Last night, the York Board of Heath gathered for a public meeting to consider a mask mandate for the city of York. I attended and spoke against this mandate. Below is an extended version of my statement.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. Before I start, let me head off the thought that this is just a healthy 37 year old who is low risk. I received a kidney transplant in 2009 and am on an immunosuppressant protocol which means my immune system is consistently suppressed. This is not abstract to me. I am at high risk because of this for COVID. That said, I know there are a lot of strong opinions on the issue of masks and in particular mask mandates. I am one with strong opinions as are many others here today. Not all will agree with me but I would like to present why I am opposed to a mask mandate and more specifically why I am opposed to a mask mandate issued by this body (the board of health).
First, let me address why I am opposed to a mask mandate in general.
1. A mask mandate is unenforceable on a big enough scale to be effective. For it to be enforced, an officer would have to witness a violation first hand or corroborate an accusation. I doubt an officer will follow someone who puts on a mask when asked by an officer only to take it off once the officer leaves.
2. Only specific masks worn properly work. As was noted by someone earlier, they need to be multi-layer masks. That's not what I see at Wal-Mart in most cases. In addition, masks increase touching of the face. Adjusting masks, lowering them and then lifting them, improperly taking them off and putting them on. Neck gaters are particularly ineffective. Beyond that, we have all seen people stuffing masks in pockets then taking them out and touching the part that goes against their face with their hands. I've seen train robber style bandannas draped over the nose that do absolutely nothing. My wife had to undergo extensive training as a doctor of physical therapy on the proper way to don and doff PPE for it to be effective. Even with all those precautions, the virus still spreads where she works. The same has been true in places where PPE beyond masks are required.
3. The data of effectiveness of masks for the general public is at least disputed if not outright contradictory. In fact, a recent study that touted the effectiveness of mask mandates in decreasing hospitalizations was retracted on Nov 10th stating: “The authors have withdrawn this manuscript because there are increased rates of SARS-CoV-2 cases in the areas that we originally analyzed”. The point is you cannot definitively say that they work and therefore should be mandated. That is supported by charts I have for you that show once mask mandates were instituted in California, Kansas, Miami-Dade County, and West Virginia, the number of COVID cases actually rose and another one that shows a comparison in case increases between Texas (which required masks) and Georgia (which didn’t). The pattern was almost identical. We’ve seen the same thing in Omaha and Lincoln as the Gov. recently noted. In order for them to work, there would have to be 100% compliance and that is not realistic.
4. It is not the government’s responsibility to regulate every area of life, especially personal medical decisions. I acknowledge that there are times of emergency when government powers increase. If a fire is headed toward your home, a mandatory evacuation order because of an emergency should be followed. This however, has not been proven to be the case with COVID. The data on increased cases is irrelevant. Of course cases will rise as it spreads and as more testing is done (though the reliability of testing is shaky). Most are asymptomatic or self quarantine without the need for medical care. Let me just briefly highlight data from the 4 corners health department and the CDC (Nov 21st) and keep in mind this represents almost 9 months of data since the first case was reported in Nebraska on March 6th... not projection models which have been constantly wrong:
To compare what might constitute an actual state of emergency, last year there were 167.4 abortions per 1000 live births in Nebraska according to Nebraska DHHS. That’s 16.7% of the population in the womb in Nebraska that died from preventable causes. To put that in perspective Nebraska is at 44 deaths per 100,000 which represents .04%. You are over 16 times more likely to recover from COVID in Nebraska than you are to be born, yet among those who are touting how this isn’t about you and that you should think of others and “masks save lives”, the silence on the real killer in Nebraska is deafening. Some of them might even say “my body, my choice” but quickly revoke that courtesy from others when it comes to masks.
In the book “The Ruling Class,” by Angelo Codivella he describes the outsized influence on American society by a clique of intellectuals scattered throughout the upper echelons of business, the media, political parties, and educational institutions. Constitutional rights are denigrated, as is the traditional role of religion in American daily life. These folks know that they know better than you do. Never waste a good crisis right? Except this isn’t a crisis. It is statistically not. Masks dehumanize us and are a constant reminder we should all be afraid, except we shouldn't be afraid. Why make rebels and enemies out of people over something that is unenforceable, ineffective and that amounts to little more than political virtue signaling? That brings me to my second and much shorter point
Why I am opposed to a mask mandate issued by this body (the board of health).
Let me quote from the YNT article about this meeting (dated Nov. 20), (Mayor) “Redfern stressed that this is not being initiated by the city as an entity and reiterated that this action would be taken by the city’s board of health and not the council. For the mandate to pass, it will require a simple majority of the five members to do so.” With all due respect, that seems like intentionally avoiding this being considered by an elected body and steamrolling it through by other means. This seems like a sly move to appease pressure without having to answer to the people. After all Mayor Redfern won re-election and during the election he and every other candidate who were elected said they were against mask mandates. Mayor Redfern said “No, I highly recommend that people should wear masks if not able to social distance and I am wearing one myself but at this time I still feel it is the best course to be consistent and follow the health directives laid out by the Governor and the Four Corners Health Department.” The current health directive does not mandate mask wear. Will you stand by that now and vote against this? This seems like alleviating the pressure by use a technicality to subvert any political fallout or accountability.
That’s where this body comes in. There is no accountability to the people. This board is made up of the city administrator, city physician and police chief all of which to my understanding are appointed and not elected like the other two members (Mayor and Chairman of City Council). For this to pass, a simple majority is necessary. This can pass without one elected official voting for it. That is deeply concerning to me. The role of the police is to enforce laws, not enact them. A city administrator carries out the decisions of the city council and mayor. He/she doesn’t make decisions for them. The role of physicians is to advise in best medical practices, not mandate that free citizens follow them. Will we mandate vaccinations in the future? That might have seemed far fetched in the past that the government would mandate a vaccine for a virus that kills .04% of the population but it is 2020. It’s not so far fetched now. These members who are appointed and not elected are not accountable to the people.
The issue is not whether or not this body CAN issue a mandate that holds the force of law. The issue is SHOULD they? In a constitutional Republic like the US, laws are made by a legislative body that derive their power from the consent of the governed. They are accountable to the people that elect them and there is a means whereby citizens can fire them for not governing in a way consistent with the will of the people. There is no such safeguard against appointed officials. If a mandate is to be considered that would require York citizens to wear masks, let it be handed down by the city council. By people who have direct accountability to the people and who the people can fire if they feel the members have overstepped. That or hold a special vote whereby the citizens of York can decide for themselves whether or not they want to have this mandate. Either of those would be acceptable, but it is dangerous to allow non-legislative bodies with no accountability to the people to pass a mandate that holds the force of law. I appeal to you all not to be pawns. Don’t step beyond your role. Force this measure to be dealt with by elected officials. Thank you again for your time and kind attention.
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh, Ainsley, and Olivia, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast