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Who Was That Masked Person?

On Tuesday, the Brevard County Commission decided not to make it a requirement that people wear masks in businesses under the guise of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, the Commission passed a resolution, which is non-binding to anyone and therefore nothing but a meaningless show of “see? We are doing something!”

County Commission Chair Bryan Lober could not get the support of other commissioners for a proposal to require people to wear face masks when in businesses, as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Seeing no backing for his proposal, Lober did not seek to bring it to a vote.

Instead, Lober put forth a nonbinding proclamation that would “strongly encourage” businesses to post their face mask policies at the entrances to their businesses.

The proclamation was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner John Tobia opposed.

There will be no penalties for businesses that do not comply with the recommendation, and Brevard’s cities and towns can make their own policies related to face masks.

Tobia said after the meeting that he voted no because he did not want to imply that the County Commission was requesting that private businesses post the signs.

The vote came after commissioners heard from 53 speakers, with 35 of them opposed to Lober’s initial proposal mandating face masks at local businesses and 18 supporting mandating face masks.

Lober defended bringing the proposal to the Commission:

Brevard County Commission Chairman Bryan Lober says he has no regrets bringing forward a proposal to require people to wear face masks when inside local businesses as a way the help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Lober’s proposal gained no traction with the other four Republican commissioners on Tuesday, and never came to a formal vote.

Instead, commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of a non-binding proclamation to “strongly encourage” businesses to post their mask policies at their entrances. There will be no penalty for noncompliance.

Lober said he is disappointed his proposal requiring face masks did not gain the support of other commissioners.

He also knows the measure was politically unpopular with some county residents, as 35 of the 53 speakers addressing the County Commission on the topic at Tuesday meeting opposed his proposal. Generally, the supporters of Lober’s proposal wore face masks in the County Commission chambers during the meeting; the opponents did not.

“Despite knowing this would be politically costly, bringing this to the commission was unquestionably the right thing to do,” Lober said after the meeting. “When local emergency medicine physicians express concern that their hospitals are hemorrhaging staff due to COVID-19 at a rate which could impact quality of care in the coming weeks, it would be irresponsible not to make every effort to prevent this from happening.”

When Lober announced on Friday night that he would be bringing up the measure at Tuesday’s meeting, he included a statement from Dr. Jeffrey Stalnaker, Health First’s chief physician executive.

That statement said in part: “Health First believes a universal masking policy will help slow the spread of this terrible virus, and protect the health of your loved ones and neighbors. Wearing masks will also preserve our ability to treat patients who are ill and safeguard the health of our medical professionals on the front lines providing care.”

What is interesting is that while supporters of the measure to require masks in stores who believe that masks slow down the spread of COVID-19 and those who oppose it based upon the idea of it being an infringement of personal rights and liberties have one thing in common:

A lack of science to back their position.

As we noted the other day, it is not as if state, counties and municipal governments cannot pass regulations protecting the health of citizens:

This is based on a 1905 case from the Supreme Court called Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) where the Court opined:

“The police power of a State embraces such reasonable regulations relating to matters completely within its territory, and not affecting the people of other States, established directly by legislative enactment, as will protect the public health and safety.

[….]

The liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States does not import an absolute right in each person to be at all times, and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint, nor is it an element in such liberty that one person, or a minority of persons residing in any community and enjoying the benefits of its local government, should have power to dominate the majority when supported in their action by the authority of the State.”

However, those regulations should be based on science, and not wives’ tales or anecdotes.

The World Health Organization has bounced back and forth like a ping pong ball on advising whether to wear masks.

The CDC is taking the approach of “mask wearing appears to be a good idea:”

  • CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
  • Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.
  • Cloth face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

(emphasis ours)

The CDC site lists some papers on the spread of the COVID-19, and while those papers address masks in an anecdotal manner, the papers offer no concrete citations that mask wearing prevents the spread of COVID-19.

Enter into the fray Denis Rancourt, PhD., who has published more than 100 peer reviewed scientific papers.

Rancourt writes:

Masks and respirators do not work.

There have been extensive randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies, and meta-analysis reviews of RCT studies, which all show that masks and respirators do not work to prevent respiratory influenza-like illnesses, or respiratory illnesses believed to be transmitted by droplets and aerosol particles.

Furthermore, the relevant known physics and biology, which I review, are such that masks and respirators should not work. It would be a paradox if masks and respirators worked, given what we know about viral respiratory diseases: The main transmission path is long-residence-time aerosol particles (< 2.5 μm), which are too fine to be blocked, and the minimum-infective dose is smaller than one aerosol particle.

Rancourt lists actual scientific papers that study the transmission of viral diseases and the effectiveness of masks and concludes that masks don’t work.

Clearly something is going on. We have anecdotal evidence that masks allegedly slow down the transmission of the disease, but no definitive studies on the efficacy of masks.

Therefore, the question is “should we be acting on anecdotes or science?”

We’d prefer acting on science, which means to us that Lober’s proposal was an over-reach of government.

What was available to the Commission and what we think is a better solution is to allow increased penalties for trespassing in businesses. That Commission could have passed an ordinance that would have increased the penalties if a person was violating a store’s policy on the wearing of mask. The store would have to post a sign saying “failure to follow our policy will be considered trespassing,” but that is do-able.

As criminal trespassing requires an initial notice, that means that when stores deal with people who say “you aren’t the boss of me!” and act like a self entitled twit, the initial notice is in place so the police can pull out the handcuffs. A large fine would pay for their time as well.

That solution would allow individual stores to determine their own policies backed up by governmental ordinances, rather than stores being told what they must do by they government.

However, the proclamation / resolution did this as well:

Meanwhile, the county is implementing the non-binding proclamation, and is designing signs for businesses to hang up at their entrances, informing customers on whether or not they require masks inside.

Commissioner Isnardi claimed she felt that would be a “good compromise.”

That would mean that the County would be advocating and paying for the design of signs that don’t reflect the marketing and signage strategy of stores. For example, WalMart signs have their blue and gold colors. Publix goes green and white. Target opts for red and white. Most fast food places have signs that are a combination of red and gold. This means that the County is spending money on designing a sign that won’t be used. (But at least it will be busy work for someone in the county government.)

We are glad Lober’s proposal failed. There was no need for the County Commission to try and take over more aspects of a company’s operations. Instead of telling businesses what they have to do, the Commission should have offered more meaningful support.




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