Missouri Memory-Holed Its Own Study Showing Mask Mandates Work
When children are small, parents and those around them conspire to allow and encourage them to believe in a number of fantastical things. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, that their dolls have tea parties when they go off to school each day, etc. It's considered rude or cruel to tell children these things are not real, because believing in them is part of the innocence of being a child. This, I imagine, is why my parents kept trying to leave actual "evidence" of Santa Claus around after I stopped believing around age 4 or 5 when they failed to come up with a satisfactory answer for why the elves were working for free.
As adults, however, the preservation of our "innocence" or desire to believe a thing that is obviously not true should be a very low priority, particularly when it comes to health and safety concerns amid a pandemic that is freaking killing people. Unfortunately, the state of Missouri clearly does not agree.
Back in November, at the request of Republican Governor Mike Parson's office, the state's Department of Health and Senior Services conducted a study on the efficacy of mask mandates during the height of the Delta wave. The study found, fairly predictably, that mask mandates significantly reduced transmission in the areas that enforced them. The cities that had mask mandates started out with higher transmission rates than unmasked areas, but ended up with lower rates once the mandates were enforced. State Health Director Donald Kauerauf emailed Gov. Parson's office with the results of the study on November 3, and absolutely no mention has been made of it since.
"The statewide data shows that, from the end of April to the end of October, jurisdictions with mask mandates experienced an average of 15.8 cases per day for every 100,000 residents compared to 21.7 cases per day for every 100,000 residents in unmasked communities," the Missouri Independent reported.
The analysis wasn't presented in cabinet meetings and certainly was not presented to the public or to local governments.
Parsons and his cabinet have long pushed back against mask mandates, frequently insisting that "science" doesn't back them up and suing cities and counties to get rid of them.
Parson has spoken out repeatedly against local mask mandates, calling them "WRONG" in a tweet and a contributor to the erosion of public trust. Attorney General Eric Schmitt has gone a step further, suing St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City and Jackson County to block enforcement of their mask mandates.
“Jackson County has imposed an unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious mask mandate that is not supported by the data or the science,” the opening sentence to Schmitt’s lawsuit against Jackson County states.
Except for the "science" conducted by their own health department, of course. To be fair, that lawsuit was issued back in August, when there were still only eleventy billion other studies available showing that mask mandates worked to keep transmission down. True to form, Chris Nuelle, a spokesperson for AG Schmitt's office, looked directly at the evidence and said it did not exist.
“We dispute this premise and these charts,” Nuelle wrote. “We’ve been clear that Missourians should have the right to make their own decisions, and that government bureaucrats shouldn’t be mandating masks or vaccines. We will continue to fiercely litigate our lawsuits against mask mandates in Missouri.”
Look. We all get it. Some people don't want to wear masks and don't like mask mandates, while also really not liking it when their friends and relatives call them selfish assholes. That doesn't mean anyone needs to actually go around pretending that mask mandates don't work when it is very obvious that they do. I don't like broccoli but I don't need to be told "Broccoli is unhealthy, eat vitamin-rich cannoli instead!" in order to go on with my life. That would be weird.
Surely, Republicans could acknowledge the data showing that the mask mandates work and still say "You know what? We're still totally okay with not having them because frankly we generally don't care whether non-fetal human beings live or die anyway." That would be far less ridiculous than ordering studies and then simply ignoring them when they don't say the thing they want them to say.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse