Joy Reid Is Wrong about Outdoor Mask-Wearing

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Joy Reid on MSNBC, November 2, 2020. (MSNBC/via YouTube)

Yesterday, I wrote about Tucker Carlson’s understandable frustration — one I share, to a considerable extent — with the continued prevalence of outdoor mask-wearing in big cities, but also suggested that his preferred methods for fighting back against this culture showed his frustration had overcome his common sense. But last night, MSNBC host Joy Reid gave an excellent example of why mask culture has started to drive people crazy. Here is a portion of her remarks, directed at a guest of her show:

I am among the fully vaccinated! Joined Team Pfizer. And I did go jogging today in the park. This was the mask that I wore with a doctor’s mask under it. And most of the people that I saw in the park, the park was packed, I would say like 95 percent of the people still had masks on. There are people who are getting really upset about that. I won’t name them. Should people be freaking out that some people like myself who are vaccinated are still wearing masks outdoors?

Reid is clearly referring to Carlson, whose specter looms so large in the liberal imagination that many on the left have literally tried to cancel him. As I wrote yesterday, I think his proposed pushbacks against outdoor-masking — upbraiding strangers, calling the cops on parents who mask their kids — are too extreme. But Reid here is showing her own form of unwisdom, in a kind of joyful and pointless conformist compliance with the outdoor-mask regime. We’ve known for a year that the risks of outdoor transmission of coronavirus are extremely low, as even mainstream media outlets have started to admit. And not that I want to get into the business of accepting that the CDC gets to dictate our personal behavior, but that agency did announce yesterday that vaccinated people can exercise outside unmasked. (As some of us have been doing since . . . March 2020). The only “science” Joy Reid is following here is in her own head.

Unfortunately, Reid’s form of compliance is widespread. Here’s a recent example from New Mexico. Earlier this month, a competitor in that state’s high-school cross-country championship collapsed at the race’s finish line. Now, after adjusting for the fact that the state had moved all fall sports to the spring, I at first thought this story was “normal.” Having been around cross-country meets for much of my life, I can assure you that a finish-line collapse is not exactly unheard-of. But there’s more to it than that. Apparently, all athletes in this race were made to mask:

With COVID-19 considerations in mind, mandatory mask-wearing was a first this year for all high school runners competing in the state’s cross country high school championships.

The runner who collapsed complained that the mask had made it more difficult for him to run; he was backed up by a pediatrician, and by a recent study to the same effect. But the New Mexico Athletics Association (NMAA) has so far been unmoved. The organization’s executive director had this to say about the effect of forced outdoor mask-wearing on competition:

Those kids were mask-wearing and ran very long miles at a high intensity and were able to compete at a high level . . . I think it shows an example of a sport (where) it would be very difficult to wear a mask, (and) that (athletes) were able to do it because they practiced with masks on.

I mean, sure: As we keep hearing as justification for inflicting all sorts of bizarre obstacles on them of late, kids are “resilient” — especially cross-country kids, if I do say so myself. But given what we know about outdoor spread and about the comparatively lower coronavirus risk for minors, is this a reason to enforce outdoor mask-wearing for high-school athletes in outdoor competition? I think not, but the NMAA apparently disagrees:

The NMAA says the mask policy tied to competition is ultimately a rule from the state’s medical experts. The organization says it’s not pushing for any changes to the policy at this point.

The NMAA executive director added elsewhere, when asked about possibly lifting the policy, that:

Studies are being done, but ultimately the orders from the governor’s office is to mask wear and their medical team is advising us that that’s what we need to do in order to compete so those are the orders we will follow.

There isn’t a need to make this question into simply a matter of Tucker Carlson vs. Joy Reid, as it certainly is not that. But as part of his controversial remarks earlier this week, Carlson also recommended the eminently sensible step that parents and others involved in institutions should press them on matters such as this. It will be difficult to disentangle the thorny mess of government policy and cultural signals that have contributed to this excessively precautionary regime. Though I’ve quoted the NMAA executive director here, it is too simplistic to blame one person solely for a policy reinforced by both government power and cultural pressure. But New Mexico parents should heed Carlson in this specific recommendation (though not in others). And we should reject a Joy Reid vision of America’s future that would put a mask on the human face, even outdoors, and even for the vaccinated, apparently indefinitely.

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