The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

No The Solution To Ending Mandatory Masking Isn’t “Well YOU can still mask”

Few things make more more tired or contemptuous of someone than, when a masking mandate is removed, someone saying “well, you still have the choice to wear a mask, we’re not effecting you” or some variation.

Masking is not primarily about protecting yourself. Only a respirator and a well-fitted N95 offer good protection from Covid if other people aren’t masking.


Now that chart may be making you feel safe if you go quickly in and out of businesses, but realize that there are multiple people in those buildings and that in an enclosed space the virus builds up, so even if there’s only one person who is infectious, if they’ve been there for a while, you can walk in and get a huge dose. And if you have multiple exposures in different places, the viral load can build.

Oh, and if you think anything short of a respirator is likely to protect you on a long flight where people don’t have to mask…

Masking is not primarily about protecting yourself, though it helps, it’s about protecting other people, especially since Covid can be asymptomatic and since Covid tests, especially the rapid antigen tests, often give false negatives.

It’s not, thus, just about you. It’s about the people around you.

And hysterics aside and rare conditions, no, masking may be uncomfortable but it doesn’t hurt adults or children. What hurts them is getting Covid, especially repeated exposure leading to organ damage, including brain damage, and to serious long-Covid.

Now I know that most countries have given up and just declared Covid over. Happening where I live, even as emergency departments have to be closed because of not enough nurses and doctors. It’s “over”.

But this marker is still worth placing. Masking is far more effective when it is a communal action. Some things, to work properly, we must do together.

The end result of not doing these things (which go far beyond masking) is going to be a double digit percentage of the population disabled and I doubt, combined with climate change, that our societies can handle that.

Welcome to the future. Deliberately un-handled plague, ecological collapse and climate change, combined with a cyberpunk dystopia without the cool parts of cyberpunk.



How Peace In Ukraine Has Been Made Almost Impossible


The Attacks On Nord Stream I & II


  1. Bukko Boomeranger

    I have never stopped masking (using N-95s I took home from hospital work instead of binning them at the end of a shift like we were supposed to.) Fewer than 5% of the people I see around me in Australia do, though, and most of the poor sods are using surgical or cloth masks. Good on ’em for trying, but they leave a lot to be desired. I wish everyone wore N-95s, and that there was an unceasing government campaign to urge everyone to “Mask up to save ya life, mate!” the way there was with the “Don’t be a bloody idiot” anti drink-driving effort. However, so many people, including a lot of my friends, consider masks to be a horrid infringement on their freedom. So they’re like people who ride motorcycles without helmets, or the ones not wearing a rubber at the orgy.

    I reckon the entire world is engaged in a massive social Darwinian experiment. Most of the planet is blithely breathing in the lung-spew of everyone around them, taking their chances that they won’t be permanently gorped by a virus that’s still floating everywhere. In 10 years, what percentage is going to be walking wounded from Long Covid? Only totalitarian communist China, with its strict “No Covid” battle plan, is resisting the disease. In a decade, will their society be the last healthy one standing, while the rest of the world is filled with gasping, lethargic long haulers? Coz I don’t think this is going to play out in the ROW like “tis only a flesh wound.” Who woulda thunk it — the commies who let millions of their citizens starve during Mao’s Great Leap Forward famines are now the government which is trying to keep its people alive?

  2. Astrid

    My rather eccentric friend (apparently the only one who thinks the West may in fact be inferior to the East in important respects) recently said “China is authoritarian, the West is totalitarian”. Which sounds about right to me for describing the current situation. The Chinese government is a one party state but actually permits creative and effective solutions to arise within that system. The West is pantomimes alternatives but is in fact all about TINA and cancelling any kind of alternative to their failed non-solutions. This is a reminder that the USSR and the PRC also have voting and it’s even possible that their representatives are better at representing the views of the 99% of the demos than what’s currently going on in Europe and North America.

