Anybody who is still on the fence about whether masks are effective at slowing the transmission of COVID - or whether mass-masking policies being revived in the battle to slow the spread of the delta variant are actually effective - should first consider the science, then take a look at two recent instances of what we like to call policy-setting-by-headlne.
While Americans were probably more focused on US-related issues like the disastrous pullout from Afghanistan, Australian media became obsessed with reports of an engagement party and a shady pub crawl in the city of Melbourne, which were blamed by Premier Daniel Andrews for extending the Melbourne's lockdown, while the capital area joined in after finding just a single case (which quickly turned into more than a dozen in the following days).
Reports of small-time COVID rulebreakers have become an obsession of the Australian press, and now policy makers are effectively basing their decisions on these incidents. Because in addition to extending the lockdown, Premier Andrews is also imposing specific restrictions requiring city residents to wear masks even while they're drinking outdoors. This applies whether one is vaccinated, or not.
According to Sky News, Premier Andrews was made "angry" by reports of the lockdown scofflaws, and is now decreeing that his subjects will no longer be premitted to remove their masks to take a sip, or a bite of food.
Here's an excerpt from his remarks courtesy of Sky News:
"There will be no removal of masks to consume alcohol outdoors, you will no longer be able to remove your mask to drink a cocktail at a pop-up beer garden on a footpath as part of a pub crawl," he said.
"I understand Victoria Police are looking at what occurred at a weekend at a number of licensed venues."
"There’s being reviews conduct into the terms of those licences and whether any of those licence holders have done the wrong thing."
"But why am I angry about that? Because it devalues the work that thousands of publicans and restaurant owners and bar owners, the good work they are doing, diligently following COVID-safe protocols providing take-away."
"Pubs are shut for a reason – it is not safe for them to be open," he said.
Mr Andrews said the poor behaviour of a small number of people devalued the amazing work of the rest.
"In any event, there will be no more drinking alcohol with your mask off in those circumstances. There will — they will simply not be permitted," he said.
Of course, in the grand scheme of gross injustices perpetrated under the auspices of Australia's "COVID Zero" policy, this barely even ranks. People have been fined for hiking, handed massive fines for holding children's birthday parties, and normal activies have been characterized as outright criminality.
Meanwhile, as American cities try to prevent a repeat of the Lollapalooza festival, where photos of massive crowds of unmasked young concert-goers angered the media and Biden's COVID advisors, Los Angeles is practically competing with Melbourne for the dumbest, least-scientific policies.
The city, which is under the highest level of COVID alert, will now ask even the vaccinated to mask up whent they attend outdoor concerts, sporting events or any other gathering, according to the LA Times.
The order, which was issued Monday and goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, applies to outdoor events that attract crowds of more than 10,000 people. In those cases, attendees must “wear face masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking,” the order states. That’s further defined as “the limited time during which the mask can be removed briefly to eat or drink, after which it must be immediately put back on."
The expansive mandate means some popular pastimes will include a stark visual reminder of the pervasiveness of the pandemic: Those rooting on the boys in blue at Dodger Stadium, catching a USC or UCLA football game or taking in a show at the Hollywood Bowl will have to mask up.
The LAT notes that the county's justification for the decision, as well as its timing, weren't made clear.
It's unclear why the county chose now to move ahead with the new requirement. The move was not announced ahead of the order being issued. The county Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
But it's not exactly a departure from the previous policies of LA County's chief social-justice-warrior-turned-public-health-director Dr. Barbara Ferrer (read all about her non medical background here).
Between Ferrer and Andrews, it's almost like they're competing to see which hemisphere can produce the dumbest, least scientific policies.