An order to wear masks in public most of the time is one thing; enforcement may be another.
Those so inclined already can find Internet videos of arguments and sometimes actual fights around the country over mask-wearing or lack thereof.
Is New Jersey about to join the “fun?”
Who knows, but we’re about to find out.
New Jersey continues to do well combatting COVID-19 compared to many other states. But the governor seems concerned with back sliding, or more specifically, the fact that the state’s transmission rate is now above one. It had been under one for a few weeks. This means that on average an infected person will spread the virus to one other individual.
Phil Murphy’s executive order today made mask-wearing mandatory outside but there are a number of caveats. For starters, the requirement is only applicable when social distancing is not practical. Also excluded are infants, those whose health conditions would be exacerbated by a mask and those eating or drinking.
And at today’s briefing, Murphy enunciated another exception – athletic activity. This could mean solitary exercise or those playing sports.
The governor admits enforcement is going to be hard.
Are local cops going to track and summon people not wearing masks? It’s hard to see that happening.
We have seen “public shaming” in other states directed toward those not wearing masks. Surely, that can happen here too. Of course, so-called public shaming also can lead to fistfights.
Health officials agree that wearing a mask helps prevent an individual – even an asymptomatic one – from spreading the virus to others.
“Wearing a face covering is not about politics,” Murphy said, adding a bit dramatically, that it can be “about life and death.”
Expounding on this theme, he said not wearing a mask in public is a selfish act and one that conveys a message of, “The hell with everyone else.”
Murphy’s verbiage is sincere, but he has to know that wearing a mask is political. It may be a sign of the crazy politics of the day, but politics is present.
Donald Trump most infamously refuses to wear a mask, prompting some of his more fervent supporters to follow suit. To some on the far right, wearing a mask is a capitulation to unvarnished government power, or the “deep state.” Skepticism about wearing masks even seems to extend at times to mainstream conservative thought.
I have attended many protests of various political persuasion during the pandemic. On the left, there have been Black Lives Matter protests. On the right, there have been anti-lockdown events and even a pro-Columbus demonstration. Generally speaking, more people wear facial coverings at liberal events than at conservative ones. That’s just the way it is.
And that is why the governor’s mask order is going to stir up political opposition.
Asked about that today, Murphy dismissed those who may protest, saying, “You’ve got to wonder what they are thinking.”
In time, we may find out what they are thinking.