    I now combine Betadine nasal spritz with a fitted N95 for indoor situations. Getting pretty weary even in outdoor situations with Betadine because the virus is mutating to be ever more infectious. It’s wild to me that 80-90% of people I observe wearing N95 and KN95 masks wear them loosely.

    My elderly parents and in-laws often don’t wear masks indoors especially when visiting with friends and family, because they don’t want to offend non-maskers and appear hostile. My parents are going on an 18 days cruise in November because the pandemic used over and they got such a good deal on a balcony cabin. They all probably mock us behind our backs for being so fearful of COVID.

    BTW – The Great Leap Forward was a horrendous mistake (primarily by Mao), but once the CPC grasped the scale of the problem, they worked very hard to resolve it. They (Mao was out of the driver seat for several years in the early 60s) turned back the more wasteful features of the people’s communes and bought as much grain as they could from the Canadians and Australians. What they had was strictly rationed and distributed, everybody I know who lived through those times had vivid tales about those hungry times, but at least in the cities and more fertile agricultural areas, very few died directly from it though everybody was hungry and malnourished (the deaths were concentrated in a few provinces). It’s not the same kind of crime that the British perpetrated against the Irish and Indians during their famines, when grain continued to be exported from hungry lands for profit.

  3. Ed

    What is cyberpunk dystopia?

  4. Tallifer

    Ian, on this I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    I will not bother to requote all the convincing and irrefutable scientific research which backs your essay. I will simply relate that my own anecdotal experience confirms this: those of my friends who risk exposing themselves to people who do not wear mask have suffered from the corona virus albeit mildly, and those including me who have insisted on mostly only interacting with people who wear masks have never been infected.

  5. multitude of poors

    I’m now officially afraid to visit the cancer clinic/hospital I go to, because I believe I picked up asymptomatic Omicron there almost a year ago (and am still suffering from it). They couldn’t be bothered—even at that very well known hospital— to: have someone at the entry to the cancer clinic taking temperatures, and passing out masks for those insufficiently masked; ensure the shuttle drivers wore the masks over their nose and mouth; and put a sign up noting—please don’t crowd the elevator, and take the steps if you’re able (I wasn’t able to take them at the time, or I would have, as I usually do).

    Some of this laxity may not have happened if University of California San Francisco’s, Dr. Bob Wachter, unofficially appointed as the San Francisco Bay Area Covid -19 Mouthpiece (whose own wife likely ended up with permanent Covid-19 brain damage, due in part to his own serious lack of caution). No surprise to me that he’s also known as the Father of Hospitalists, having endlessly supported that Profit over Patient ideology. (Bottom line, never surrender your caution and blindly follow anyone repeatedly declared to be a Thought Leader in a state and country where only amoral, megalomaniac grifters thrive. No surprise that those, mostly repulsive, TED Talks (technology, entertainment, and design), emanated from California, a grifter’s paradise.)

    Priceless, from Wachter’s UCSF page, because Bill Gates and Google are trustworthy humanitarians, bar none:

    Did you know?

    At UCSF Health, we believe a malaria-free world is possible within a generation. We’re partnering with countries and regions, as well as organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, to use technology, machine learning and health care innovations to shrink the malaria map.

    gotta run, will check back.

  6. different clue

    @ Bukko Boomeranger,

    As long as the ChinaGov can stick to its zero covid policy, and explain the reasons better to its 1.5 billion subjects who are beginning to run out of patience, and find a way to put the velvet glove of kindness over the iron fist of enforcement; then China will indeed be the Last Great Power Standing.

    And the Men in the High Castles know it. That is why they express such utter and total hatred against the ChinaGov for continuing the zero covid policy after the Men in the High Castles have decided to drive their own subject populations forward on their Long Death March through the Valley of Selection.

    So in the teeth of that basic fact, all we who know and accept reality can do is to mask effectively, encourage those who would like to mask to do so, avoid all avoidable social gatherings and high density buying-stuff venues as much as possible, and hope for the best for ourselves and eachother. We will just have to accept that we are living lives analogous to the lives the Early Christians had to live in Peak Rome.

