I knew it was too good to last. Republican mask nuttiness has come to Virginia
Our new Governor has not only rescinded a state-wide mask mandate for K-12 schools, he has barred any school district or school or school teacher from enforcing any sort of mask requirement. Executive Order 2 (.pdf) takes effect on 1/24/2022. At that point, there is no longer any state mandate, and any parent can demand that his or her child be allowed to attend any K-12 school without wearing a mask.
I took a few minutes to read that executive order. It just smacks you across the face with that signature mix of poor writing, proof-by-assertion, scare tactics, made-up-facts, and lapses of logic that have become the standard for policy documents developed by the modern Republican party.
I was hoping that we’d end up with a rational Republican in charge. Like Hogan, in Maryland. But after reading through Executive Order 2, it’s completely clear that we didn’t get that. The people now writing policy documents in the Commonwealth are of-a-piece with everything else that’s gone on recently in the Republican party.
Why have Republican writing skills gone out the window?
This is probably not a legitimate question, but it’s the one that puzzles me the most about Executive Order 2. The rest of it — the pseudo-science, the aggressive stance where none is required, and so on — that all makes sense in context (discussed below).
But why can’t Republicans hire a decent proofreader. Or better, an editor.
I’m not half the grammar Nazi that my wife is, but this is a document where every page features mistakes that just beg to be noticed. It’s paragraph after paragraph jammed with sentences that cry out to be rewritten.
Off the crack of the bat, you can read this:
Recent government orders requiring virtually every child in Virginia wear masks virtually every moment they are in school have proven ineffective and impractical.
Reading that word for word, I find myself virtually tearing my virtual hair out. That’s not just for the artless repetition of the word “virtual”, or the grammatically incorrect “they” for “every child”, or even for that ridiculously long clause shoehorned between subject and verb.
It’s for the sheer awkwardness of the sentence, taken as a whole. The entire document reads just like that. It’s as if somebody whipped out a first draft and never looked at it again.
The writing is the symptom, not the disease
The basic issue is that there’s no need to have a sentence like that in any official document of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The only reason that sentence is there, along with so many more like it, is to provide cover for the decision to substitute political judgement for public health judgement in this matter.
I really don’t grasp why Republicans can’t just come out and honestly say that this reflects their political beliefs. Period. Just own up to it. Just freely admit that they don’t care what the science says, and that this is a policy guided by political philosophy and not by what’s the best option from the standpoint of public health.
I hate to say it, but if we’re going to be this way, why can’t we be more like Florida? Governor DeSantis has made it crystal clear that he doesn’t give a crap about the science. I mean, look at the graphic at the top of the post.
He had beer cozies made up specifically to mock Dr. Fauci. I don’t agree with the sentiment, but I will admit there’s an honesty about that that we lack here in stuffy old Virginia. Our policies now make no more sense than those of Florida. But instead of just being up-front about it, like DeSantis, our Republicans feel obliged to construct a pseudo-science wrapper to put around what is, at root, purely a statement of political philosophy.
The result is that they end up putting nonsense and outright lies into official pronouncements of the Commonwealth of Virginia, solely because they lack the spine to be as honest as Ron DeSantis.
Among the things I found particularly annoying was this line:
While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends masks, its research has found no statistically significant link between mandatory masking for students and reduced transmission of COVID-19.
Let me just slide right over the fact that they they got the name of the CDC wrong, in an official pronouncement from the Governor of Virginia. (It’s Centers for Disease Control, plural.) What really caught my eye is that I recalled the CDC coming out with several pieces of research that suggested that masks were reasonably effective in schools. In other words, putting aside the fact that nobody in the Governor’s office cared enough to get the name right, what the Governor is saying here seems to be an outright lie.
It took me all of 15 seconds on Google to find this:
In case you were wondering, of course CDC still recommends universal mask use in K-12 schools. Here are the current guidelines, updated `1/13/2022.
I won’t go into the numerous other justifications offered in Executive Order 2, other than to say that it’s worth the read if only to find out that children’s masks are infested with parasites. (Don’t believe me? Download Executive Order 2 and search for it.)
In any case, I’d say that 75% of their argument boils down to “masks don’t work perfectly, so they should not be required”. I hope I don’t have to point out that this is a non-sequitur. No COVID-19 prevention strategies work perfectly. That’s not a logical reason for discarding them.
Let’s ignore the smartest people in the room.
Let me finish by pointing out the thing I find most ridiculous about this.
The Governor’s executive order applies to K-12 schools only. What other schools do we have here in Virginia, and what are those other schools doing?
Near as I can tell, every college or university in Virginia has both a mask mandate and a vaccine mandate. I haven’t checked them all, but there’s a mask mandate in effect at:
- George Mason University,
- James Madison University,
- Virginia Tech.
- VCU not only has a policy, they have vending machines on campus with free high-quality masks.
I could go on, but that’s the gist of it.
On the one hand, we have all these very smart people, running multi-billion-dollar educational enterprises. Most have direct access to scientists on their staffs who understand the public health issues fully. Some are running fully private-sector businesses, others have some modest amount of taxpayer funding. All of them are dependent on the good will of the parents whose children they are educating.
And every damned one of them has a mask mandate in the face of Omicron.
On the other hand, we have the Governor of Virginia. A man who apparently felt compelled to lie about the CDC’s stance on masks in schools. A man who feels so strongly about this issue that he’s barred any local control over the imposition of such a mask mandate in any K-12 school in Virginia. And, most of all, a man who can’t be bothered to take a clue from the smartest people in the room.
I guess we get the government we deserve. Maybe it’s time for a new state motto.
Virginia: All the competence of Florida, but without the sense of humor.
Finally, just to be clear, this blog post is a first draft, written in an informal style. I will nevertheless apologize in advance for any grammatical mistakes or misspellings contained herein.