DANIEL VAUGHAN: Joe Biden and virtue signaling neanderthals

Once upon a March ago, Donald Trump and the U.S. federal government announced the “15 days to flatten the curve” campaign. The concept ended up being widely mocked, because that was March 2020; now, it’s more than a year later, and we’re still dealing with a global pandemic brought on by an uncontrollable virus out of China.

The other funny part about that plan is that the press criticized it because they claimed it would take several “more weeks” to flatten the curve. Everyone was hilariously wrong — especially the “experts.”

The latest to employ bad messaging was newly elected President Joe Biden, who pitched in January “100 days of mask-wearing.” Everything in the Biden administration is 100 days of this or that, and mostly follows whatever trendlines we’re already seeing in an effort to claim victory for fulfilling them. The 100 days of masking plan was devoid of science or anything; it was pure virtue signaling.

That’s not because masks don’t work; they do protect the margins. A CDC study showed that mask mandates “were associated with a 0.5 percentage point decrease in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 1–20 days after implementation and decreases of 1.1, 1.5, 1.7, and 1.8 percentage points 21–40, 41–60, 61–80, and 81–100 days, respectively, after implementation.”

But by the time the Biden administration took office, national daily case numbers were already headed down, and the winter surge was coming to an end. The “100 days of masking” had very little to do with the decrease in cases. The rise in vaccines, however, has had a direct impact.

It’s worth bringing this up because we’re coming up on the end of the first 100 days of the Biden administration and the end of that executive declaration. At this point, the “100 days of masking” should join the “15 days to flatten the curve” moniker.

It’s not just that the Biden declaration did nothing. That declaration was actively wrong. For instance, Texas ended its mask mandate on March 9, 2021. Joe Biden called this decision “neanderthal thinking.” The data, according to National Review, tells a different story:

The day before [March 8], Texas had 5,119 new cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day average for new cases was 3,971. On that day, the state had 126,404 active cases of COVID-19. As of March 9, the seven-day average for new deaths was 104.

Yesterday, the state had 3,859 new cases, and the seven-day average for daily new cases is 3,057. The state had 93,430 active cases. The seven-day average for new deaths was 54.

The states that ended those mask mandates all saw similar results. Of course, you can write off this drop as seasonality, or vaccines, or any number of things. There are a lot of variables as we watch real-world policies with near-instant results. But at a minimum, a rational mind should be willing to look at this and say it’s worthy of more examination and maybe changing your mind on the usefulness of a given message.

But that’s not happening at all. Instead, we’re getting the exact opposite message from Biden. The White House is putting out approving photos of Biden standing alone, in the middle of Arlington Cemetary, masked up, as if the coronavirus is around the next tombstone.

It’s not just that Biden is entirely vaccinated and safe from the virus. We’ve known for some time that outdoor events pose little to no risk, as FiveThirtyEight reports:

[I]f there is one thing we can definitively state, it’s that this virus is much, much less likely to spread outdoors than in. For example, in a study of 7,324 Chinese case reports, only two — part of the same transmission event — could be linked to outdoor settings. A database of more than 20,000 cases (including the 7,324 Chinese cases) found 461 that were associated with transmission in completely outdoor environments — predominantly crowded events like markets and rallies. Overall, only 6 percent of all the cases in that database were linked to events that were either totally or partially outdoors. The rest were tied to indoor events.

COVID-19 is an airborne virus. The science is overwhelmingly clear on this point. An airborne pathogen struggles outdoors because the wind and sunlight disperse particles, making it harder for the virus to cause an infection. 

Instead of recognizing this, we get the idiocy of outdoor mask requirements, which have little basis in science and a lot of grounding in political tribalism. And we get the idiocy of Joe Biden pretending to represent “good behavior” by masking up while fully vaccinated in the middle of a cemetery by himself. 

All of this brings us to this point: wearing a mask has become less about science and more about signaling who you are as a person, just like the red MAGA hats helped people declare to the world their support of Trump.

Masks are the left’s version of the red hat. They’re using that to signal to each other, “We’re the good ones!” 

It’s the purest form of virtue signaling among people who are facing a world where there’s little scientific reason to continue wearing the mask. Science says we don’t need them anymore. 

I understand the private businesses requiring masks to avoid legal liability or getting slammed by a press eager to enforce the mask virtue signaling of the Biden administration. I don’t get the neanderthal thinking of Joe Biden and his followers. They have turned a marginal tool in pandemic control into the be-all, end-all. It’s not about safety anymore. It’s the new MAGA hat. 

The intelligent message would be to go maskless at events because you’re fully vaccinated, like the president is. It would be to preach the effectiveness of vaccines, because those aren’t marginal in impact. Compared to masks, vaccines are nuclear bombs that can nearly obliterate the coronavirus. 

But doing that would require “following the science,” and not tribal politics. It turns out Biden represents many of the things he claimed were terrible about Trump.