    And if aggressive Typhoid Mary Covid MAGA Trumpanons and Typhoid Mary Covid Pink Pussy Hat PMCanons try coughing on us to infect us, we may all have to carry bear spray in order to make them keep their physical distance from us.

    For all its faults, a blog called Naked Capitalism, especially Lambert Strether’s “Water Cooler” feature, is aggregating various datastreams and charts as best it can to try adducing and presenting the covid reality which the Jackpot Design Engineers at WHO and CDC are doing their best to keep us from knowing.

  7. bruce wilder

    I wear a mask on the bus to work (as do the vast majority of my working class compatriots) in a State where COVID has been somewhere between 3rd and 5th leading cause of death for the past two years.

    There is an unreality to it at all, an object lesson in the social construction of “reality” — I am uncertain what to make of it all.

    One thing I am certain of is that we witnessed a profound failure in the professions of public health and medicine. Professional incompetence, imho, led political incompetence.

    The public policy choice to focus on “saving” the hospitals instead of people meant that COVID was bound to become endemic very quickly and after that lockdowns are an expensive delaying measure — helpful given vaccines — but unable to accomplish the task of eliminating a novel disease before it could get started. No matter what China does, Europe and the U.S. made a choice that forecloses their best option.

    I was speaking with someone of some reputation in health care the other day. He loves the execrable Fauci, excuses Biden a performance that made Trump look passable. Very little contact, as far as I could tell, with the factual details of political failure and I wager, professional failure as well.

    A commenter cited the abject failure of hospitals and hospital clinics to observe elementary precautions. This was universal in my experience. Of the people I knew who died early on, all most probably contracted the disease in connection with treatment for some unrelated condition.

    Being opinionated, I have a litany of professional and related institutional failures that run the full gamut from lack of simple integrity to technical incapacity thru to full-on failure to appreciate and process the science. Corruption no doubt plays a part in generating incompetence at scale. But it also points at a sickness in the body polity. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had where I met not a different POV but outright denial. The electorate entertained by cheerleaders in gaudy costume seems to lack the critical capacity to hold anyone accountable for performance or to join with others to support effective opposition to the plutocracy.

  8. Bukko Boomeranger

    Hey Different — are you Drumlin over @ Naked Capitalism? Because I note some word/concept similarities in your comments. It’s a relatively small world amongst people who think outside the box and read NC, Ian and a constellation of similar sites. I read it all the time, have met “Yves” (and I know her real name, too, which is no great mystery) and laid some cash money in her hand at a meet-up in April 2017 outside Dulles Airport. Just happened to be in the country at the time. Usedta comment there, sporadically, until she slapped me down for quibbling with an article about how many younger people were buying crypto. I appreciate how Ian’s ideas dovetail with NC’s, including the amount of re-linking in the Sunday wrap-up post. But perhaps that’s just confirmation bias on my part.

    As for the MAGA & Pussy Covid Marys, I will pronounce one of my favourite double-edged sayings: “May they get what they truly deserve.” Which could mean good things or bad ones! Over the passage of time, the ones who blithely ignore the continuing danger of bat flu will live (or die, or be debilitated) with the consequences of their actions. Stuff like that does not happen at the speed of the Internet, though. We are an impatient species, and we have gotten moreso since the time of the telegraph, which taught society to expect instant results. Who knows — perhaps cautious people such as Ian, Yves, you and I are Chicken Littles, and it’s all gonna be just fine. The way I see it, if I (and Ian) am wrong and the blithe spirits are right, we both will be OK. If I (and Ian, et al) are right and the “just-the-flu’ers” are wrong, I’ll be as OK as possible under the circumstances, but they are screwed.

  9. different clue

    @Bukko Boomeranger,

    I was banned at Naked Capitalism long ago. One of the standing warnings that Naked Capitalism issued to people who get banned there is that if they are caught “jail-breaking”, that every comment they ever got published there will be erased and vaporised. And I had hundreds of comments there at the time of my banning. Would I risk being caught “jail-breaking” and have all my legacy comments over there erased and vaporised? -> sob <- all the beautiful comments . . . .

