Four weeks ago, to media reports of people fearing terrible outcomes as a result, on May 14, Gov. Roy Cooper surprised himself and the rest of us by lifting nearly all of his personal and business restrictions. He left the door to reinstating tyranny open a crack by keeping schoolkids forced into face masks and keeping North Carolina under a ridiculous “state of emergency” for the express purpose of getting federal money.

Media and certain health experts wielding computer models and an unmatched ability to avoid the screamingly obvious continue to traffic in fear and mask theater, however. On June 4, for example, the News & Observer wasn’t alone among North Carolina media to run with this story: “NC researchers say keeping masks on will prevent thousands of additional COVID cases.”

Be afraid, be very afraid, always:

“As soon as you start relaxing mask wearing and physical distancing with any percent of the population vaccinated, you see an increase in cases,” Mehul Patel, a UNC School of Medicine researcher and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.

This is a testable proposition. As soon as? That means immediately. Any percent of the population vaccinated? That means from 0 percent to 100 percent. An increase in cases? That means cases can’t decline or even level off.

So when Cooper eliminated nearly all mask-wearing and all physical distancing, the model would unequivocally call for an increase in cases. Well? What has happened?

  May 14 June 11 Change
New cases (7-day rolling average) 1262.9 432.7 Down 66%
Hospitalizations (7-day rolling average) 950.3 556.7 Down 41%
Test percent positive (7-day rolling average) 4.1% 2.1% Down 49%