Opinion: CJ Opinion

Lift the mask mandate today, governor. Listen to the experts.

(CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
(CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

Lift the mask mandate, governor.

Lift it now. Today. It’s OK.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says so. You know, the people with all that science and data, of which you’re so fond.

The CDC on Tuesday, April 27, said fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks outdoors, except in crowds. Almost 141 million people in the U.S. have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, some 43% of the population. Nearly 96 million are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Today is another day we can take a step back to the normalcy of before,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, according to USA Today. “If you are fully vaccinated, things are much safer for you than those who are not yet fully vaccinated.”

Neither Cooper, a Democrat, nor his staff take phone calls from Carolina Journal. They rarely respond to our emails, and they sure as heck won’t allow us to ask Cooper a question during one of his “so-called” news conferences.

So be it.

Cooper in March 2020 signed an executive order closing myriad businesses, leading to mass layoffs, and a veritable Oklahoma Land Rush to the unemployment office. He imposed mask mandates and curfews, lockdowns, and shutdowns — voluntary and involuntary. 

Cooper, or so he told us, was taking the advice of unnamed experts. Wait, wash, and wear, he and his health secretary told us. Science and data, that’s what’s important, they said. The mantra has changed little since, and that emergency order — in one iteration or another — remains in effect, though a couple of bills before lawmakers would curb a governor’s powers during future events.

Masks, I do believe, helped control the spread of the coronavirus and protected the most vulnerable early in the pandemic. If people feel more comfortable wearing a mask indoors, then have it. But I assumed — wrongly, I now realize — that the mandates, rules, and edicts would abate once a good chunk of people got the vaccine.

But that hasn’t happened, even considering the new CDC guidance. Cooper, as he has for more than a year, continues dangling the same old rotting bunch of carrots, teasing us about lifting mask mandates — in June.

Enough already.

Cooper certainly won’t listen to me, nor will he take cues from Republican governors who have thrown the bacteria-ridden face coverings in a smoldering pile. He may listen to the CDC, eventually, or Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who also serves on the board of Pfizer, which got approval for its vaccine in December. 

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Gottlieb said: “As conditions improve, policy makers must show they’re willing to ease restrictions as swiftly as they imposed them, and a critical early test will be on wearing masks outside.”

He said as much during an interview Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“Wearing masks and restricting large gatherings were essential to controlling the pandemic’s worst peaks,” he told the WSJ. “But infection levels are dropping and vaccination rates rising. … Easing these rules would move more activity outdoors, which reduces viral transmission.

“Public-health officials need to be willing to relax some restrictions and tolerate a low level of risk. Americans shouldn’t be afraid to go outside and enjoy the warm weather — no mask required.”

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the aforementioned state health secretary, said last week she wants to bring back summer.

Ha!

Been outside lately? Summer’s here, and there’s nothing she can do about it. Just ask Gottlieb, or the CDC. Ask any North Carolinian fed up with the limitations and restrictions. No, Cooper won’t listen to me, even to salvage a smidgeon of his battered credibility. But maybe he’ll listen to the experts.