    I deny having anything to do with this 'drumlin woodchuckles' entity. I will deny it to my last breath.

  10. different clue

    @Bukko Boomeranger,

    “Outside the box” is a bigger space than “inside the box”. ” Inside the box” is a small stuffy space filled with sweaty strivers and angry conformists. ” Outside the box” is as big as the whole rest of the Universe. In a space that big, there are bound to be some people who don’t know eachother and never did, yet whose trains of thought move down parallel sets of tracks even though not the same set of tracks.

    Among the many commenters worth reading over at Naked Capitalism is a commenter named Tom Pfotzer. He tries to offer some optimism among the pessimism. He is worth watching.

    And of course NaCap itself has run hundreds of thousands of high value words about covid, including about how to enhance one’s own chances of avoiding it and surviving it if avoidance fails. But these words get lost among the millions of other words that keep building up there like mudslide after mudslide after mudslide. Someone with the time and patience would do us all a genuine service by finding all those high-value words and copy-pasting them here in one or another of Ian Welsh’s covid-related posts.

    And of course Lambert Strether’s “Water Cooler” feature remains very much worth following for its strong attempts to make plain that which the anti-health conspirators at WHO and CDC and elsewhere strive to keep hidden.

  11. capelin

    “Masking is not primarily about protecting yourself.”
    Agreed, it’s primarily about us-vs-other theatre.

    ” I believe I picked up asymptomatic Omicron there almost a year ago (and am still suffering from it)”.
    I’ll just let that stand.

    “Most of the planet is blithely breathing in the lung-spew of everyone around them, taking their chances that they won’t be permanently gorped by a virus that’s still floating everywhere.”
    Absolutely no idea of how the inter-related web of life functions. And, too late – human dna is 10% viri-derived; we’ve already been permanently gorped, and good.

  12. capelin

    We were built to breath each other’s lung-spew, within reason. If we don’t our immune gets stupid. All you multi-injected scared-of-the-air introverts are gunna fall, hard.

    Everyday that goes by you are arseing up your immune and your ability to reason and socialize.

  13. mutitude of poors

    capelin, re:

    ” I believe I picked up asymptomatic Omicron there almost a year ago (and am still suffering from it)”.

    I’ll just let that stand.

    Make a lot of assumptions do you? I’d be the last person anyone called an introvert, and have only had the Johnson’s vaccine, no boosters. But will get another covid vaccine when if/an actually effective one is available and affordable. So I take it as a child you never ever had a polio, or TB, etcetera vaccine?

    I’ve never bought antibacterial soaps and I’ve never run to the doctors every time I got a sniffle, (though I did go when I had a large, very visible cancer tumor) and have yet to ever get a yearly flu vaccine. Haven’t had a common flu since over ten years ago when I picked a nasty one up visiting at a hospital (I let that flu subside naturally, no prescription meds). A hospital is a place where everyone should be assured a cautious environment; particularly a cancer clinic, as many cancer treatments leave a person’s immune system whacked out. But do have at it Omnipotent Alpha Darwin™.

    That’s all I have to say to you, not at all fond of dime a dozen internet know it all’s who have no compunction about slurring people they don’t even know anything about. Bye, Bye!

  14. different clue


    Well . . . one of us is right and one of us is wrong. Which one is it? Let Darwin decide.

  15. capelin

    mutitude of poors – my point (the one that you highlighted) was, how can one “suffer” from something that’s “asymptomatic”… for a year … ?

    Absolutely, hospitals should be safe spaces, and yes there are people who are more vulnerable to, say, covid. That’s why focused (and actual) protection and support has always been the way to go.

    Instead of this sawed-off-shotgun approach of universal masking, lockdowns, and experimental injections of absolutely healthy people – to “guard” – so ineffectively as to seem… on purpose… against an airborne, multi-species, here-to-stay virus – with a +99% survival rate – and that was the first, most virulent wave.

