can provide an expert who declares a person has an injury requiring them to use crutches for the next five years while the other has an expert testifying the person should be jogging daily.

This all leads me to believe that masks might do some good and if they protect really fragile people even a little bit, they are worth wearing for a while.

If you don’t want to do that, getting into an argument with a clerk at the grocery store isn’t going to help. They may not like it either, but they are trying to stay out of trouble. Even if you don’t think the governor has the power to tell you to wear one, the stores are private property and much as you can tell people to take their shoes off before they come into your house — they can say you need a mask before you come into their store.

Personally, I don’t know why we haven’t seen a judicial ruling on the sufficiency of evidence to demonstrate enough significant and imminent harm from this virus to allow the governor to suspend enumerated constitutional rights, such as freedom of association, assembly and the practice of religion, for arbitrarily chosen periods of time. If the court determines the danger is significant enough to suspend constitutional rights, then it should rule on whether these suspensions are as limited as possible and will realistically accomplish the purpose for which they are imposed.

While we are waiting for that, you can organize a protest, I understand that keeps you from getting viruses and it might help get some resolution.

Rick Wagner is a Grand Junction attorney. Email him at rickwagner@columnist.com. His weekly political talk show airs on KNZZ 1100 AM/92.7 FM on Saturdays at noon.

Recommended for you