Ever since the CDC announced its judgment that vaccinated people can congregate indoors without masks, the letter of COVID law has been loosened. But the spirit remains. Many cities and counties no longer mandate businesses to require masks. Curfews have been lifted, capacity limits eased. But the mood has not been lifted or eased. Whether we say it or not, we know in our hearts that it could all come crashing back down upon our heads at any time. Like a perpetual threat, the principle of the thing remains.
The principle is this: for whatever reason, without warning and with only the most flimsy ghost of a rationale, people with power can make burdensome, demoralizing, and ruinous demands upon people without power. We are far past the point where the invocation of an “emergency situation” counts for anything more than a hollow gesture, a contemptuous formality. The pretense of explanation is now an empty ritual, as empty as when White House officials put on surgical masks backstage, walk to their lecterns, then take the masks off to speak. Both rulers and ruled are going through the motions now; neither really needs an explanation why. We know our roles. We are being taught our place.
If all this was not obvious already, LA County has re-instated its indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccine status amid concerns about rising cases due to the Delta variant. “Due to increased COVID-19 transmission,” the county press release stated, “masks will be required indoors regardless of vaccination status.” Elsewhere, on its Public Health website, the county claims, “the more people get vaccinated the less likely it is that COVID-19 will spread or that new variants of the virus will take hold.”
So for those keeping track at home: the logic is now, “unvaccinated people are to blame for new variants and rising cases, but also, your vaccine will not protect you from new variants or stop rising cases—so mask up.” A masterpiece of Dadaist absurdity. It’s futile at this point to rehearse all the well-known truths: vaccines do protect against the Delta variant, mask mandates are completely useless, what counts as a “surge” is hardly a blip, and so forth. Read more…