What happens when a society that is so organized and detail-oriented that it needs to buy all of its integrated circuits from Taiwan, China, Japan, and Korea (and stop making cars when those countries can’t meet demand) tries to use facemasks to stop a deadly respiratory virus? Here’s a report on a trip by small plane from Maine to Florida at the end of August 2021.
(Note that cloth facemasks worn by the general public completely failed in a randomized controlled trial and surgical mask usage achieved only an 11-percent reduction in coronaplague levels (hailed as a huge success by #Science!).)
The trip began with a JetBlue flight from PBI to BOS. For maximum COVID-19 safety, every seat was occupied. The atmosphere was similar to a Hollywood portrayal of a prison galley, with flight attendants constantly hassling passengers regarding (1) where they stood while waiting for the bathroom, and (2) the extent to which they were wearing a mask. All masks came off at roughly the same time, naturally, when the same flight attendants served drinks and snacks to everyone at the same time.
Maskachusetts towns and cities were just in the process of reimposing mask orders (“In Fauci and vaccines we trust, but not enough to de-mask.”)
Despite the sign, mask usage was about 50 percent among customers and staff at a tire shop where I was trying to nurse our 2007 Infiniti far enough to be sold. In a tightly packed diner, none of the customers wore masks #BecauseEatingAndDrinking
In addition to masks, the USPS in Watertown was relying on the Plexi barriers that #Science now says are worthless:
While waiting in line, I observed that most customers and postal workers would lean around the partition in order to communicate clearly.
To avoid the remains of Hurricane Ida and general areas of thunderstorms down the coast, I started south by heading north, to Bar Harbor, Maine. Hancock County is now under an indoor mask order, but the local businesses are not necessarily complying. One shop door says “Your mask, your decision.” (fighting words to a California voter!) Other shops had out of date signs, e.g., one regarding a May 24, 2021 mask order rescission.
Acadia National Park told people to wash hands with soap and water, but despite the $6 trillion annual federal budget, there are no bathrooms available (sometimes outhouses) where these instructions could be followed. (Florida, by contrast, seems to have government-run usually-clean bathrooms everywhere that tourists might visit.) I like the primary focus on government employee welfare: “Help keep rangers and other visitors healthy.” Visitor health is important, but ranger health is #1. Except for a few Asians, I didn’t see anyone on the (crowded) trails wearing masks.
Eventually a high pressure system moved in and it was time to depart from my friend’s oceanfront quarantine facility. President Biden has ordered that all airports enforce mask usage. At least the national FBO chains have interpreted this to include facilities for private aircraft. I don’t want to rat out specific FBOs for fear that the Federal Virtue Enforcement Agency will come after them, but at small airports the effect of this order is nil. At the biggest airports, the corporate overlords’ influence is stronger, especially on the behind-the-desk customer service reps. There are expensively-printed banners reminding everyone to follow Biden’s orders. Here’s a picture cropped to hide the FBO chain’s name:
The “line guys” (almost always it is people identifying as “men” who wish to work outdoors in temps ranging from -10 F to +105 F and winds up to 50 knots) don’t bother with masks indoors or out. If you’re driving a truck filled with 2,000 gallons of jet fuel, maybe you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about a virus?
What actually happens, though, when the corporate overlords follow Dr. Joe Biden, M.D. and impose a mask requirement? At the biggest FBO where I stopped (name withheld to protect the guilty from the U.S. Marshalls), all of the non-line employees sported masks… under the chin or under the nose. To be fair, there was one employee, perhaps age 40 and looking slender/healthy, who wore a mask properly over her nose and mouth. She was training a new hire at a distance of about 1.5′ (feet, not meters). Every time that she spoke, in order to make sure that the new hire understood, she would pull the mask away from her face.
How about at Great Falls, Virginia? Population growth via immigration plus the growth of government spending pushing the D.C.-area population higher has resulted in 30-minute lines to get into the parking lot (except when the park is entirely closed due to the parking lot being full). Out of an abundance of caution, the taxpayer-funded visitor center has been closed for 1.5 years. People will need to get their COVID-19 at the retail stores that are open all around the park, rather than in the park itself.
