These images were proudly trumpeted by the official @GovPhilScott Twitter account. Great, huh? Now I know why the administration wasn’t upset about an unmasked Education Secretary Dan French attending a meeting of the mask-denialist Canaan School Board. Scott is out to prove a point: Masking is now optional. I mean, get a load of our number-one public health official grinning like an unmasked idiot.
(By the way, an image from this staged photo-op appeared on the front page of Wednesday’s Times Argus under the caption “Leadership By Example.” Not on my planet.)
Unsurprisingly, I’m noticing more and more Vermonters who forswear masking in indoor public spaces. Some still don the mask, but many do not. I was in a pet store today, and the next three customers who entered were all above retirement age — the high risk demo. None of them wore a mask.
The only exceptions to this trend: Public spaces that mandate masking. Hospitals, clinics, my local food co-op. Otherwise, meh.
The governor opened his Tuesday Covid briefing with a mention of a just-completed conference call with federal officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. He made it sound like he and the feds are singing from the same hymnal.
What the governor did not mention is that his own masking policy is at odds with the CDC’s.
Scott and his minions insist that masking is not necessary for vaccinated Vermonters. Well, the CDC website has a page of advice specifically for those who are fully vaccinated. This is what it says about masking:
To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
Oh dear, that’s inconvenient. That’s not “wear a mask if you feel like it” or “wear a mask if you’re a little wussy boy.” It’s “wear a mask,” full stop. And according to the New York Times’ risk map of Vermont, the entire state is at “very high” or “extremely high” risk. So we’re all “in an area of substantial or high transmission.”
Anyway, the governor should feel free to stop saying his policy is based on the science and the data because it’s not. For whatever reason, he doesn’t want to encourage masking even as our case counts continue to be disquietingly high.
And even as he freely admits he doesn’t know why.
Scott deflected questions about mask mandates at his Tuesday presser with these dubious words: “I don’t think my saying that, or us mandating that, is going to get one single person to wear a mask that doesn’t want to.” Governor, I beg to differ. You have more influence with your fellow Vermonters than that. But when you allow yourself to be photographed maskless by the press and brag about said photo, you are modeling the exact opposite behavior. You are telling people they don’t need to mask.
I mean, just look at the Hunger Mountain Co-op or Central Vermont Medical Center or my family doctor’s office. They require masks. They provide masks to those who arrive without. And people comply.
Masks work. Mask mandates work. They aren’t 100% effective, but nothing is.
If you don’t want to mandate masks, governor, at the very least you should model prudent behavior instead of playing politics with public health.
Leadership by example, my ass.