    From what I see firsthand, introverts (including a couple close friends) are totally fine with never having to emerge into the big scary world ever again; and it’s specifically not about the virus anymore. I ask.

    different clue – Sure, i’m cool with that, except it’s not just you and me; it’s pan-societal policy that effects billions of humans.

  16. different clue


    There are two different sub-pan societal policies on display and awaiting judgement for their long term results: the ChinaGov ( and some lesser-govs)policy of zero or near-zero covid and attempts to contain and then suppress spread as against the Western/Russian/etc. model of let-covid-spread-everywhere with some deliberately ineffectual masking theater and surface-cleaning theater and NON-sterilizing mRNA para-vaccinoid theater, etc, all designed to in point of fact spread covid to as many people as possible as many times as possible.

    So we have two opposed and opposing sub-pan societal policies on display. Darwin will show us which one is better in the fullness of time.

    Meanwhile, the reality-based covid-cautious among us will take what precautions we can and try recognizing eachother by the precautions we see eachother taking.

  17. capelin

    dc – But that is a false dichotomy, as they say. Not the only options available, or in play.

    Again; focused, and actual, protection and support for those most vulnerable. Fixing root causes. Ramping up health care, training more and and raising the wages of existing health care staff. Not suppressing all other medical modalities other than injections. Having pre-hospitalization early support for those with covid. Etc etc.

    Super low-hanging fruit.

    Neither of the pretend approaches are about health care, so no, they don’t work for their stated purpose. Surprise.

    We also tend to forget that there is a world out there that did not opt for either the pretend-zero or the pretend vaccine approach. Poorer countries have generally fared better than the bloated west on this because they couldn’t afford to lock down and decimate their societies.

    Lots of people, including myself, actually trust our immune system, and take care of it by, like, i dunno, not eating shit food, or injecting rushed shit into our veins.

    We are generating 3 million masks-per-minute.

  18. Ian Welsh

    As I have written in the past, the solution to the epidemic was multifaceted and masks/vaccines (not even done nearly universally) and shutdowns always done way too late in the curve were not sufficient (though proper shutdowns near the start, along with proper track and trace, quarantining and travel bans could have stopped it cold.)

    At this point we should have filters in every internal room, for example, which is cheap. But we don’t, (Not even in obvious places like schools and hospitals.)

    The large country which did best is China and they did it primarily thru public health measures, but they sure as hell used a lot of masks too.

    However, this post was not a restrospective, it was about today in 1st world countries. I went to a hospital clinic 3 weeks ago, and of the 4 doctors usually there, 3 had Covid and it isn’t because they “don’t trust their immune system” or “don’t eat well”. Meanwhile ER’s all over the country are having to shut down because of a nurse shortage.

    The solutions are fairly simple, but we refuse to engage in them, instead endlessly arguing over vaccines & masks in a stupid culture war.

    We did everything from masks to shutdowns to quarantines to vaccines wrong then acted surprised when they didn’t work. We never did proper track and trace at all. We won’t put in filters. We won’t use UV. We won’t give workers sick days. We don’t even test most people. We don’t actually know how many people died or have Long Covid, though we know both are undercounted.

    If you do things wrong, expect them not to work.

  19. capelin

    The 3 doctors may, in fact, have Covid because they “didn’t trust their immune systems”, or were coerced to not trust it on penalty of job loss.

    We also don’t know how many people have died from this coercion, or how many have Long Injection; but we know both are undercounted.

    The data is very clear at this point; natural immunity in those recovered from Covid is far more effective and long lasting than Injection immunity (duh, the Injections were never tested or authorized to prevent infection or transmission, but to simply reduce severity once you got it).

    Yes, we argue endlessly over Masks and Vaccines, when they obviously don’t work; and that’s just how they like it. The shit-kicking done to societies by the “bungled” response needs some simple controversial icons to distract the masses. And the intellegentsia.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén