As expected, Gov. John Bel Edwards tightened the screws Monday and reinstituted a mask mandate as part of the government’s ongoing campaign to combat COVID-19.
Edwards’ executive order reimposing the mask mandate for anyone visiting a public building or business in Louisiana was scheduled to go into effect Wednesday, Aug. 4. The order will remain in effect until Sept. 1, at which time Edwards will either lift the order, extend it or possibly layer on additional restrictions that Louisianians will be expected to follow. What Edwards does next will depend on whether the Delta variant of COVID is still supposedly spreading rapidly throughout Louisiana and pressuring hospitals whose resources supposedly are stretched thin and struggling to cope with a growing number of individuals who apparently have been infected with the virus.
For more than a year now the American people, including us mere mortals in Louisiana, have dealt with the trials and tribulations of COVID. We have observed the dismantling and the rebuilding of the U.S. economy. We have witnessed the hospitalization of scores of Americans including friends and neighbors, and we have helplessly stood by while too many people have died from the virus. It would be within reason to say, “What’s next?” or “Will this madness ever end?” The answer to the latter, I’m afraid, is a resounding “No.”
The American people — Louisianians in particular — are divided over COVID. There’s an element in society that believes being vaccinated for COVID as well as the wearing of masks to stem its spread should be mandatory. They are firm in their beliefs. There’s also an element in society that’s staunchly opposed to wearing masks or getting injected with a vaccine that was rushed into the marketplace sans the usual testing that vaccines are subjected to before being introduced to the general population. They are firm in their beliefs, too.
Then there’s an element of society that’s torn over what to believe and questions who is right and who is wrong amid an endless flow of information about COVID courtesy of government officials, healthcare experts including doctors and scientists and the press. Just when you begin to form an opinion about it, somebody gets caught not being entirely truthful or not being entirely forthcoming with the facts or gets exposed for manipulating data to support a narrative.
Just last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that vaccinated individuals should wear masks while indoors in areas of the country in which COVID was highly prevalent. The CDC did not release any data or findings to support its recommendation, which, as expected, sent healthcare officials and the press into a frenzy questioning why the CDC had made the recommendation in the first place. Along the way, The Washington Post published a piece exposing the findings of an internal CDC document that disclosed the Delta variant appeared to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and would spread as easily as chickenpox. Reportedly the document also disclosed that vaccinated individuals could spread the virus as easily as those who had not been vaccinated.
The CDC document leaked to The Post was, quite frankly, alarming. It was alarming because it raised the specter that the government had withheld information about COVID from the general public. It was alarming as well since we all were told months ago to get vaccinated and once we were vaccinated all would be well in the world. Obviously that’s not true.
It is news stories like the one published by The Post that fuel doubt in the general public, particularly among those who object to being vaccinated and among those who could possibly be convinced to get vaccinated. After all, isn’t the government — including our governor in Louisiana — determined to cajole as many people as possible to get vaccinated?
If convincing a vast majority of the American people to get vaccinated represents the key to stopping COVID-19, the government would be well served if it came clean with all it knows about COVID. It might discover the American people could be persuaded to embrace the vaccine if they believed the government was telling them the truth.
For Edwards, if it’s his mission in life to convince Louisianians to get vaccinated, he should tone down the drama that he’s apt to exhibit during his news conferences. There are enough drama queens in the world already.
Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at email@example.com.