If all the world’s a stage, then COVID-19 is writing the script

The 9/11 attacks gave us the heightened security theater now on display in all U.S. airports. Day after day for the last two decades, Transportation Security Administration agents have patted down travelers from teens to the elderly, looking for weapons that nobody expects to find. While airplane cockpit doors are now locked to prevent hijackings, the pat-downs remain. And now we have pandemic hygiene theater to give uninformed people a false sense of control and sustain their fear of the virus.

Think of the number of hours schools and businesses spend wiping down surfaces to prevent COVID-19 transmission even though wiping isn’t necessary. Yet Americans continue to spend untold hours and dollars wiping surfaces to provide the appearance of virus protection.

My kids’ schools have implemented overly stringent and frankly illogical measures that create barriers to accessing an effective education. The schools have welcomed back a subset of their student population for two days a week for in-person education. They’ve reduced the number of teaching days from five to four, during which the kids get half of the education time they used to get. But they do spend time and energy wiping down surfaces and making students wipe their desks.

Every morning I fill out a form for my kids, assuring the school they have no fever, yet the school has temperature checks at every entry point. The alleged need for temperature checks is one reason why kids cannot be taught on site more than two days a week and why more kids can’t be brought back for in-person instruction.

These theatrics continue even though Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted temperature checks “are notoriously inaccurate.” Nobody should be surprised. We’ve known for months that up to 40 percent of Americans with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

Our schools claimed they couldn’t bring the kids back last fall because students must stay 6 to 10 feet apart. That’s 4 feet more than the CDC recommended for months. And even the origin of that 6-feet rule is mysterious. It’s twice the length recommended by most countries and the World Health Organization.

Adding insult to injury, the CDC finally changed its guidelines from 6 to 3 feet, yet Arlington schools still require distances of at least 6 to 10 feet and universal mask use. Never mind that teachers have been prioritized for vaccination, and research shows schools don’t increase COVID-19 spread in the community.

And as the Manhattan Institute’s Connor Harris notes, the evidence behind some of these mask mandates “turns out to be quite weak.”

These theatrics play out in a world where many of us reuse our face masks such as the one we keep in our car, reuse surgical masks many times or wear masks below our noses. There are many actors starring in this daily health drama. The same applies to the number of Americans who continue to wear masks outdoors despite evidence transmission rarely takes place outside. And the same will be said of those who will continue to wear masks long after we reach herd immunity.

While some of these examples may seem silly, hygiene theater has huge costs and wastes precious resources. It also keeps Americans unjustifiably scared of the virus while promoting the delusion that with enough such measures, we can finally live in a world free of risks.

The bottom line is this: Politicians make a lot of promises, but we shouldn’t always believe them.

Veronique de Rugy is a nationally syndiated author.


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