As I’m sure many of you are aware, the GOP has erupted in outrage in response to new CDC guidance regarding the rapid spread of the deadly Delta variant of COVID-19. In addition to getting vaccinated, they’ve recommended that masks be worn in public and indoor spaces to prevent the spread of the new variant.
I mean, it just makes sense. A new problem arises, so we take action to prevent the situation from getting worse. Simple, right? Well, apparently it isn’t simple enough for the GOP.
They just can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that combatting COVID-19 requires multiple types of preventative action working in tandem.
While virtually everyone on the right side of the aisle is once again raging against the scientific process, the award for Most Horrendously Uninformed Question of the Week goes to Representative Chip Roy (R-TX), who seemingly spoke for the Republican base as a whole when he, clearly distraught, asked:
“Which is it: vaccines or masks?”
In short, the answer is: Both, you buffoon.
To begin with, the question itself is invalid. It’s like asking whether a cheeseburger is made of just lettuce or just ketchup.
They’re unwilling to acknowledge, let alone discuss, the complicated intersectional layers that make up our society and the world we inhabit.
And much like the cheeseburger analogy, fighting COVID-19 requires more than just the two options the gentleman from Texas mentioned. Why is that? Let’s take a look.
We’ll begin with the vaccine, which is for self-protection. Just like every other vaccine humanity has produced, the COVID-19 vaccines prevent vaccinated individuals from serious illness or death if they catch the virus. Did you notice the word “if” in that last sentence? Yes, people with immunity can still catch and carry the virus. And they can transmit it to others quite easily.
In fact, this is how European settlers managed to wipe out vast populations of indigenous peoples when they arrived in the Americas. The colonists were immune to the viruses they carried and unwittingly infected the natives, hastening their genocidal colonization of the New World. Surely this part of history will be erased from “patriotic” textbooks should Conservatives succeed in their efforts to stifle Critical Race Theory, so let’s soak up the context while we can.
Okay, so we’ve established that vaccines are designed for self-protection. So why would we also need masks? The answer is hard for Conservatives to comprehend because it involves caring for other people.
To put it simply, the mask is not for you. It’s to protect others from you. Ever wonder why cooks wear hair (and beard) nets? Ever wonder why doctors wear masks and gloves? Ever wonder why we’re taught to cover our nose and mouth when we sneeze or cough? It’s the same reason we need to wear masks during a pandemic: to keep our germs from getting on other people.
Are masks 100% effective? No. We’ve known that since the beginning. But that’s no reason not to utilize them. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
Look at it this way: whether you have a leaky faucet or your water tank bursts, the floor’s going to get wet. But one of them will clearly cause more damage more quickly and will be harder to clean up (hint: it’s the water tank).
A mask isn’t the end-all-be-all solution, but it’s a step in the right direction.
So We Beed Both?
To recap, vaccines reduce the damage coming in while masks reduce the amount of yuck going out. Is either solution perfect? No. On their own, neither of these methods can stop the spread of COVID-19. But they help. A lot. Especially when used simultaneously.
But even the combination of masks and vaccines does not account for the numerous other factors at play: large gatherings, people traveling, contaminated surfaces getting overlooked, cutting corners while quarantining, etc.
These additional variables expand the discussion significantly and make finding a truly effective solution all the more complicated. That’s why we need to implement numerous preventative measures simultaneously if we actually want to reach a post-COVID world. No single precaution is the silver bullet. But that’s no reason to bury our heads in the sand as the virus continues to ravage the globe. Again, doing something is better than doing nothing.
Even if our efforts don’t stop COVID-19 dead in its tracks, they will at least slow the spread and reduce the potential for new variants to emerge.
Considering the complexity of the crisis we’re facing, a single solution just isn’t going to cut it. So I’m sorry Conservative friends, this isn’t something a lone hero or authoritarian strongman can solve with brute force, excessive masculinity or money. This takes collective action and collaboration. It requires strategy, innovation and adaptation. And above all, it requires empathy.
That being said, we’re now talking about gathering the ingredients to make a variety of different cheeseburgers. But unfortunately, Conservatives are still fed up that we can’t just use either lettuce or ketchup.