3 min read
The End of Covid: Why Society Needs to End Mask Mandates and Testing

Yeshaya Gedzelman

After 2 very long years of COVID-19, society has begun to open up and many pre-COVID activities, such as sports, air travel and enjoying large gatherings and events, have resumed. Although society has been exhibiting encouraging signs to “go back to normal”, by reducing restrictions on public recreation, there are still certain COVID policies which are pointless and out of touch at this point, but remain public policy for many governments and corporations. 

One such pointless restriction is the requirement to wear masks during public travel and in certain indoor places. Thankfully, a US judge recently ruled that the Biden Administrations mask mandate was unconstitutional and the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) was forced to drop its requirement for mask wearing during air travel. This is the correct move for a number of reasons. 

To begin with, the majority of public masks do not even provide effective protection, because they don't seal well enough to prevent the virus from contacting the air. Essentially meaning that if society wanted mask wearing to be effective, people would have to start wearing the more effective masks, mask types called KN95 or N95. Yet even if theoretically everyone began wearing these kinds of masks, it would still be practically impossible to halt the spread of COVID using masks because of the following reasons. 

Almost every person that I have seen since the beginning of COVID does not wear a mask properly in the manner that would be best effective in stopping the virus according to the accepted science. Given the fact that COVID is an airborne virus, your mask would need to be shut at all times, over your nose, mouth (and even over your eyes!), to be effective. If the seal would be lifted for a second, the virus would be able to enter the air. COVID has been shown to be capable of surviving on inanimate objects for weeks, or hovering in the air, so even if the mask was lowered only when there isn’t anyone around, droplets from the virus could still contaminate nearby surfaces or hover in the air, infecting people that passed through the area after. 

Furthermore, even if mask wearing was strictly adhered to in public places (such as sports arenas, event halls, restaurants, planes), it would be practically impossible to prevent every potential vector of transmission. Therefore, everyone would still need to wear their masks at home or the virus could spread rapidly that way. Unsurprisingly, I have never come across someone that is advocating for a policy of enforcing mask wearing in homes and rightfully so. However, the simple fact is that the virus’s ability to spread isn't just confined to public places, and therefore it is almost inevitable that the virus would have room to spread. 

To consider forcing society to buy the more effective KN95 or N95 and then enforce a strict requirement for mask wearing in either public or private places is completely out of touch with the reality on the ground. Don’t take my word for it, consider your own experiences during the last 2 years. How many people have you seen lowering their masks at least once, or twice, while traveling on buses, trains or planes? I'm willing to venture that for most people their answer is that 'the vast majority of the people they have seen in public, do remove or improperly wear their mask at least a few times an hour’. This is aside from the fact that in many cases lowering a mask is unavoidable, such as when eating at a public restaurant or drinking water. 

Another impediment in the effort to stem the spread of COVID has been the variation in people’s experiences with infection. Some people that are infected with COVID are asymptomatic and as a result have little reason to suspect that they are capable of spreading the virus to others. Others may have symptoms but never get tested for varying reasons that are relative to an individual's situation and some may even take a home test, receive a positive result, but refuse to quarantine. Although quarantine may not inhibit the ability for certain individuals to work because they are able to work remotely, other professions that require a physical presence (for example a housekeeper or waiter) do not have the economic/professional luxury of skipping 2 weeks of work and losing pay for those weeks. Unless there is legislation that guarantees job security for COVID related work absences and compensation for the time missed, this trend of unreported COVID cases will continue. As a result, attempting to test and then quarantining individuals is quite ineffective at halting or gaining a comprehensive picture of the spread of COVID. 

Although mask wearing and testing in its current form is essentially useless in stemming the flow of the virus, there is some good news. Given the fact that COVID-19 is a virus, it is constantly mutating/changing from the original version that began its spread. Despite the fact that COVID and its subsequent variants (including Delta and Omicron) have become vastly more contagious, they have also become significantly less deadly. An important factor that has likely helped lower the mortality rate for the Delta and Omicron cases, have been the large number of people that have gotten COVID already, because cases of re-infection have been shown to be 90% less likely to result in hospitalization or death, than first cases on infection. Another likely cause for variants of reduced mortality rates, has been the large scale vaccination efforts and improved treatment plans around the world. 

Some may ask what alternatives we have to prevent the spread of COVID if we do away with mask mandates, testing and mandatory quarantine. The answer is simple, vaccines and herd immunity. The necessary rates of infection or vaccination vary depending on the degree of transmissibility of the virus in question. Since COVID has become increasingly transmissible, herd immunity has required increasingly larger proportions of the population to become infected or vaccinated. Of course, governments around the world should continue to encourage their respective citizens to get vaccinated and highlight the statistical differences in hospitalization and mortality rates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Certainly there will be those who continue refusing to get vaccinated, but regardless the threshold for herd immunity will be reached, because eventually a sufficient number of the unvaccinated will be infected. 

After 2 frustrating years living with COVID we need to accept the fact that stepping aside to allow the spread of COVID is the only realistic way to move past COVID. One argument that has been made against allowing the natural spread of COVID has been that a massive surge in new cases will overwhelm hospitals. Given this valid concern, contingencies should be made with governments making the necessary arrangements (building more hospitals, more oxygen machines, etc), if this strategy is to be adopted. COVID has now become endemic and it is time for all of us to adjust accordingly.

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