Last week, the L.A. County Department of Public Health responded to an uptick in COVID-19 cases – that is, an uptick in positive test results – by announcing that Public Health is now “strongly recommending” that the 10 million residents of L.A. County wear masks in indoor public spaces.
In recent months, the department had said indoor masking was a matter of “individual preference,” but now masks are “strongly recommended for all individuals.”
The problem with government recommendations is that government isn’t in the business of giving advice. As George Washington observed, “government is force.” The mask “recommendation” is a sneeze away from a mask “mandate.” Because California is still in a declared state of emergency over COVID-19, local public health officials can issue “health officer orders” and enforce them with fines and even shutdowns of businesses.
On what is their determination based?
“Indoor mask wearing rules and recommendations in Los Angeles County change based on federal, state, and county requirements and the LA County CDC COVID-19 community level and transmission rate,” the public health department states on its website. “L.A. County’s current CDC community level is LOW but our transmission rate is more than 100 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 7 days.”
That certainly sounds alarming, and nobody does “alarming” better than L.A. County Public Health, where press releases regularly announce deaths “due to” COVID in frightening headlines. The department has acknowledged that “due to” does not actually mean “caused by” in the way a dictionary would define it, but is based on a definition of “associated” deaths crafted by an Atlanta-based organization of epidemiologists to track the path of a pandemic.
The department’s media relations continue to inspire scary, horror-movie news coverage. One publication reported the new “strongly recommended” mask guidance with a photograph of two women viewing a loved one in an open casket.
A calmer assessment of the situation in L.A. County can be found in the weekly employee townhall meeting at LAC+USC Medical Center. “Soothiness Wednesdays,” as chief medical officer Dr. Brad Spellberg calls the sessions, regularly feature a display of three charts showing countywide COVID case numbers, positive tests on admissions to LAC+USC, and admissions with positive tests along with admissions due to COVID or to the ICU. All three charts show that COVID infections are now negligible.
Although there was an uptick two weeks ago, Spellberg said last Wednesday there were only “three or four admissions due to COVID in the last week, mostly mild.”
That’s an important change from what was seen in the winters of 2020 and 2021. As the third winter of the pandemic begins, the severity of COVID illness is very different. And the rise in cases that was seen two weeks ago did not develop into a surge. “It plateaued,” Spellberg said, “The rate of rise really thus far has blunted, which is different than the prior two winters, and kind of soothy.”
It’s really time to ask whether the L.A. County Public Health Department, and public health departments in general, have adopted COVID alarmism as a permanent part of their budget advocacy.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report declaring that masking and social distancing should be encouraged and even mandated again in order to support people with “Long COVID,” vaguely described as a “set of conditions” with vague estimates of how many individuals suffer from it. The report calls for more funding of more public awareness campaigns, more financial aid for workers and students, more health benefits, and funding for “Long COVID” support groups.
Missing from the report is any proof that masking and social distancing prevent the spread of the virus.
The county’s latest “recommendation” calls for high-quality, well-fitting masks, an acknowledgment that paper surgical masks and various cloth masks never did much, if anything, to protect anybody from the COVID-19 virus. So the real-world consequence of the recommendation is simply more corrosion in the social fabric as people with different views about COVID stare daggers at each other, each thinking the other person is destroying life as we know it.
In other words, happy Thanksgiving from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Hide the knives.
Write Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley
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