Cases are “plateauing” instead of surging in coronavirus hot zones in states including California and Texas, likely because residents are wearing face masks and social distancing, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Monday.
“While Dr. [Deborah] Birx says we’re seeing signs of plateauing, we’re not out of the woods yet,” Azar told “Fox & Friends.” “We think it’s due to the fact that people are actually wearing their masks … They’re social distancing.”
Conflating social distancing and wearing masks is iffy. There’s little to no evidence that masks do anything. And, speaking anecdotally, about as many people are wearing masks in my little part of California now as there were before. Which is to say not all that many, but probably somewhere in the 40% range estimated by the polls.
Nor does California appear to be especially plateauing.
Masks have become a cargo cult fetish in the wargaming of the pandemic. There are spikes in places where people wear masks and don’t wear masks.
Hong Kong, where virtually everyone wears masks anyway, is seeing a surge. So this isn’t about masks. Nor is it about the various cheap shots that the media is taking at red states. Some of the same countries that the media was praising early on are seeing surges. California, which the media also praised, is having its own surge.
Now I’ll set aside the whole question as to what extent these surges are real and to what extent they’re statistically manipulation, but it’s not especially surprising that we’re not out of the woods yet, or that some places which got off lightly are catching the next wave. That was the inevitable outcome of the lockdown model, even if it had worked.
A lockdown is not a plan. Pretending that masks can fix everything is even less of a plan.