Coronavirus

Mainers acknowledge lack of science behind Mills’ new mask mandate

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When Gov. Janet Mills updated her mask mandate last week to require Mainers to wear face coverings in public no matter the physical distance between themselves and others, she made a point to note the order was in line with those issued by governors of other states, including Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.

As we noted last week, there is nothing scientific about wearing a mask when alone outdoors in public. However, this is what Mills’ updated mask mandate requires Mainers to do. Using the statewide spike in coronavirus cases to justify forcing Mainers to wear facemasks in unnecessary settings is a gross distortion of science. It’s unscientific, in fact.

Boston.com noted as much last week when it published a news story titled “Charlie Baker’s order requiring face coverings at all times in public takes effect on Friday. Some disease experts say it goes too far.” The article includes the perspective of Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, who contends Baker’s new rule departs from a “science-based approach.”

“Masks are an important prevention tool when we’re close to other people, especially indoors, but there’s really no reason to be wearing a mask when you’re outdoors and you’re not close to anyone,” Marcus said.

She warned of an “all or nothing” approach to risk during the pandemic and called the new mask rule “a bit arbitrary.”

“And arbitrary public health rules are a way to break the public’s trust, which is essential to keeping people engaged in public health efforts,” Marcus said. “I think a mandate like this – that people know is arbitrary – is going to do more to reduce trust than it will to reduce infections.”

Mainers are patiently waiting for someone in their media establishment to write a similar article. On Friday, Steve R from York sent to Maine Policy Institute the following letter he sent to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree after Mills updated the mask mandate:

Dear Representative Pingree,

My wife and I, along with our two sons, have been strictly following the state and federal CDC mask guidelines since the beginning of this pandemic. We have absolutely no issue wearing face coverings in situations where they are deemed appropriate. In fact, we often wear them in excess of what guidelines recommend.

Our family believes in the science indicating that masks save lives. The science is easily demonstrated in countless studies showing that particles from humans can travel 6+ feet through the air. Within this context, masks make sense to us; masks make sense to our 14 and 11-year-old sons. We can logically explain the physics and health science justifying what would have previously been considered an odd imposition to a healthy person.

What we can’t explain to them is why Governor Mills has issued a new executive order mandating face coverings in public, regardless of the ability to maintain physical distancing. If our family is walking our dog on a public street in York, with no other humans anywhere in sight, it is my understanding that we now need to wear masks.

There appears to be no scientific justification for such a mandate, at least none that I can conceive of. What this does appear to be is a massive government overreach by the State of Maine. It is excessive, unfounded and will unfortunately lead to more virus fatigue and yet another reason for the residents of Maine to question our Governor’s judgement.

My family often takes to the outdoors for recreation and exercise and relished our daily walks around the streets and sidewalks of York during the early days of the virus. The great outdoors was, and continues to be, a wonderful hiatus from the extreme lifestyle changes thrust at us by the coronavirus.

I am gravely concerned that Governor Mills’ new executive order is just the beginning of a troubling trend towards unjustifiably restricting Mainer’s rights and ability to freely roam all the wonderful outdoor activities this great state has to offer.

Respectfully,

Steve R
York

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at Maine Policy Institute and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at Maine Policy. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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