Local Officials are Overdosing the Public with Their Stream of Irrational and Unsubstantiated Orders: e.g., Masks Outdoors
June 4, 2020
by Alyssa Erdley
News with Attitude
Every day, the city of Santa Monica sends out at least one "Covid-19 Update." The word 'update' is a euphemism for a new commandment. In fact, there is often more than one 'update' per day. These so-called updates from the ruling class graciously inform we lesser orders what activities we may engage in, where we may engage in such permitted activities, and how we must be outfitted in order to be permitted such unexpected boons.
Never do these orders cite any studies or data to prove their rationale. After all, we lesser beings couldn't be expected to understand the science behind the edicts.
Or, perhaps, we might understand the science all too well and end up with an appropriate scorn for the constant barrage of restrictions and requirements.
Locally, the main source for the edicts is the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, directed by Dr. Barbara Ferrer. Dr. Ferrer's doctorate is in Social Welfare. Most of her career has been spent building "community-based programs" to do things like reduce child obesity and "address inequities in health outcomes." Nowhere on her resume does she have expertise in or experience with epidemics.
But the officials of every city in the county are doing what she says - just because she says so. Worse, in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, local officials are over-interpreting county orders to be even more restrictive than the county had intended.
The use of masks is a good example of the general ignorance, pretense of knowledge, and overreach of government officials at all levels, from global to city - though it is by far not the only example. Masks have been alternately discouraged, recommended, and then ultra-recommended - sometimes with good reason but more recently with none.
In the early days of the pandemic in early March, when it was first spreading across the globe from Wuhan, China, we lesser beings were told by the World Health Organization (and then by Dr. Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases) that it was unnecessary and even counter-productive for members of the general public to wear a mask. The WHO actually maintains this position and states only those caring for infected individuals should wear masks.
However, scientific studies published on the National Institutes of Health website were conducted by early April showing that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 illness could be aerosolized when it had previously been thought it could not. That is, the virus did not drop to the ground with droplets released in breath or sneezes but could ride the air waves as these droplets evaporated and travel as far as 10 meters. At this point, officials rightly decided it might be prudent for people indoors to wear masks to prevent transmission of the virus.
One of many problems with this edict was that the rationale was never given. One day, government officials at all levels, from national to local, were simply telling everyone they should (and indeed must) wear a mask when going into one of the few essential businesses that remained open.
An apparent contradiction was produced. The lesser folk who were not worthy of having scientific evidence explained to them began to experience frustration and anger that the reassurances of yesterday had mysteriously turned into the dire warnings of today. You can catch COVID-19 if you don't wear a mask! we were told. (Well, actually, it was you can GIVE COVID-19 if you don't wear a mask, but they fudged that message, as well, wanting to make the situation seem as threatening as possible. And not wanting to admit that wearing a non-medical grade mask won't protect you one single bit.)
The wearing of a mask indoors while outside of the home and with people not in one's household became standard practice locally and through most of California.
But the wearing of a mask outdoors was a subject that shifted through time and locales. Some cities said a mask should be worn outdoors all the time. Others said no mask was needed while exercising. Others, like Santa Monica initially, only issued guidelines and refrained from making an order out of it.
Then on May 13, Barbara Ferrer's CDPH created yet another Order in which was stated that cloth face coverings should be worn "where there is or can be contact with others who are non-household members in both public and private places."
For reasons we have yet to discover, the next day both the City of Los Angeles and the City of Santa Monica decided this meant that cloth face coverings should now be required for everyone outdoors everywhere at all times. No reason was given - just a bald edict. The children should not ask questions but should merely obey their parents.
Is it a coincidence that the new (and obnoxious) restriction came out shortly after the city allowed "low-risk, non-essential" retail businesses to reopen for curbside pickup and delivery? Did they want to make sure they retained an iron fist on a public over whose activities they felt desperate to maintain control?
The scientific data does not indicate much if any benefit for the public wearing of a mask outdoors. Even the NIH study published in April only talks about the danger of aerosolized SARS-CoV-2 while indoors. In a New York Times article from May 15, the use of a mask outdoors is not thought to be necessary. An engineering professor and aerosol scientist from Virginia Tech, Linsey Marr, is quoted. "There's so much dilution that happens outdoors. As long as you're staying at least six feet apart, I think the risk is very low."
Apparently the rate of dilution outdoors is so great that it is very difficult to transmit the virus while outdoors. Another scientist in the NYT article, Eugene Chodnovksy, a physicist at Lehman College and the City University of New York, says, "The virus load is important. A single virus will not make anyone sick; it will be immediately destroyed by the immune system. The belief is that one needs a few hundred to a few thousand of SARS-CoV-2 viruses to overwhelm the immune response."
In a study conducted in China, in 7,300 cases of COVID-19, only one could be blamed on a transmission happening outdoors. A 27-year-old man had an outdoor conversation with someone who had just returned from Wuhan. Shan Soe-Lin, from the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, explains that the risk outdoors is high when people are stationed next to each other for a long time, not when passing by on the street.
We await our question to the City Manager and Director of Emergency Services, Lane Dilg, as to why she single-handedly issued the latest "update" edict imposing mask use outdoors. We are confident she has no scientific evidence to justify it.
The back-and-forth with mask requirements - as well as a host of other irrational restrictions - creates a stewing cauldron in which public frustration and anger are mixing. Local politicians do not have the skill and dexterity of those on the state and national scale (or they would have attained such office), and should take care how much they impose on the public.