Seems a bit shady.
By now, it’s painfully evident that some states care way more about “going back to normal” during the pandemic than they do about public health. This week, an investigation by a non-profit news organization revealed that Missouri withheld data showing that counties with mask mandates had lower rates of COVID transmissions and deaths from April to October, per the New York Times.
The state finally released its findings publicly on Wednesday, a month after they had obtained the data — and only after public records were requested by The Missouri Independent and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation. Among the records released was an email from Missouri’s Health Department director, Donald Kauerauf, affirming that mask mandates had indeed been effective, per the Times.
The data showed that in places with mandates, there were 15.8 COVID cases for every 100,000 residents per day, compared to 21.7 cases per day for every 100,000 residents in places without them. On top of that, masked counties had one death per 100,000 residents every five days, whereas unmasked ones had one death per 100,000 residents every 3.5 days.
Like many other states around the country, politics, not science, have determined where masks are required in Missouri and where they’re not. In larger cities like St. Louis and Kansas City, mandates have been implemented throughout the pandemic, while other parts of the state remain stringently anti-mask. The state’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, has become infamous for his aggressive approach of suing cities, school districts and counties that implement mandates, per NPR. And although the state’s Republican governor Mike Parson isn’t a complete COVID conspiracy nut, he’s the type to view wearing masks as the antithesis to good old American freedom.
We’re nearly at the two year anniversary since the start of this whole thing and the fact that we’re still debating the efficacy of masks and potentially trying to hide pandemic-related data is disheartening, to say the least. The new Omicron variant’s ability to swerve vaccines will make masks essential this winter and the fact that Missouri hid its data indicates that other states could have similarly downplayed the importance of wearing masks. In the end, their misinformation is prolonging the deadly effects of the pandemic and holding all of us back.