How about President Biden’s order that masks be worn whenever people are outdoors in federal parks, but not well-spaced? Is there more respect for this than what we found in the Everglades back in April? At Great Falls, the order was ignored by roughly 90 percent of visitors (who numbered 1000+). See below for some of the Mask Righteous. One is unmasked, but has put a mask on his toddler (see Wright Brothers on the science of COVID-19 for a discussion of how it can make sense for one household member to wear a mask when on an excursion, but not everyone). The slender young person has ventured beyond the fence to the edge of the gorge, swollen to near-historic levels by Hurricane Ida. He/she/ze/they will be coronavirus-free before joining the dozens who have drowned in the past 20 years at Great Falls:
At a coffee shop in North Carolina, only about 1 in 25 customers were masked. My friend has been a righteous Facebook denouncer of Trump and a supporter of Biden, masks, and lockdowns, but he did not voluntarily wear a mask inside the crowded counter service shop.
At an FBO in Georgia, still fighting the transmission-via-surfaces war (#SalvationViaLysol):
This is walking distance to Southern Soul Barbeque, where I defended against COVID-19 in the traditional American manner, i.e., consuming plenty of fried okra and hush puppies. Why bother to lose weight when confronted with a virus that kills the obese when instead one can rely on government orders to don cloth face coverings?
Here’s the Shuttle Landing Facility to prove that I made it to Florida:
Biden mask order compliance was actually higher in Florida than in the other states, with one indoor FBO employee wearing a mask at my destination (“1 out of 20 ain’t bad”!). Mask usage outside the airport, e.g., at supermarkets, was much higher than in other states, despite not being required. Of course, this could be partly due to the fact that Florida was just getting over a COVID-19 hospitalization surge:
The peak was towards the end of August. Now that I look at this chart, one thing that is interesting is how easy it is to convince Americans to panic. Florida was portrayed as a disaster area by the media and I was cautioned by multiple friends and family members not to go near this Land of Death in which they were running out of places to stack the dead bodies. At the very height of the recent plague, roughly 17,000 people were in the hospital in Florida with a COVID-19 positive PCR test. The state is home to nearly 22 million people, however. So a person who had 150 friends still had a 90 percent probability of not knowing anyone who was in the hospital for/with COVID-19. (Take the probability that a friend is not in the hospital and then multiply that by itself 150 times):
type “(1-17000/22e6)^150” into Wolfram Alpha if you want to check.)
A country that spends 20 percent of GDP on health care, in other words, purportedly can’t cope with 1 in 1,300 people needing hospital care for a respiratory virus (actually perhaps closer to 1 in 2,000 since “COVID-19 hospitalizations” in the U.S. include people who are there for some other reason and test positive for an asymptomatic coronavirus infection). Maybe this is true, in which case we might want to ask what we’re getting for our $4 trillion per year (Bloomberg does). But more likely it is false, especially in light of the fact that hospital care for COVID-19 is probably not any better than home care (nytimes).
I stopped in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Virginia (Dulles and Roanoke), North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. In not a single place did I see a group of Americans wearing masks consistently and correctly, despite, at least at the airports, presidential orders that they do so and, in many cases, local orders that masks be worn.
(How about the flying, you might ask? An instrument approach was required to get into BHB (Maine). I needed to climb to 11,500′ to get over some bumpy clouds in Florida. Steering around heavy rain cells was required to make the final approach into SUA (Stuart, Florida). Otherwise, it was good VFR weather and a student pilot could easily have made the trip. Lesson: If you’re willing to be flexible on timing, a Cirrus can be a useful mode of transportation, but flexibility needs to be measured in days, not hours!)
Why write all of the above, you might ask? I’m thinking this will be a useful data point for historians 50 or 100 years from now who want to know what Americans actually did in 2021. They’ll have ready access to the rulers’ orders, but won’t know how these were implemented by the subjects.