by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Biden, speaking on a day in which his CDC director voiced her sense of “impending doom” over the uptick in COVID-19 cases in the United States, said, “I’m reiterating my call for every governor, mayor, and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate. Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down.”
The assumption here follows a convenient narrative about COVID-19: We were doing great until states started lifting mask mandates, and suddenly, whamo, we’re seeing more coronavirus.
But the experience of Texas and Michigan undercut this simple theory.
Amid much fanfare, Governor Greg Abbott rescinded the Texas mask mandate effective March 10, a little over two weeks ago. Yet over the past 14 days, Texas has seen its cases decline by 17 percent.
In contrast, Michigan, which has had some form of a statewide mask mandate since last July, has seen its cases spike 133 percent in the past two weeks.
If you want to go further than just these two states you can check out the New York Times dashboard of where coronavirus is increasing and where it is low or decreasing. There’s no connection between the strictness of a state’s mask mandates and the level of coronavirus spread right now.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that mask mandates increase the spread of coronavirus, and that lifting them is what caused the spike. Personally, I will wear a mask indoors by choice until I am fully vaccinated. But there is a distinction between mandates and actual human behavior, and there is not compelling evidence that the current increase in coronavirus can be explained by the lifting of mask mandates. Most of the states that are seeing increases have governors who follow the advice of Biden to “mask up.”